“They cost how much?” The would-be owner of the Harry Potter DVD collection wrinkles her nose and looks from me to the DVDs in her hand. The air in the garage is stale and it’s a humid, gray, miserable afternoon. I'm manning the change drawer at my third garage sale since leaving the Army, and at this exact moment, I’m manning it alone. Normally, I’d be safely running errands - fetching bottles of water or replacing price tags that had fallen off or blown away. Anything but selling. Even though it was my stuff, I always asked a friend to do the selling for me while I looked on and wondered how they made it look so easy. On this morning though, my friend has stepped away for a phone call- taking all of her sales-savvy with her.
The moment my sales bodyguard walks away, the customer steps up to the box marked, “All DVD collections $9,” and pulls out all eight volumes of the Harry Potter Films. I had foolishly assumed that by labeling the box with the price I could cleverly avoid speaking to customers at all. "Cashiers don’t have to sell anything,” I think. "They’re the lucky ones.” Not phased by my Sharpie-Marker mind control, the customer stares at me with a look that plainly conveys a horrific intent to enter into a mental arm-wrestling contest over the price of the Wizarding world.
I stare blankly for a few seconds, hoping if I stall, the cavalry will come. My awkward silence isn’t helping the customer’s mood. She locks into a solid, “What’s it gonna be?” power stance with her elbow on her hip and her eyebrows reaching for the sky. I’m cornered. I have to say something or lose the sale. I take a gamble and use the only sales tactic I know. I lower the price. “The set is seven dollars,” I stammer. “Unless you want it to be less. Really it could be less. If you think it should be.” A cold trickle of sweat runs down my back as she glances slowly from me to the DVDs and back again. I start to feel like I’ve eaten month-old Chinese food and washed it down with warm buttermilk.
Why does selling have to be so hard?
If I had to pick three words to describe my selling experience it would be:
I’ve learned a lot since haggling for Harry, but sales anxiety isn’t an isolated experience. If you hate sales, even though it would be really, really helpful to your business if you knew more about selling - take heart. There may just be a way of selling from the heart without selling your soul.
In the 2012 book, The Education of Millionaires (which I would recommend to ANYone serious about moving forward in their creative journey - if you can stomach the expletives throughout), author Michael Ellsberg lays out the problem behind the pain of selling,
“No single skill you could possibly learn correlates more directly with your real-world success than learning sales. And yet - surprise, surprise - it’s nowhere to be found on the curriculum of formal education, from elementary school through graduate school."
We don’t sell well because, like the birds and the bees, no one really does a very good job of explaining what sales is, what it’s for and how to do it without taking advantage of other people.
The secret to great sales isn’t in pouncing on unsuspecting by-standers and duping them into opening their wallets. The trick is in realizing that what we consider, “sales,” is really only about 16% of the process.
The more I study sales the more I become convinced: sales has next to nothing to do with getting people to pay you money. In fact, if done right, selling can be an unbelievably intimate, wonderful, human experience!
Here’s how I define sales:
Sales is the art of becoming selectively, intimately, passionately irresistible by giving people you are crazy about EXACTLY what THEY want.
Sound like way too many adverbs and a lot of gobbly gook? How about this for the best sales tip you’ve never heard: Be Irresistible. Give people what they want.
When we talk about selling, we have GOT to start in the area of giving, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.
But before we talk about What to give, we have to talk about Who we’re giving to.
Are you looking for customers or clients? A one-sale stand or something a little bit more of a serious relationship?
Being very clear about this distinction can be a bridge leading from:
“I need to get some people to pay me money”
“I have so many repeat and high-paying clients that I don’t have any room on the calendar for more.”
I finally did manage to sell that Harry Potter DVD Collection, in case you’re wondering. For $6. I learned that selling something for less than it’s worth does NOT feel good, and that I needed a new way to think about selling that leaves neither the seller nor the buyer in need of high doses of anti-anxiety medication.
I’m convinced that we, as socially conscious entrepreneurs can learn to sell from the heart without selling out.
I know that to earn what we’re worth, we have to learn to be better at sales.
I think there’s a way to sell that doesn’t suck.
I want to share seven encouraging principles that will turn your sales strategies upside down, so that you can’t wait to sell, because you will truly love it.
I want a selling experience that is:
How about you?
What would it feel like to you, if you actually LOVED selling?
What three words describe how you feel about selling right now?
What three words describe your ideal selling experience?