You may not notice at first glance, but everyone around you has something to sell. While only 12.3% of jobs in the U.S. qualify as sales positions, a physical exchange of goods and services is not the only means of conducting a sale. Often, a sale requires persuading someone to see your point of view. In other cases, it is simply the art of establishing your personal brand, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defines as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” I will not deny that certain people abuse their ability to persuade, but a sale should never reach the point of manipulation. Ideally, it involves mutual advantages through mutual understanding.
When you visit a restaurant, for instance, the major sale that occurs is clear. As the buyer, you might purchase a meal, beverages, or other services. However, you can identify several more subtle sales without even leaving your seat. The waitress sells her skills as a valuable employee by serving you exceptionally well. Meanwhile, a man at a nearby table tries to sell himself as a suitable partner for his date. When you leave the restaurant, you will likely see similar sales everywhere you go. You will even find yourself participating in your fair share of sales. With this in mind, you should learn a thing or two about handling yourself when you encounter a sales situation.
In business applications or daily life, one of the keys to selling is establishing a relationship with the consumer. Without this connection, it will be difficult to accurately assess his or her wants and needs. For a moment, imagine yourself as a salesperson at a car dealership. When you meet potential customers, how can you begin to list facts and features without understanding their preferences? An elderly couple probably has no use for a vehicle that belongs on the drag strip, while a single man in his mid-20s likely has little interest in a minivan. An effective salesperson asks questions and acquires necessary information from the buyer, tailoring the sales pitch to satisfy those wants and needs.
For this relationship to be successful, the customer has to play an important role as well. As the buyer, you should distinguish between things you want and things you need, making sure to express these distinctions to the salesperson. If not, you face the possibility of dissatisfaction—or worse, manipulation. As a naïve middle-schooler, I would often be easily convinced to buy things I would use once, only to stow them away in my closet somewhere. I lacked discipline as a consumer because I failed to recognize the difference between wants and needs. Maintaining this discipline is essential to building a successful connection with any salesperson and finding the right product for you.
According to CEO and TV personality Robert Herjavec, “Grasping the importance of creating a buyer-seller relationship as the first stage in successful selling is perhaps the most important key to understanding how the entire process works.” Of course, these relationships apply for every type of sale, even for those without any physical exchange. Perceiving life in terms of sales can be eye-opening in several ways. Genuinely concerning yourself with the wants and needs of others seems simple, but it can help you forge stronger bonds with those around you. If it can help you adapt your business model to improve your sales, that would just be a bonus.