How to brush up on your sales techniques

By Harvey Mackay

Years ago, a salesperson friend told me a story about his daughter. She insisted on buying her favorite gum drops from a particular candy store owned by Nick, even though a more convenient candy store opened in a shopping mall.

The reason she said, “Nick always gives me more candy. The people in the other store always take it away.”

Nick knew to put less than a pound of candy on the scale and added to it, while the other store put more than a pound on the scale and then took some away. The visual makes all the difference.

As a life-long salesperson, I’m always interested in various sales techniques. Sales is the lifeblood that drives business. As I always say, there are no jobs unless someone brings the business through the front door. Career success often depends on your ability to sell a product, a service or an idea.

Knowing something about your customer is just as important as knowing everything about your product. I have been preaching about the power of the Mackay 66 Customer Profile for my entire career. It’s a tool to help you humanize your selling strategy. To be successful in life – and especially in sales – you must have a deep-down burning desire to help people. Studies show that you can’t talk business all the time. Your customers are people first!

I developed this 66-question customer profile when I was 25 years old. (The Mackay 66 is available for free on my website – We want to know, based on routine conversation and observation, what our customers are like as human beings. What do they feel strongly about? What they are most proud of having achieved? Any status symbols in their office? In other words, we want to know the person behind the desk – or on the other side of the candy counter!

Sell the dream. A friend of mine told me a story about his realtor. He always wanted to own a house with lots of trees in the yard. The realtor took him out to the suburbs and showed him a yard with 15 trees in it, but the house was overpriced. Whenever my friend asked about the steep price, the realtor would start counting the trees. He told me, “He sold me 15 trees and threw in the house.” I say there is no price for a dream.

Read the situation. A persistent salesperson refused to leave when the boss’ assistant said he was not in the office. An hour passed, then two. Finally, weary of being a prisoner in his own office, the boss let in the salesperson, asking, “How did you know I was in?”

“Easy,” explained the salesperson. “Your assistant was working.”

There are other ways to read the room too. Pay attention to the visual clues in the office, lobby or wherever you are meeting. They are great conversation starters.

Don’t put too many ties on the counter. When I was in high school, I worked at a department store in the men’s clothing department. The manager told me to never put more than three ties on the counter to make the buyer’s decision easier and not confusing.

Get the customer in the mood to buy. A woman flashed a rather large diamond ring to her friends and called it her “mood ring,” explaining “this always improves my mood when I’m feeling overworked and underappreciated.” The salesperson sensed her mood and let her try on a variety of other jewelry. The customer appreciated that she was listened to and chose her favorite.

Law of Large Numbers. The insurance industry is built on this principle. There are approximately 340 million living Americans. Insurance people can tell you within one-fourth of one percent just how many of us are going to die within the next 12 months – and how – and where – and in what age bracket, sex, color and creed. The only thing they can’t tell us is which ones!

So, if you can’t be number one, the best position you can shoot for is number two. Because when number one has trouble, number two is there to be of service.

You don’t need a big close, as many sales reps believe. You risk losing your customer when you save all the good stuff for the end. As important as a good close is, you won’t get to that point if you don’t grab their attention early on and answer their needs along the way.

Mackay’s Moral: You aren’t just selling a product; you’re selling a customer!

●Mackay is an American businessman and author

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