The low-pressure salesman studies his product—gets to know how it is made and why it is styled the way it is. What its customer benefits are. How it can be sold successfully against competition. How he can demonstrate the benefits of the product or the service to the customer. Yes, our low-pressure salesman knows not only what his own product or service offers, but also what the competition’s offers. That’s important because it’s almost a certainty the customer may make a reference to another brand, another service, another price.
Our well-informed low-pressure salesman is ready—not to quote a price—no, sir! He sells his features first through DYNAMIC DEMONSTRATIONS! He makes his product or service literally “jump through the hoop” for a customer. He talks product, its customer benefits. He demonstrates the product features and gets the customer into a possessive frame of mind. Now he’s ready to quote the price.
If he didn’t care to study, if his first and last concern was price—maybe even a “deal” at cut price—if he doesn’t care to be patient, care to trade up to value and quality for lack of time and bother involved, he’s strictly a one-shot boy. He’s just not a salesman because he’s violating all the rules of best selling. He’s talking into his own ears and is rather pleased with this distorted, one-way conversation. He’s also heading for the place all bad salesmen go-DEAD END!
Why Product Knowledge Is a Must
Because the product or service represents the tangible elements that will be exchanged for customer dollars, the salesman must know everything there is to know about his product or his service.
Enthusiasm, confidence, integrity, demonstration and all the other sale-making characteristics of the salesmen and their company surround the sale, but have no dollar-value measurement, either in the customer’s pocketbook or in the annual financial statement of the firm. To be realistic about it, we must know our product as intimately as we know ourselves. Without this knowledge, we ride and sell from an empty waggon. Here are some points to illustrate how product knowledge clinches a good low-pressure sale:
- You, the alert, well-informed low-pressure salesman would never permit your product or yourself to be taken for granted by the cus tomer.
- Place the sale in a quality atmosphere by proving that the quality of your product is worth more because it offers more. Then you prove your statements by demonstrating the visible value differences.
- You sell the product as being better than others because it has more quality benefits, more features, more conveniences that save
time and operating dollars.
- You sell all the extra quality and convenience benefits before discussing price. This keeps your sale on the quality track.
In connection with extra benefits, I would defy the greatest salesman in the world to sell a Cadillac to a customer if the car had no cigarette lighter.
How to play “worth more because” to the hilt
Selling most products that cost more usually fits in with the “worth more because” approach. The product is made of wood instead of plastic. Because the food space is larger —the motor larger. Because the cooling maximum is greater. Because the car has power steering and power brakes. Because the leather is finer, the last more durable. Because the bristles won’t fall out as fast, you will get a softer, more comfortable shave. Because the cabinet or piano or dresser is a hardwood mahogany veneer, not pine, plastic, or masonite.
At this moment, I should like to offer a couplet to you. It represents something I have discovered in low-pressure selling. Here it is:
Remember your customer’s head isn’t hollow; Examine its thoughts—a sale will follow.
This is another way of saying find out first what your customer wants to hear, then start selling.
I believe this is an excellent low-pressure rule-of-thumb. So many of us take our customers for granted. Many salesmen fool themselves by thinking the customer is out for the salesman’s scalp and the thing to do is scalp the customer first! A good salesman knows that customers must be pleased, but he will not sacrifice his product or his salesmanship by permitting price to become the primary factor in the sale. He has also discovered through valuable experience that customers will buy properly if they are sold properly.
This brings us to something that has been bothering me for a long time. I’m sure all of us know that we get less when we pay less. That could apply to salesmen as well as customers. If price, which seems to be the fetish of all high-pressure salesmen, were the most important part of sale making, all of us, salesmen and customers, would be riding around on motorcycles. All of us would be wearing identical suits, hats, and shoes. Everyone would be living in three- or four-room bungalows cooled only by electric fans, heated by coal or kerosene stoves. We would all consult our dollar watches for the time and still be listening to radio with cats’ whiskers, crystal detectors. Things would be monotonous indeed!
Primarily, and this goes back as far as time itself, people buy extra benefits, extra conveniences, extra pleasures. In many cases, they even duplicate their purchases. For example two cars, two air conditioners (perhaps three or four). Homes, clothing, insurance, jewellery, books, radios, television sets, phonograph records, and hundreds of other items, for in-home or in-travel usage prove that people desire their conveniences and pleasures in multiples.
How to Focus a Sale: Know Your Product—Show Your Product!
Up to now, we have asserted that a “price” salesman doesn’t know his product as well as he should, that he doesn’t sell his product primarily upon its own merits, and that he seldom shows his product or service to the customer in the most favorable selling focus. For example, when the customer walks in and says: “I’d like to buy a briar pipe.”
