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5 Sales Secrets from the Pros

Closing the DealLast week, my wife and I went shopping for a new computer for her. She had an idea of what she wanted, but also had some questions. So we headed over to a major electronics store and encountered a saleswoman unlike any I had met in a long, long time. This woman loved to hear herself talk. We could hardly get a word in edgewise, and actually had to interrupt her monologue to get our questions in. To me, it was a wonder that this person had a job selling, so far off the mark did she seem.

Now, I don’t claim to be a sales expert although, like you I am sure, I have done my share of selling. It is the nature of the small business gig that we are the president, VP of operations, and often, head of sales to boot. But beyond that, I have had the opportunity to interview a lot of great salespeople along the way for my USA TODAY column. What I have learned is that sales is something that can be learned, and that a few tricks along the way can help.

Here are five of my favorites:

1. Listen more, talk less: I lead with this one due to, of course, the experience I just encountered at the computer store. Master salesman Tom Hopkins points out that if you want to increase your sales, it would be wise to remember that we have one mouth but two ears. Says Hopkins: “Listen twice as much as you talk, and you’ll succeed in persuading others nearly every time.”

And what should you be listening for?

2. Listen for clues: People learn and process information in different ways. Some people think in words, others think in pictures, and still others are primarily kinesthetic (that is, feelings are paramount for them). Understanding the way in which a prospect interprets information can allow you to craft your pitch and conversation to them in a way that works best for them (instead of best for you).

  • Visual people say things like, “I see what you mean.”
  • Kinesthetic people say things like, “This computer just doesn’t feel right to me.”
  • Auditory people might say “I like the sound of that.”

These sorts of word clues can help you communicate better with leads. For example, it would be best to show a visual person what makes your product great, rather than just telling them with words.

3. Remember, it’s about helping not selling: The purpose of tailoring your pitch appropriately is not to manipulate someone into buying something they may or may not want, but rather, to build rapport and show the prospect that you are more about helping them solve their problem and less about making the sale. Do that, ironically, and your odds of making the sale go up dramatically.

4. Make a wish list: Chet Holmes is a world class salesman and this is one of his suggestions. To sell big, you have to think BIG. Who are those people or companies who, if they became your customers, could make a big difference to your business? Write them down.  Make a list. Contact them.

And then contact them again. Why?

5. Follow up is key. In radio advertising, it is said that a listener has to hear a phone number six times before they really hear it. Similarly, one of my best pals is a top salesman for a company that sells six-figure products. He says that he is taught, and has learned, that a lead has to hear from you five to six times before they buy.

Photo Credit: Wallace Lan, Flickr. 


Steven D. Strauss is the country's leading small business expert. An internationally recognized lawyer, columnist, and speaker, Steve is also an author of 15 books. Steve's highly syndicated business column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly at He is also the small business columnist for Microsoft, and AT&T who calls him "America's Small Business Expert."