Monday, December 3, 2012

Sales Defined

Here it is, my personal definition of ‘sales’!

When you hear the word sales, what comes to mind? 
For most people it is pressure, fallicies, misinformation, high prices, whatever it takes to get the sale. Maybe even a guy, in a plaid sport coat and trousers with a cigar hanging out of his mouth... typically on a used car lot? 

That is not what sales is. What that is, is called the business of conning and convincing. 

No, for me, my sales experience started in a local mall at the JoAnn Fabrics Boutique. (this was back in the eighties and the business model of JoAnns has changed a great deal!) I chose to work here specifically, because I love sewing. I learned in eigth grade how to do it and loved it!
So, every tuesday evening, I went in to speak to the manager, inquiring if there was a part time position available. I was confident about my skills/knowledge and loved fabrics and patterns!

Little did I realize, knowledge, confidence, passion and persistence were the keys to success in 'sales’. 

After about a month of me coming in, talking to her, looking at pattern books and perusing the fabrics (silks, wools and linens at that time) she told me I should really expand my search for a job elsewhere in the mall, as she didn’t have any openings available. 

I was crushed! All the way home, I was sad, frustrated and afraid. I had given no attention or interest to anything else! I was at starting over point again and I didn’t have a clue where else I would want to work or what else I would want to do.

Upon entering the house after a 20 minute ride home, there was a flashing light on the answering machine. I pushed play. It was Bonnie, the manager from the JoAnn’s at the mall, she said after I left, one of her evening part time people gave their notice and if I wanted the job, I could have it. I was thrilled. 

I worked the remaining 2 and a half years of high school and my first year of college at that location. In that three and a half years, I had the highest average sales ticket of the entire staff. I also at 18 started having a clientele seeking my ‘services’ at JoAnn Fabrics. Women would come in needing the ‘perfect outfit’ for an upcoming event and left with the best fabric choice, buttons, patterns and ideas how to make it unique to themselves and they sent their freinds in to work specifically with me. Evenings and weekends, they would ask for Shelly and leave with everything they needed to make the ‘perfect outfit’ for themselves. 

I knew how the fabric would behave, I knew the appropriate style of pattern for the different body types that came through the door, I questioned their skill level, I learned their personalities and knew which fabrics and patterns would appeal to them and they purchased them everytime! 

Sales is knowing the product, knowing the customer and presenting in a style of communication that the customer can understand. Knowing the customer is essential, because different people care about differnt benefits of a product. Share with them what is important to them. The next people in the door will have a new set of needs, perceptions and preferences. When you know everything there is to know about your product or at least where to get the information, you can give the potential customer all of the information they need to choose. 

The next step is to ask them to choose. This is not pushy, this is finding out for yourself if you have clearly communicated everything you could. If they say no, either, that product will not meet their needs or they aren’t clear on what they are looking for. Either way, it is in YOUR best interest not to push the product, rather ask questions to clarify for them and yourself what their needs REALLY are. 

If you know you do not have the product for their needs, let them know that. If you know who does, share that. People respect honesty and having the choice. I often shared other places people could find potential solutions to what they were looking for if I was not able to provide it. Many times they came back to me in the future, even though they could have purchased similar items from the other source. They said it was because they liked working with me, they learned a lot from me and trusted me. 

Later, as I went into home furnishings, I was working a saturday with the owner of the store. After navigating between 3 couples on various home furnishings items, all of whom purchased, I was putting away various samples when the owner asked to speak to me. I was nervous about getting feedback, if my being frazzled showed. It turns out, it didn’t, she said she was very impressed. She had never seen anyone 
‘sell’ like me. She said, “It was interesting to watch you with all of those people, you didn’t sell, you educated. Good job!”

My current product, design, ideas and experiences. That is what I sell, and I research everything I possible can about what I am presenting.  

Products are secondary, rather, benefits of what I provide. Some are available anywhere and do not require me to be involved in their acquisition. Although, in doing my research, for much of the product I work with, it is important that I acquire on behalf of my client. I know how to specify the endless details and the options accurately.  I have done a great deal to gain 30 years experience in these areas and sacrificed many things in my life. This experience is sacred to me and I work very hard and diligently to create something of value for my clients. 

I have come a long way from that 15 year old working at JoAnn Fabrics, but some things are still the same, I am passionate and love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

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