Why go to the work of thinking up stuff when you can steal it? Did I say steal it? Sorry, borrow it.
The job of salesman (salesperson?) has always fascinated me because I'm not very good at it. Wish I was because it is a job you can take anywhere. I was in international finance and the smart money said you had to live in New York, London, or at worst, Chicago to make a living. I proved that wrong but the career category is not very portable.
Sales is. If you're good you can live anywhere. The guy building the million dollar house next to ours is a salesman for IBM working out of his house. And he builds houses in his spare time. What a life.
So think about it but read this by Ben Stein first.
Ten Ways to Blow a Sale
by Ben Stein
In 1900, the most common job in the United States was farm laborer. That was backbreaking, dangerous work. Now the most commonly occurring job is salesperson.
That's not as difficult. Usually, such jobs are performed in air conditioned settings. The most painful parts of it are dealing with rude customers and having to stand for long hours.
It's Yours to Lose
There are all kinds of sales jobs, of course, from selling gum and cigarettes at convenience stores to selling giant office buildings, airplanes, or immense blocks of stocks or bonds. Or even selling entire companies.
But whether you're a salesperson at 7-Eleven or Goldman Sachs, you've probably heard and read advice on how to make a sale. I'd like to change gears and come at it from another angle. As a companion piece to my column from last year, "The Art of (Killing) the Deal," how about some further advice on how to lose a sale?
The Terrible Ten
If you find yourself doing the following acts or omissions on a regular basis, you might want to reconsider your steps:
1. Don't listen to your customer. Instead, only tell him or her what you feel like saying.
Don't hear what's important to the customer about a house or a car or a pair of shoes or an investment. Only talk about what's interesting and important to you.
2. Show disrespect to your customers. After all, you never know if the guy is serious or not. So make fun of him and belittle him until -- and maybe even after -- you actually see the color of his money.
Don't hesitate to be sarcastic and mock or criticize his choices and opinions. After all, it's your store, your dealership, your brokerage. You're the expert, not him or her. Besides, customers like being taken down a few pegs. They don't want to just be sucked up to -- they want to be treated badly. It makes them much more likely to buy.
3. Don't be accommodating on big purchases. If you're selling something as expensive as a home or large boat or resort condo, and if the buyers have any hesitation because of unsettled market conditions, don't cut them any slack. Just show them the standard contract, and make it as one-sided as you can.
Make sure you tell them it's your way or the highway. Yes, it might be a million-dollar sale, and maybe you haven't had any other customers in a few weeks (or months). But still be totally unbending about your terms even if what the buyer wants doesn't really cost you much money.
You have to show that ratty little buyer who's boss. Flexibility is for losers, and you're not a loser.
4. Put your personal life ahead of your customers. Get right off the phone with your clients if your girlfriend calls. If you have a manicure and pedicure appointment, do that before you even consider staying a minute late to get the sale closed.
After all, there are always more clients coming through the door -- your nails are sacred. You have to respect yourself and not become a slave to your job.
5. Don't know your product. If your customer asks about your product, the best answer is "whatever," preferably said in the most dismissive tone possible.
If you don't know something your client asks about, tell him it's not important and that if he really wants to find out about it, he should look it up online. You have other things to do, like that manicure and pedicure.
6. Don't bother closing the deal. Or rather, make it really hard for the customer to close the sale.
Don't have the paperwork ready. Gossip with the finance manager instead of getting your papers ready. Forget to fill out parts of the contracts. Then tell the buyer he'll have to cool his heels while you get it done -- and then just leave and make him wait until tomorrow! It'll teach the customer a much-needed lesson in humility.
7. Lie to your customers about the product. Tell them it's safer, or more reliable, or guaranteed for longer than it is.
After all, they'll never catch on. And if they do, there'll be plenty more customers coming. Besides, you'll be gone and in another state by the time they catch on. If they sue, that's your boss' problem, not yours. Little lies help you, and they don't really hurt anyone.
8. Look like a total slob. Have bad breath. Don't wear clean clothes. You're a poet, an artist -- you don't have to look like you're someone's butler or maid.
You can look any old way you want and smell any way you want. Your charming personality will come through anyway. If it doesn't, tough. There are 300 million people in this country, and any one of them is a customer. So worry about the next one, not this one.
9. Don't bother to close the deal. Just explain a little bit, then walk away and let the customer stew. Don't come back to him -- let him come crawling to you.
Don't explain things, then ask how he wants to pay for it and any other question that will lead to closing.
10. If you're selling big-ticket items, don't bother to qualify your customers.
Don't find out if they can actually afford that plane or that car or that home. Just do your standard pitch and assume the guy or gal in front of you has the money to do the deal. That really works beautifully. Then, if they don't qualify, yell at them for being deadbeats.
Salesman, Heal Thyself
Oh, there are a lot more. But if you find yourself doing any of these little things, pause, take a few steps back, and ask yourself, "Do I really want to sell this thing?" If the answer is yes, then take a step back and start again with selling in mind.
(I'm greatly indebted to my master-salesman pal and fellow author Barron Thomas for many of these tips.)