“This one’s a terrific buy! Just reduced from $5.98 to $2.98,” he replies. He points to a group of briars on the counter. He never lets up! Keeps right on talking. “Yes, sir, friend, this is the land of pipe that will make your friends sit up and take notice! Terrific deal! You oughta buy a couple of ’em. They’re really swell!”
This is a typical example of selling out of focus. Imagine yourself as being the underestimated, ear-beaten customer. You didn’t get a word in edge or otherwise. All you wanted was a briar pipe. Suddenly, everything changed. You found yourself in the midst of a federal case. You wanted a briar pipe. You were in the mood to buy. You weren’t looking for a cut-rate price or deal. You only wanted a good, substantial briar pipe!
No wonder that this salesman can’t understand why his briars never seem to move. Even at reduced prices! He would be a lot better off if he stopped yapping long enough to listen! He might hear the customer say: “Can’t you show me something better?” Especially customers who’ve indicated a positive willingness to buy for desire, convenience, and pleasure instead of price.
Suppose we set the same scene for a product-wise, low- pressure expert and see how he handles a sale like this one:
“I’d like to buy a briar pipe.”
“We have a complete selection, sir. May I show you several of our latest imported models?”
“Sure, go ahead. Mine’s due for a change. That’s why I’m here.”
“Here’s one that’s made of the oldest and finest briar. It’s hand finished in the natural grain.”
“Mine doesn’t have a filter. How about this one?”
“Oh, yes. It’s a detachable type filter. Let me show you how it works.”
The salesman proceeds to remove the filter. He also shows the customer how the newer type of screw assembly fits more snugly. He gets his customer into the act, too.
“How do you like the weight of this one?” he asks, as he hands the pipe to the customer.
“Seems a bit too heavy,” replies the customer. “How’s about this one in the same styling?” “Yes, that’s a lot better. I’ll take it.”
Don’t be surprised if Larry sells this customer a pipe rack and humidor, a pipe pouch that matches, and even a suede pipe glove. Why? Well, there are several low-pressure reasons. Larry knows his product. He shows his product. He takes an interest in pleasing the customer. You might say our pipe example doesn’t hold with automobiles, insurance, or many other higher priced items. The truth is, no matter what you sell or when you sell it, making the customer feel you are interested in his needs does more to eliminate the price barrier than anything else!
I don’t think we have to dwell too long on the respective sales techniques of these two salesmen. You saw what happened. One knew his product and used his knowledge to best advantage. He sold from the top down (the pipe he displayed and demonstrated was priced at $10). He didn’t rely on cut price. He realised that the average pipe-smoker, like a dog fancier or stamp collector, takes a special interest in the pipes he buys because pipe-smoking is like a hobby, and, therefore, a pipe-smoker wants to know more about the product than a cigarette or cigar smoker.
Note that he didn’t monopolise the conversation. He let the customer say something and get the feel of the product to see if the weight of the pipe was satisfactory. He relaxed the sale by being friendly to his customer’s needs. He sold from the top price by describing the quality features of his merchandise. He also sells related items, a cardinal rule in step-down or step-up merchandising.
I’ve used the pipe sale as my very first, product-knowledge example because at the end of 1955, a wire service story appeared in the nation’s newspapers concerning the pipe business. An executive in this industry stated, “56 million dollars in extra pipe sales and related pipe items were lost at the retail level because of poor salesmanship.”
How to Get the Customer to Participate in the Sale
Whether it is pipes or shoes, tires or tractors, rayon or rubber, knowing your product and showing it at its best quality advantages enhances the buying desire of the customer. This is part of the low-pressure idea of making your product and service features seem so very important that the customer, in turn, feels you regard him as an important person since he merits such thorough, courteous, and saleable low-pressure treatment.
Getting the customer into the act is another way of saying the sale is the stage; the product or service, the actors; the customers, the audience. Like a good showman, you’ve got to make the customer feel that he belongs to the play, that he is more than a part of the audience. You’ve got to make him part of the story—one of the leading players.
If you’re selling pianos, let the prospect play. We know you’re pretty good at the keyboard, but, after all, don’t ham up the sale! The fastest way to sell a piano is to let the prospect get into the act of playing it. Then, he becomes the star. Be a good audience. In most cases, people coming to purchase a piano are quick to sell themselves before they get to the piano store. Pity the salesman who likes to give a “little” concert while the prospect stands to the side, becoming disgusted and impatient. Goodbye sale if the concert wears thin.
