Salespeople, entrepreneurs, business owners, customer service reps, bankers, telemarketers. All of these people (and many more) have to be able to sell to be successful. But so few of them really know the basics of sales.

Let’s start with a couple of basic ideas: 1) Nobody likes to be sold to, but everybody likes to buy; 2) The real purpose of sales is to fulfill a need, whether real or perceived; 3) It’s not (entirely) about money.

If you understand (and act upon) these two simple principles, you will do better in sales than most of the “professional” sales people I’ve dealt with. {readmorelink}Read the whole article{/readmorelink}

I’ll use the process of car sales in most of my examples, because it’s one we can all easily understand and relate to.


We all learned somewhere early in our lives that we don’t like “salespeople”. But why? It’s because they’re trying to “sell” us something. Think about the last time you went to a car lot, because you wanted a new car (or a used one). Pretty quickly when you walked on the lot, you were greeted by a salesperson who asked how they could help you. What did you reply? If you’re like almost everyone else, you replied, “I’m just looking,” or something along those lines.

Why did you say that? You actually wanted to buy a car, and you were talking with someone who wanted to sell you one!

The reason is simply this: you didn’t want him to sell you one, you wanted to buy it. You didn’t want to get “talked into” anything until you had decided exactly what you could afford, which options you wanted to ask for, which color you liked best, and so forth.

As buyers, we repeat these habits over and over in nearly every sales-oriented environment.

But not at a cash register.


Many salespeople (and their managers) believe that the issue is that people are afraid of the cost. But if that were true, the resistance would come at the register. But think about the times you’ve gone to a clothing store, picked out what you wanted, and walked to the register. The clerk asked if they can help you, and you cheerfully placed your purchases on the counter. No resistance at this point!

You see, we resist the sale when there’s selling going on, but not when we’re buying. That’s the simple psychology involved. We love to buy!

So, as a salesperson, your best approach is to help the client buy, rather than trying to sell something to them.


Here’s the rub: focus on what they want or need (or think they need, which is the same thing as wanting, almost). Find out what they’re trying to accomplish. Find out what their emotional button is (why do they need to do this thing?). Then just help them fill the need. If you express the entire transaction in terms of their needs, wants, desires, and fears (the most common emotions involved in buying), then they’ll perceive you not as a pushy salesperson, but as a helpful service provider.

Here are a few basic steps to guide you through the normal sales process:

1. Establish the need. Sometimes this is self-evident, but always ask. If they’re on a car lot, find out what they need the car to do for them. Don’t expect them to know the right model (unless they’re clearly convinced they do), because you are supposed to be the expert. (HINT: Be the expert they need you to be! Learn your products!)

2. Find the emotion. Find out what will happen if they don’t make this purchase. Find out why they’re excited, afraid, or angry about the upcoming purchase. Keep these emotions in front of them throughout the buying process.

3. Explain how you can help. Explain how the buying process works, and how you can help make it simpler, less frustrating, less scary, or more fun for them. It’s vital at this point that you explain the entire process, beginning to end, very briefly. Include the endpoint (the actual purchase) so they understand that that’s where you’re all heading together.

4. Help them examine the options to find a good fit. This goes back to the first step. If you know what their needs are, and you’re the expert, you should be able to make recommendations to them about options, choices, and limitations that will fit their needs. Don’t oversell (someone who says they want a basic car with good gas mileage probably doesn’t want an SUV). For every option you present, explain how it fits their needs as you’ve understood them, and always link back to the emotion from step 2.

5. Help them buy what they’ve selected. This is the “close”. Don’t ask if they’re ready to buy. You already explained the process to them, so they know you’re going to guide them all the way through the purchase. You’re at that point, so help them finish what they’ve started. Remember, this is actually the part they like!

6. Review the sale. Go back over the option they’ve selected. Remind them of both benefits and limitations. Explain any steps left in the process (delivery, etc.). Remind them of any key tasks they still need to do (ongoing maintenance). Ask if they’re happy. And really want to know the answer.

7. Ask how else you can help. Find out if there’s anything else you can help them with. Do they need to buy something else? Do they have questions? If you’re in a business that can work off referrals (almost all sales-related businesses can), then ask for referrals. But don’t ask sheepishly. They just had a fun experience (buying) with you, and they know other folks who would probably like to buy, too.

Follow those simple steps, keep the basic principles in mind, and the rest is just details.