So you’re deciding to teach yourself how to sell.  Not a bad idea at all.  After all, whatever your walk in life, it can never be a bad idea have the skills to persuade people to at least see your point of view.  Even your partner!  You can call it what you like: persuading, negotiating, selling.  It’s all very much the same thing.  It’s the way you present your argument.  The better you do it, the more likely you are to produce the agreement you are seeking.

When you think about it, it was your mother who started you off on your selling career.  If she liked what you said, she smiled and maybe gave you a piece of chocolate.  If she didn’t, she will have told you so in no uncertain terms, maybe even accompanied by a clip around the ear.  What you learned from her you improved as you grew up and as you found some things you did and said worked better than others.

Mind you, no-one said your mother was such a great sales lady.  Or your Dad a great sales man for that matter.  But it was the way you started off.  It was the base on which you built what skills and ability of persuasion you have.  Probably it’s not a bad idea then to go back to the beginning again.

The fact is that selling is not a new language.  It doesn’t require any acting ability either.  You use much the same words.  You stay exactly the same person that you are.  You just put the words in a different order, basically to help the person you’re talking to to understand exactly what you are talking about so he or she  has the confidence to accept your advice.

What you’re doing is taking out the risk of failure?  I am sure you will agree, there is no point in setting out to persuade if you don’t care whether you succeed or not.  When I worked at Rank Xerox selling Xerox copiers and duplicators, all sellers went through the same training and went on to similar, measured-opportunity territories.  Rank Xerox kept sellers if they sold 40 machines a year.  Most sellers sold between 40 and 80 machines.  80 is twice 40. The top sellers sold up to 120 machines.  That is 3 times 40.  These are huge differences in outcomes.

What are the reasons for these differences.  It was in the learning and understanding of the sales skills by each individual and their discipline in applying them. If the top seller sells one order for every 3 calls, the sellers on 40 machines sells one every 9 calls.  They of course have the choice of doing 3 times as many calls but, at the end of the day, it is just easier to make sure you sell only to decision makers and doubly sure you didn’t fail for stupid, self-induced reasons.  Learning to sell is a lot about the postmortem you hold with yourself after every call you make, even the ones where you succeed, and learning from the things you did and said well and those which you could have done better.

So where should I start?  You’ll probably want to start by reading a book.  Which book?  Now there’s a question?  There are literally hundreds to choose from.  Not much has changed in the ways humans persuade humans; but there are plenty of writers who think they have next best solution/offering.  This makes choosing the book difficult.  There is everything from self-flattering “How I made my first million $s in Selling” to endless tomes on “Selling Benefits”  or “Closing that Sale” to pseudo-scientific treatise on the inner workings of the human mind.

Even though not much has changed on how humans persuade humans, the world has changed and with it the way we live our lives, the products we use and the way they are made.  My first piece of advice is to choose a book that represents the kind of world you live in, something you can relate too with examples you recognise.

I remember the first sales book I read was that classic The Five Great Rules of Selling by the famous Percy H Whiting.  If I remember correctly, the first great rule was to make sure you wore shoes that fitted.  Why?  Because tight shoes would cause pain and the pain would show on your face!  No doubt very true for the door to door Fuller Brush salesman (Fuller who, you ask..?) but not really applicable to a ‘seller’ representing a FTSE 100 or a NASDAQ§ company.  ….except perhaps the message to make sure you dress sensibly & appropriately.

This is my advice.  Below are the elements involved in a sale or a negotiation (or persuasion as applicable).  I doubt if anyone involved in ‘selling’ would disagree.  You need to plan to sell before you start, to get your ducks in a row on the things you will need at hand.  You also need to be able to identify whom you will approach and who will make the decision.


Planning to Sell

Identifying the customer & decision maker


Stage 1 -  - ‘Does he want it?’

Opening the interview
Getting information
Establishing the customer’s criteria for ordering Prehandling objections
Handling competition
Summarising for agreement (and for trial close)

Stage 2 – ‘Does he want it from you?’

Selling benefits
Overcoming objections
Summarising prior to closing the sale

Stage 3- ‘How can he have it?’

Closing the sale
Keeping the customer sold


In front of the ‘customer’ or person you will persuade, you need to start the meeting and to get the information you will need to position your offering.  You will need to establish the criteria he/she will want to satisfy in their decision and their relative values in the decision.  You’ll need to understand the alternative choices they have available to them and prehandle any obvious pitfalls, like the price!  You will need to summarise this to make quite sure you have the story straight, so you don’t fall into the first and obvious hole.

Then you will have to persuade them that your solution is for them, how the benefits that flow from your solution will satisfy the criteria they are seeking to satisfy.  Obviously you will have to answer any question pertinent to the decision, and ask again to make sure there is nothing outstanding; and that there is happiness on all points: in fact the customer is ready to go ahead on the basis you have outlined.

Simple isn’t it?  Well not really unless you do it very, very well.  The only thing left to do is to sign the paperwork or agree the way forward and put in place the backup you have arranged to deliver the solution as promised.

Now, as I have said, a lot of books talk about establishing need, selling benefits, closing and so on.  You can know everything there is to know about these things; but the key enabler is YOU MUST KNOW HOW THE WHOLE THINGS FITS TOGETHER.  A ‘sale’ is not a random happening.  It has a structure that delivers the emotional decision of acceptance.  It has a beginning, a middle and and end.  It is a series of logical steps so you can move from one step to the next, and then the next and the next until you have covered all the ground successfully enough close the agreement.  If you never find out your way this energy, you will never know exactly how to finalise negotiations.  You will frequently be left with that totally frustrating feeling that the decision should have been yours if only you have done ‘something’ differently.  This frustration has a double impact too.  If you have failed to persuade, your customer will go on to make the wrong decision; and that will be your fault too!