“[Stories] are very engaging… people go into… story mode, we get out of judgment.”
How to Sell Anybody Anything
So there was this little girl who was born with a very unusual condition. She was a type of albino that was practically allergic to the sun. This was a horrible condition for her, because she could never see the light of day, watch a sunset, or leave the house because it was a risk to her very existence. Can you imagine? Being locked up in a room all day, every day, without even being able to look outside your window.
The curious thing about this particular condition, though, is that the poor girl didn’t just have a danger of meeting her demise if she stepped out into the sun; there were concerns about her going through puberty, because the female body requires so many nutrients, especially calcium, to properly develop. The problem with calcium, is that it needs vitamin D so that the body can absorb it. For most people, the body synthesizes vitamin D naturally with regular exposure to the sun, so most people don’t need additional supplementation. This girl, however, did.
But, there was another problem. Vitamin D is fat soluble. This meant that this little girl had to consume very fattening foods just to be able to get the vitamin D and, eventually, the calcium her body needed. She was at an age where, even if you’re not able to leave the house, body image is everything. And, being stuck in the house meant she watched a lot of TV and had very few human interactions, so her idea of what her body should look like was completely fabricated by mass media marketing. She did not want to get fat, and she couldn’t really exercise properly to burn off all the fat she needed to consume.
What a conundrum!
Luckily, most of us don’t have this issue. Scientists say that it’s worse for a person to never get any sun at all than to get too much sun. Of course, you don’t want to get too much because of the increased chances of skin cancer if you burn. So the trick is to build and maintain a decent tan, just like you would maintain a proper weight by exercising regularly and eating right without overdoing it. The fact is, you can’t build a tan in one day (unless you spray tan), just like you can’t get in shape by going to the gym once.
This story is the secret to how I sold indoor tanning in the Sunshine State – and I never lied to anybody. I was also a responsible tanning salon owner in that I never allowed anyone to over-tan. I researched skin types and what proper exposure times would be. Sometimes that meant the person could only tan for 1-2 minutes, which is not what people are used to, but it really helped build credibility and trust with clients. I even had celebrities tan at my place.
So how can you sell bags of sand at a beach? Here are the top 6 things to ALWAYS keep in mind when trying to sell:
11. Don’t ever try to sell anything. The Japanese have a thing called uwe, which means “trying not to try”. The single-worst thing you can try to do when trying to sell something, is to try and sell it to the person. Think of when you enter a department store and the sales associate approaches you. Most people’s reflex response is, “I’m just browsing.”
22. Tell it as a story. The quote from Eben Pagan at the top of this post says it exactly like it is; if you start with a story, it’s easy to move in for the kill. Like my story of the little girl with the extreme form of photosensitivity, stories help people get their guard down so you can insert your pitch without the buyer ever noticing. Did you spot it in my story above?
There was a lady at a department store one time who overheard my conversation with my brother as we tried to decide whether to buy an LCD or LED TV. Although she but into our conversation, we didn’t mind it because she opened with this: “Oh, my God. My husband had friends over for the Big Game last year and they were having the usual: chips, pizza, beer. One of his friends jumped up to do a dance when the other team scored, and tripped, knocking our LCD TV off the wall. The screen looked like there’d been an oil spill inside half of it, and it couldn’t be fixed. Definitely get LED.”
Turns out this lady was the sales rep at the store. We had no idea until we thanked her for the vital info and she introduced herself. Had she walked up and asked if we needed help, we probably would have told her we were just browsing. Instead, she got two very grateful, loyal customers who returned a month later to buy a laptop from her.
33. Simplicity is your friend. Don’t overwhelm your client with too much unnecessary information. In the tanning story above, I gave plenty of scientific fact without overwhelming the person. Notice that I didn’t describe the different machines and which was better than the other, etc. That information can be given if the customer asks, but you would be the expert based on your conversation and assessment of the client’s wants and needs.
44. Don’t give the customer too many options. Have a conversation. Ask about the kids. Ask about their likes and dislikes. Then ask what their goals are for that bachelorette party. You can decide which two or three options you’ll give the client and say something like, “Based on what you’ve told me, I would recommend either the life-size Spider Man statue or the Batman costume.”
55. Know thy audience. Although you may be an expert botanist, if an old man walks into your flower shop looking for a beautiful bouquet for his wife on their 60th anniversary, find the two options and explain why you presented them. This bouquet is nice and bright, to celebrate such a joyous occasion; this bouquet has five shades of blue because you said that’s Ethel’s favorite color (you said even her hair is blue!). Do not tell this guy the names of all the flowers in bouquet and the difference between a Sunflower and a Black-eyed Susan.
Now, if the guy says he worked on gardens all his life, or has a green thumb, maybe mentioning these details would help build rapport with him. You may even be able to tell him about your “flower of the month” club, and get an upsell in this way. But remember people are all different, so because it interests you, it may not necessarily interest them.
66. Assume the sale. There’s a comedy prank show where one of the hosts was challenged to rub sun block on an unsuspecting beach-goer. The host simply went in behind the man and his first words were, “you know, they say the moon landing was fake,” and he was able to rub sunblock on the guy’s forehead, and even order daiquiris. Hilarity aside, the confidence of the approach made the whole thing possible.
Remember, though, assuming the sale (and the old “ABC – Always Be Closing”) doesn’t contradict point #1 above. What it means is that you would’ve built such good rapport during your interaction and through you Shakespearean-style storytelling that it wouldn’t be a question whether the bachelorettes are going to buy something at your novelty store or not – it’s a question of Batman versus Spider Man, or maybe you’ve told them the story so well that it’s without question going to be a team-up!
If you have any comments, questions, or would like me to send you a list of resources that can help you sell a dog to the cat lady across the street, please leave a comment or email me at HeadlessHammerhead@gmail.com.