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4.5 Minute Read | 2 Minute Skim

The Secret to Selling Without Selling Out

The real art of sales is not to sell anything at all.

Making sales comes naturally to some people, but it's definitely not something we're all comfortable with.

If the idea of selling fills you with dread, you might be surprised to learn that you could already be a great salesperson. You just don’t know it yet.

If you think selling is only for bulletproof salespeople, consider this: Basic sales techniques are not really techniques at all. They’re common life skills that you could be using every day.

Like it or not, there are times when we all have to sell something in our lives — whether it's a car, a home, or a spare concert ticket. But the real art of selling goes way beyond a mere transaction. Think about your last job interview, the last time you made a pitch to a new client, or when you wanted to get someone on board with your latest idea.

What did all of these situations have in common?

A revealing article on the subject, published by iSEEit in June 2015, reveals the secrets of 70 top salespeople. And what's really interesting about their advice is how often it boils down to relationships. If you focus on developing good relationships with people, it's very likely they will be happy to buy from you. Whether it's a product you’re selling or yourself, it all comes down to the same thing: How well you know each other.

Image of a salesperson meeting a couple.

"Let your personality come through," said Mark Hunter from TheSalesHunter. If you "truly connect" with your customer, you quickly realize that the only sales technique you'll ever need is a good understanding of where they're coming from.

Jim Cathcart summed up this refreshing approach when he said, "The goal isn't to make a sale. The goal is to make a difference."

And how do you make a difference?

(Hint: A clever sales patter is the last thing you need.)

Tip 1: Listen.

That's right. The first rule of sales is not to say anything at all. You have two ears but only one mouth, as they say. And when you really want to know how you can help someone, all you need to do is listen.

But not passively.

"Listen with the intent to truly and deeply understand your customer," said Jeff Shore, quoting the advice given by Stephen Covey in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

In other words, never assume that you already understand what someone wants, no matter how well you think you know them. Once you've heard what they have to say, take the time to ask them questions, even if it means repeating the question or restating what they said to be certain you've got all the information you need, to build a deeper understanding. This is something we could all benefit from — not just when it comes to selling, but in everything we do.

If you can do this, all those complicated-sounding sales techniques (like "focus on benefits, not features" and "sell the hole, not the drill") will come naturally to you.

You'll also have tip No. 2 dialed…

Tip 2: Remember people’s names.

This tip comes straight from TSheets' CEO, Matt Rissell (who you can follow on Forbes, by the way).

What's the one word that everyone loves to hear more than any other? Yep, you got it. It's their name. And how often do you hear someone say, "I'm terrible at remembering names"? It's a common problem, and if it's one that you experience too, don't worry, because that means if you solve it, you can turn it to your advantage.

Image of a man in a shirt and tie with a Hello sticker and a question mark.

Back on Forbes, there's an article by Kristi Hedges that reveals her five best tricks to remember names. She quotes a study by Dennis P. Carmody and Michael Lewis which found that our brains light up whenever we hear our own name, even across a noisy room.

"You may notice that influential leaders take care to use people's names," she wrote. "This isn't by accident — they know it matters and use it."

Her advice is to start by repeating people's names to yourself when you meet them. Then repeat their name again by spelling it out. If that doesn't work, try making an association between their name and something else, such as another word that rhymes, or connecting the person in front of you to someone else you already know well who has the same name. Lastly, she said, "choose to care." Part of the problem you have with remembering people's names is that you're telling yourself you can't do it.

Tip 3: Share your passion.

Sales are the transfer of enthusiasm. And according to professional sales trainer John Barrows, "In order to do it right, you have to believe in what you do."

So if you're passionate about your job, you're halfway there — all you need to do is share the love! Your enthusiasm will be infectious, and that's persuasive. People, ultimately, buy from other people, not from companies, which is why recommendations from friends are such a powerful influence on what you buy.

This is all about reputation. We trust our friends more than people we don't know (naturally, it’s a survival thing), and in business, the same thing goes. When people value your expertise they also trust you, so they are more likely to buy into whatever it is you want to sell to them, whether it's yourself, a product, or an idea.

Building a reputation of value means building a reputation of trust. And that's important because trust is the key to strong client relationships. At the end of the day, relationships built on trust are the ones that will stand the test of time.

In a nutshell:

Build relationships. Love what you do. Share the passion.

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