“Selling is selling, right?” Ummmmm, yes and no. If every person classified as a sales person, applied the apparently simple notion of get know before you talk doctrine, they would be 100 times more successful. The problem with sales is that too many people feel the job means to tell people why they need your product or services, when it should be to have them tell you what they want. If what they want is product they already have in mind, the first question is what are they trying to accomplish? Classic case of selling holes and not drills.

Case in point. A customer (Sheila) walks into Staples and starts wandering around in the printer section. A salesperson, Lucky, approaches and asks, “may I help you?” 

First mistake, what if Sheila says no? You just started and stopped a first interaction with a single yes or no question. If Lucky gets an answer such as “I want to check out the new Canon laser all-in-one model.” Reply: oh, we just got that model right over here.” 

Second wrong action taken. Has Lucky found out what the printer is to be used for? Has Lucky asked what, if any, quality, quantity or other requirements are desired? Is there a reason why this brand was attractive? Was the long term operating cost (ink cartridges) considered?

Fast forward to a likely summary of Sheila’s needs if some questions were answered:

  1. Sheila got an e-mail alert from Staples that the latest model Canon laser jet printer technology and was receiving a special coupon for 5% off with a purchase of $100 or more. The printer is $140.00.
  2. She read one review on line stating the Canon was real winner.
  3. Sheila was looking to upgrade from her old HP inkjet (printer only) because it was no longer supported and no drivers to operate with Windows 10 – an upgrade she is considering – are available and it can’t scan documents.
  4. Sheila uses her home printer about 3 times per month and has only ever used black and white printing. She wants to scan and never thought about color because it was not available at home.
  5. HP ink cartridges can be bought for about $7.00 each if packaged in an ink plan Canon Laser jet cartridge replacements are $29.00.

A new approach is now obvious to Lucky with this to-easy-to-get information. Sheila really could use a new HP inkjet with scan and copy capability and the ability to allow her to upgrade to Windows 10 without fear of near to medium term incompatibility. Lucky can then upsell the 3-year ink exchange and warranty program along with Windows 10 upgrade available for free from the store with purchase of new HP Printer. He then can explore the interest level in printing out pictures from a mobile device or the pc. Lucky just added a photo-pack of paper in a variety of sizes to this comprehensive package meeting customer needs, not perceived wants.

This package comes out very close to original intended investment of $140.00 while maintaining brand loyalty, solving the confusing ink cost issue while opening a door that was ajar to remotely print photos, and, as a bonus, adding an upgrade to the latest Windows OS. (which cost Lucky nothing). Oh, it can scan and copy as well. In both cases, Sheila can use her prized 5% off coupon she got from Staples.

Lucky probably could have taken the least resistance road, hyped up the Canon printer and sealed a deal in less than 10 minutes.

The difference between the two options? Sheila will remember Lucky’s name and where he works after buying the unintended option. Sheila will tell her friends how she got a new upgraded printer package including a 3 year extended warranty and ink plan, a 5% discount and convinced the salesman to toss in a free copy of Windows 10. Genius! Lucky just made the sales, satisfied the customer, made her feel good about the purchase/conquest and improved his chances of future success by asking a few questions. The original arc of this story would have Sheila buying a Canon printer from some guy at the store that sent her a discount coupon.

“Selling is selling” after all. Just like sunscreen, apply when needed.