The piano sales technique applies to erector sets, vacuum cleaners, radios, high fidelity and television sets, record players, washing machines, electric razors. For that matter, it applies to any product sold where the prospect may participate in holding or handling or operating the controls of the item. Of course, if you discover he is not familiar with the operation, you brief him before you let him do it. That’s how you get him into the act!
Some salesmen use this pet phrase, “It costs only a few pennies more to go first class.” However, it’s always harder to just say something and expect people to be impressed by what you say. It’s always easier to prove what you say through the drama of demonstration, through customer participation. In other words:
Getting the customer into the act makes him sell himself
Getting the customer into the act during the sale is a surefire method of clinching the sale. It is a vital part of the low-pressure approach to selling. Why? Because, in this manner, the customer is bound to sell himself sooner. This also gives the low-pressure salesman a better opportunity to prove that his product is worth more before he mentions that it costs more. Let’s not kid ourselves! We know that higher priced hats and shoes and suits fit better because they are made to fit better, last and wear longer. With the customer in the act, he feels the fit, the cut, the drape, the last, or the softness of the material—has a firsthand look at the workmanship. It gives the sale a “prove-it-to-yourself” atmosphere.
Let’s take a look at how our low-pressure clothing salesman gets his customer into the act.
You’ve decided to buy a suit. In this case, a ready-to-wear garment. You enter the store. The salesman greets you cordially, introduces himself, gets to know your name. He asks you to step over to the first rack of clothing.
“I’d like to try this jacket just to get your size.”
The coat fits beautifully! You’re wondering how he managed to guess your size so well. Don’t underestimate him! Remember, he’s had plenty of customers with a build like yours.
“How much is this suit?” you ask.
He inspects the price label, hesitates momentarily.
“This is a hand-tailored imported cashmere. It is the latest in 3-button styling, and we have it in grey, brown, or ebony. This suit sells for $125.”
You’re a bit pale for a second. Perhaps there’s a slight lump in your throat. But you manage to gulp down the lump and say, “I’m sorry but I didn’t expect to spend so much.”
Don’t worry about it. The salesman’s on your side! He gently reassures you that he only wanted to get your suit size, remember?
Somehow, while all this is happening, the fit of the coat feels better and better. Lots of room in the back and shoulders. Plenty of sleeve space. The drape of the coat is excellent. The material soft to the touch. Slyly, you’ve peeped into the mirror and you see what you want to see. A smartly fashioned Beau Brummel! Boy! You feel and look wonderful! In fact, you feel just as important as the president of General Electric.
Still gracious and friendly, Low-Pressure Larry moves you away from the higher priced suits.
“Let’s try this one for size,” he says. How you hate to remove that first jacket!
Now, you try on the second coat. It pinches a bit in the shoulders. Not too much, but it’s noticeable. This one doesn’t drape as well as the other. The material isn’t as soft. The sleeves seem a bit tighter. We know this isn’t hand tailored. Hand stitching has vanished. It isn’t imported.
“How much is this one?”
“$98.50,” says Larry. “Of course, it isn’t hand tailored or hand stitched, but it does have most of the features of more expensive clothing/’ He tells you about the weight of the cloth, the convertible pockets, the choice of colours.
“Still too high for my budget,” you tell him.
“That’s perfectly all right,” he says. “Let’s go over here and try on another number.”
You now try on a suit that costs $69.95. When he helps you on with it, you begin to understand why you need some help. The shoulders, sleeves, front, and back are as snug as a strait jacket! You’ve had your chance to compare three different suits. Need we ask which of the three you’ll finally select? In most cases, when the pocketbook can stand a little extra beating, you’re going to pick the suit that had the best fit, the best value. The average buyer and Larry knows this, will choose the middle price. Very few, if any, will settle for the “tight” fit when they can buy what they like better for a little more.
This is how Low-Pressure Larry gets his customer into the act. He doesn’t have to force his selling. He doesn’t have to get into dickering or bargaining about quality. He lets the customer settle the issue himself on the basis of value instead of price. Larry uses another excellent low-pressure technique. He sells from the top! Step-down selling is always easier than step-up selling. Especially when you have gotten the customer into the act.
How the Low-Pressure Real Estate Salesman Gets the Customer into the Act
Real estate is sold the low-pressure way by good salesmen only because our house hunters have already bumped into this treatment:
“You shouldn’t pass up this wonderful deal!” “This location is simply terrific!”
“The view from here is colossal!”
“By the time you move in, streets, sidewalks, and highways will all be completed!”
“There will be a giant shopping centre only walking distance away!”
