When I took the Dale Carnegie class many moons ago, I remember the instructor saying that the worst thing a door-to-door salesperson could do is show up at a prospect’s house and launch into a speech like this:
“I want to sell you a new vacuum cleaner. I saw this thing pick up dirt off my floor, and it had the best suction I’ve ever seen. I can give you a great deal on this baby.”
I, I, I. This salesperson would be lucky if she didn’t have the door slammed in her face.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
Here’s a cardinal rule of human nature: people don’t care what you want, they want to know what’s in it for them. If the salesperson wanted to sell a vacuum cleaner, she had to first find out why the prospect desperately needed one (e.g. he was feeling frustrated and inferior because his home was unkempt, and it was unkempt because he could never get his carpets completely clean). She had to first help him identify a problem. Then and only then could she present a solution (e.g. a vacuum cleaner with more powerful suction).
Bestselling author John Jantsch has long been teaching how to be effective on a shoestring budget, reminding us of common sense that’s uncommonly used. In his book, Duct Tape Selling, he agrees with one of my favorite mantras that we’re all salespeople. And John suggests that in trying to get people to do anything for you – whether it’s supporting a pet project or buying a vacuum cleaner – you have to be useful.
The pitch transformed
According to John, the traditional sales pitch is no more. Instead, listening carefully is the new prospecting. With so many online tools available, we have no excuse for approaching people with little or no knowledge about them. So if you want something from a colleague, manager, or client, find out where her head is at first. And think through a message that will directly align with that state of mind.
For more advice from John, check out the full post at Intuit's Fast Track blog.