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When Selling, Get Right To The Point

Furniture World Magazine


One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is overselling their products. Instead, find a need and fill it.

My granddaughter Emily called me the other day. She and her mom are coming up from Memphis to visit for a week. She wanted to make sure I had some things to eat that she would like, and said if I was going to the grocery store, I should pick up some Apple Juice, Pop Tarts, and Cocoa Pebbles. She informed me that if she thought of anything else, she would e-mail the list. My granddaughter is seven. I told her that if she e-mailed me, I would e-mail her back to let her know I got the updated list of groceries.

Emily said, "if you e-mail me back, don’t make it really long, otherwise call me." I thought about that for awhile. Here is a seven-year-old child asking for simplified communication. Is there something here?

Billboards are rarely effective if they are more than seven words. TV commercials with too much information are not advisable, and rapid-fire fast-talking too-much-hype radio spots don’t make it either.

Mark Twain once told the story about listening to a preacher in church. The preacher was highly motivating, a great storyteller, and very inspirational.

He was so good at preaching that Mark Twain thought about putting $10 in the collection basket when it came around. The preacher kept going on and on, and Twain thought maybe $5 would be enough. The preacher rambled and Twain thought $2 would be ample. When the collection basket was passed, and half the congregation was nodding off, he thought about TAKING a dollar. Simple speaking can have great rewards. When it becomes long, complicated, and overdone, it can have the opposite effect.

We live in an age of over-communication. Be competitive and get right to the point. And do it in words that everyone can understand. Talk in terms a 12-year-old can understand. Use one and two syllable words. Being clever at the same time isn’t bad, either. Ever notice that when you thumb through a magazine quickly, and there’s a cartoon on a certain page, you always go back and read it? You know it’s quick, easy-to-read, and might make you smile. You might skip the lengthy stories and articles, but you always glance at the cartoons.

Most people try to avoid the panhandlers at major metro train stations. I was in Manhattan’s Penn Station recently; a lot of people looking for handouts had signs. Some you couldn’t help but notice, like the one that read "Residentially Challenged." The best one I saw said "My wife’s been kidnapped, and I am a dollar short of the ransom." These people got attention. And they got money too.

In selling, if we start rambling without getting a customer’s attention first, those people start looking at other things to focus on. Getting to the point quickly can make the difference. It’s amazing how even simple point-of-sale signs can be effective. For years I have joked that if you’re doing an outside exposure promotion, put a small sign on your main product that reads "Now Legal In (your state)." People will line up to ask why the sign was there. They’ll search out someone to ask if it was illegal before.

When you tell them you were just trying to get someone’s attention to ask about the product, all of a sudden you’re in a conversation and that’s where it all starts. From there it’s just a matter of quickly getting to the point.

I’ll give you an example of short, clever, and to the point. Somewhere in your store (on an item you would like customers to ask about), place or attach a small sign that says "Don’t Ask." See how many people ask about it.

Human nature is fascinating. If you took the same item and listed 15 features and benefits, along with price, discount, and savings, you wouldn’t get half the interest.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is overselling their products. That goes for the company whose advertising and marketing strategies sometimes go off on tangents. For the salesperson, just find a need and fill it. With advertising, show how a need can be filled. And be quick about it. It can be that simple.

Getting right to the point can free up a lot of time for you when talking to a customer. When you get the first sign of positive acceptance, you could ask, "Would you like to get it?" If the customer says "yes," you could easily save yourself an hour of sales-babble. I liked a sign I saw in a music store the other day. "This instrument can take your career to another level. $1850 takes it home." Right to the point.

The late Robert Sandler used to say, "Take a customer’s buying temperature at least once during a presentation." His trick for getting right to the point was, "On a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being you hate it and can’t stand it, and 10 being you can’t wait to get it in your home, where do we stand right now?" Then, whatever the answer, he would always say, "What do I have to do to get it to a 10?" Very direct. It saves a lot of time.

We’re in an age of complicated communication over-wrought with high technology and bombarded with thousands of sales and marketing messages a day. Make it easy for your prospect. Make it simple for your customer. Just get right to the point.

Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative Selling®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented worldwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD  at popyk@furninfo.com.