The idea of a life in sales can have a greasy connotation, summoning the mental image of a slick insurance or car salesman pitching you some policy or vehicle that is a catastrophe away from leaving you both figuratively and literally stranded on the highway.
For that reason, many salespeople liken their job more to that of their favorite junior high teacher, the one who had a great command of the English language and an unending font of knowledge, despite wearing the same sweater every day.
In other words, modern salespeople see their main role as suppliers of valuable information. Spreading the data correctly will yield a well-informed customer, ready and willing to make the right purchasing choice.
I understand how this feels preferable. Honest information delivered appropriately is at the very core of how we see our ministers and favorite teachers. It’s what those of us that grew up on TV from the 60’s through the 90’s came to expect from the Shell Oil Company’s sultan of wisdom and guidance, the Shell Answer Man.
The only problem is, what is the Goldilocks rule? How much information is “just right”?
The answer is at once both obvious and, judging from common practice, hard to understand. When was the last time you encountered a salesperson who prattled on about the latest gizmo while you stood there, bored out of your mind and only pretending to care from sheer politeness?
Information on demand is the key to good selling. As a salesperson, you always want to cut to the chase, deliver three key aspects about any product, and then wait for the customer’s followup questions. If none come, that’s your cue to cease your pitch.
It’s analogous to catching your best friend staring off into space after you’ve shared your 400th vacation photo of the world’s largest Cheeto at Emerald’s Restaurant in Algona, Iowa. Even if you’ve got another dozen Cheeto selfies to show off, your friend’s forlorn look tells you it’s time to pack it in.
Thankfully, modern selling has moved past the days of plaid jackets and gold-toothed pitchmen. Now it’s all about customer experience. Which is to say, it’s not just a matter of talking, it’s a matter of listening. The Shell Answer Man is gone, but some things remain timeless, like a good cigar, a fine wine, or a Cheeto the size of your head.