Everyone Sells, Part 1: The Couch

Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you are a salesperson. Everyone sells. For example, visit the supermarket and you’ll see closing attempts all around that are far more aggressive than anything you witness in the world of professional sales.

“Junior, put that down this instant!” screams the mother at the two-year-old grabbing candy in the checkout aisle.
While the mother is exasperated, her son was merely employing an assumptive close.

In another line, a little girl asks her father for some candy. “Please Daddy?”

“No.”

“Pleeeeease?”

“No.”

She bats her eyes and put on her cutest look. “I want some candy, Daddy. Please?”

“Oh alright! You can have one piece, but that’s all.”

Hmm. Asking for the order. Multiple closing attempts. Yes, that was a sales transaction.
You see, everyone sells. Every high school boy with a date had to sell the girl on going out with him. Every high school boy who took his date to a “chick flick” was sold on which movie they would watch.

Getting through school was a series of sales roles. To get your first job, you had to sell. With every interaction between two people, someone sells and someone buys. A lot of professional sales people do far more buying than selling, even on sales calls.

The Couch

My wife and I hadn’t been married long when we bought a large sectional couch with built-in recliners. I love that couch. I love the fact I can stretch out in it my full length.

My wife has long grown weary of the couch. To her, it’s old, out of style, and ugly. To me, it’s comfortable and paid for.

She’s been subtly marketing a new couch to me for a long time. I didn’t want a new couch.

One day, she shifted tactics. She decided to appeal to my cheapness. “There’s a big sale,” she said. “Let’s just look at them.”

I grumbled, but went along.

Later that evening I picked up my daughter and her friends from laser tag. My daughter asked about the couch.
“It’s interesting,” I remarked, “How ‘Let’s go look at couches’ turned into, ‘Which one do you like?’”

“Mommy said she thought she could talk you into a couch this weekend,” my daughter added.

“She said that, huh?”

“Mackenzie, I don’t think you should have said that,” commented one of her more astute friends.

“You mean she shouldn’t have revealed the great female conspiracy to manipulate husbands and fathers into doing something they don’t want to do?” I asked.

They laughed, but the secret was out. I was onto my wife’s game. Namely, someone was going to sell and someone was going to buy. I had to figure out how I was going to be the salesperson.

My sales strategy was to appeal to one of her weaknesses. I would point out that the couches we were looking at were cheaply made. If I could sell this, she would retreat until we could afford the couch she wanted.

I used this tactic before. She wanted new bedroom furniture. We went to the most expensive furniture store in the area. The salesperson was showing us the various pieces. “Now this set is heirloom quality,” she said.
“What is ‘heirloom quality?’” I asked.

“Oh, it’s built well enough to hand down to another generation as an heirloom,” she said. She proceeded to explain the differences between the heirloom quality furniture we couldn’t afford and the one we could afford.

I could see my wife wilting in defeat. She wasn’t going to have some cheap set of furniture in her bedroom. I couldíve kissed the salesperson.

It was 10 years before the subject of bedroom furniture came up again. I was helpfully pointing out the various shortcomings in the couches we were looking at and confident in my ultimate strategy. Suddenly, my wife changed tactics.

“You know,” she said, “I want to put the old couch upstairs in the game room.”

“Um. . .” I semi-grunted.

“I figure if the old couch is up there, Mackenzie will have her friends over more often instead of going out because they’ll have a place to sit.”

Why would I want her friends over more often, I was thinking?

“It will be easier for you to keep an eye on them,” she added, knowing that I would hear that as, “It will be easier to keep an eye on Mackenzie’s boyfriend.”

Bingo. I was sold. Moreover, I’m glad we bought the couch I didn’t want to buy. Even though it’s not paid for, it’s even more comfortable than the old one. It’s a great couch for a Sunday afternoon nap. That’s the mark of a good sales job: even though you might still be a little uncomfortable with the transaction, you’re glad you made it.
My wife has never held a commission sales job. Nevertheless, she can be a very effective salesperson when she wants to be.

So can you.

So can your employees.

My guess is you and your employees already are good salespeople. You sell all the time. Now, can you sell on the job?

We’ll examine that in parts 2 and 3 of this series.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].
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