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How to Sell Anything to Anybody Face-to-Face

Street salesmen Dino Brown, right, sells socks along a street near the Dan Ryan expressway June 19, 2001 in Chicago, IL. Brown, a plumber on disability insurance, says he earns a living from the street sales and has been doing it most of his life. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

One of my early sales jobs was with Victor Business Machines. Every Monday morning I would make 75 cold calls, door to door, trying to find 20 businesses that would let me bring a product in for them to try. The national closing average was five sales.

Seventy-five cold calls, produces 20 prospects, that produce a national average of five sales. It’s a numbers game.

What I learned from this sales model was two things.

1.) If you work the numbers right you can make a living by working smarter, not harder; and …

2.) What you learn from each face-to-face interaction with each prospect is more valuable than any sales training course. In this post I’ll be looking at the value of all three aspects of the sale, as they relate to face-to-face encounters.

What I Learned From The 75 Face-to-Face Cold Calls

The 75 cold calls taught me which types of businesses were valid and invalid customers for my products. Not the business owner, but the type and size of the business, so I was able to find the 20 needed prospects in less than 75 cold calls and that made me more efficient.

I know that sounds somewhat judgmental. I have determined that Joe’s Shoe Store is not my prospect so I walk past his business. Joe might be desperate for my product. Looking at the other two parts of this sales model might make my decisions clearer.

What I Learned From 20 Prospects

The 20 prospects who allowed me to demo the product taught me what challenges various types of businesses are faced with and how my product can help not only now but in the future as my products are improved. By asking open-ended questions, and listening to the customer’s challenges I can suggest solutions by using a current product or perhaps a different one. My job is to find the information that will teach me how to help them buy my products.

What I Learned About Closing the Sale

The five sales taught me that the 20 prospects do not all require the same amount of time. Some had more pressing needs and required more of my time to make the sale. Others were not serious buyers or were just “tire kickers” and required less time. It’s not in anyone’s best interest to waste time trying to sell an invalid prospect. This knowledge also improved my efficiency and moved sales from the national averages of five sales up to a more productive and lucrative 8-9 sales or more per week.

What’s The Down Side of Face-to-Face Selling?

The downside to this business model is saturation. There are only so many hours in the day. If you worked much harder you could do more than 75 cold calls and find more than 20 prospects. But sooner or later you would surely burn out.

So what are your choices? The most obvious is to start selling accounts like Microsoft, or HP. Although you might see a big payoff the decision making process and bid process would be longer and you still have monthly bills to pay. Plus the stress level would go up dramatically.

The easiest and quickest way is to continue learning from each prospect while you improve the contact. Selling more profitable items to 20 upscale companies will not increase your workday load; you’ll just be selling higher end products to a more affluent customer. Even if your sales closing ratio drops back to the national average of five you will still be seeing a bigger paycheck by selling more profitable products.

Each time your move up the economic ladder your learning curve to service your new customer base will become a little smaller. Knowing basic math helps you move to algebra, algebra to physics and so on.

Some Final Thoughts on Face-to-Face Selling

Face-to-face meetings are not always possible but whenever you can put your body in front of someone. The thing to concentrate on is, not the sale, but what you can learn from this prospect during the sale that will make you better when your next sales opportunity arises.

Take the time to give a fair analysis to every face-to-face encounter, even in non-sales situations. What did they say? What did you say? Why did they buy? What was the trigger that closed the deal? Why did you lose that sale? What was missing?

Become a student of people, as well as a student of your products or services, and watch your sales increase.

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