Friday, 2 February 2007

Sales Techniques

It might be worth discussing sales techniques.
As a sales exec, many moons back, I learnt dozens of techniques that allowed me to forge a bond with my customers. I couldn't say how relevant these techniques are to writing (although there is crossover here and there), other than one particular occasion when my antag was attempting to convince my protag of something. Please note that I only sold useful products, never used hard-selling tactics, always respected the customer, never spent time with someone who was clearly not interested or would not benefit from my product, and always used my discretion. Furthermore, you'll see these techniques used in every commercial.

The five basics are:

Fear of loss: This offer ends tomorrow!
Indifference: Hey, I'm not going to pressure you; it's entirely your decision.
Greed: You can have all of this for less than half-price!
Excitement: I mean, it's insane! How can we give you all this stuff? My heavens, it's such an amazing deal!
Sheep (or 'Jones'ing): All of your neighbours are doing it! We've sold millions worldwide!

Sales people like acronyms, but we never had one for these five key techniques. So I remember them as FIGES, which always reminds me of the feeding on green figs scene in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
If there was any possibility of a sale with a customer, you could always sway them with one of those five techniques; usually, it was a case of running through them all to find the one that resonated with the customer.

Another trick was to nod - to always agree with the customer (whilst smiling, naturally).
I remember one particular occasion where I had exhausted the five key techniques and, after the customer had half-heartedly reeled off a list of reasons why he wasn't interested in my offer (which was a common reaction born from dealings with hard-sellers who blighted the world of salespeople with unethical pressure tactics), I simply nodded and agreed with his reasons and said 'Which is why this is just what you need, yes? [nod]'
And I made the sale.
Touch works too! Have the customer hold the product in their hands. Let them experience the sensation of touching the product. Kinaesthetic bonding! It is already theirs!
Sizzle, don't simmer. This, too, is about creating an experience for the customer, introducing smells and sounds and generally generating a mood as applicable. It is also bound to excitement.
Relating to the customer was essential. I made the mistake once of calling a wealthy man 'mate', instantly losing the sale. We would search for clues - a kid's bike in the front garden or birthday cards or trophies in the window, or an amusing sticker on the bumper of their car. We could use these things to open dialogue and to forge a bond.

And, with the sale made, it is time to REHASH:
Remember Everyone Has Another Sale Hidden.
You know, you are such a discerning man; I'm certain your two sons would be very interested in this product too. I'll put you down for two more, yes? [nod]
I invented the absurd REHASH, which works with an assumptive close:
Would you like three thousand, or shall I just put you down for five?
Then, when the customer buys just one, they are comfortable, and you have made the sale that you sought. If you ever make the three thousand sale, then that's a bonus (and I came close once at a factory)!

Now, I use whatever techniques I can to influence the reader - to 'sell' my story to them - to give them as wonderful and memorable experience as I can.

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