You still haven’t met the first agent who was able to convince you he had exactly what you wanted. You still haven’t met the low-pressure salesman. That is, until today. You met him today by appointment. He had been recommended by neighbours who’d recently purchased a home through him. You had phoned him last night, told him exactly what it was you were looking for, and how much you could afford to spend. He promised to meet you today at your home. He came on time. Friendly, honest, quiet. He listened while you described additional details. He arranged a tour of several sample homes. He accompanied you.
What was the biggest reason that decided you on buying the new home from him? Low-pressure salesmanship, you say? Why?
He told you to take your time about making such an important investment. He described the construction of each home you saw thoroughly and honestly. He reviewed the “fine print” in the contract so there would be no misunderstanding. But the real clincher was when he said, “As you know, most agents ask for a rather sizeable down payment in order to hold the home. I’d rather you gave me a small down payment of fifty dollars, which would be returnable until you finally decided whether or not to buy.”
I have seen this type of real estate salesman in action— especially the type of man who does such a thorough low pressure job that he is willing to stake better salesmanship against the idea of selling his properties on a higher, down-payment basis, in spite of the fact that all his competitors are asking for higher down payments.
How Dynamic Demonstrations Emphasise Product Knowledge
The safety glass fronts of most television receivers are either tempered or laminated like automobile window and windshield glass. To tell the customer only that the glass is constructed to withstand up to two hundred pounds of impact per square inch proves that our salesman knows his product but doesn’t know how to demonstrate its benefits.
Here’s one way a television salesman does it. He is showing one of the higher priced receivers to a customer. Suddenly, he clenches his fist and lands a mighty blow on the glass front. Again and again, he wallops it, but the performers on the screen go right on performing without so much as a shake or a shiver.
That’s selling with a dynamic demonstration! No need for a lot of talk about the strength of the glass or the solidity of the set. There’s no doubt about it—one Dynamic Demonstration of a product feature is worth at least ten thousand words.
During the past four years, DuMont dealers, using this dramatic, customer-convincing demonstration, sold over 100 million dollars’ worth of television sets. It is interesting to note that any one of DuMont’s competitors, using the same type of safety glass, could have had a similar dynamic demonstration. Out of more than fifty manufacturers, I doubt if more than two or three applied this creative, value-selling approach at the retail level. So you see, even in competitive selling the difference between one product and another may sometimes be a creative, suggestive difference where the sale is made by the firm or person taking advantage of the Dynamic Demonstration. Even diamonds won’t sparkle in a dark cellar!
The low-pressure salesman realises the sales importance of making the product jump through the hoop for his customers. He knows how to make his product come to life with Dynamic Demonstrations. He knows the customer is always on the lookout for extra features, extra conveniences, extra quality. This is even true of customers who go “bargain-hunting”! The real trick is making the customer feel that quality is a better bargain!
How to cross the line to more effective sales: Know how to help your customer
A good low-pressure salesman must also have the courage and self-confidence to make decisions for himself and the customer. Having first evaluated the customer’s needs, he must have the wisdom to act quickly toward fulfilling them.
The courage of our convictions and the extra enthusiasm to put our decisions into action make the difference between thinking of getting the order and actually getting it.
A fine line separates the salesman from his customer; the customer’s money from the cash register; success from failure. The more we think about the thinness of the line, the more rapidly we realise how high-pressure selling broadens the line, just as low-pressure selling can eliminate the line completely.
The low-pressure salesman eliminates most of the sales barriers quietly through friendship, customer confidence, and respect.
Here’s an example of what bad salesmanship does to broaden the barrier to the order while making a cold turkey call—a recent experience right in my own home. It was evening, about 8 o’clock. The doorbell rang. I opened the door.
“Did you get your sample copy of the Post?”
“No, we haven’t. What’s it all about?”
“We’re trying to set up a route in the neighbourhood.”
“Well, I always buy the magazine at the newsstand, but . . .” “I guess you don’t want it.” “I didn’t say that.” “Well, guess I’d better go.” “Yes, I guess you better had.”
Boy did he flop! Speaking of broadening the barrier, he made it bigger than the Grand Canyon! Take a look at what he didn’t do to get on the sales track:
He wasn’t friendly, didn’t extend a simple “Good evening, sir, how are you?”
He cut me off in the middle of a sentence when I was about to invite him inside to give him an order for home delivery of the magazine.
He remained an absolute stranger from the beginning because he didn’t tell me his name.
He couldn’t have cared too much about his product since he referred to it as the Post instead of by its full name, the Saturday Evening Post.
He had no patience with me, so I would be expected to show little or no patience with him.
He showed no ambition or enthusiasm because his opening remark was spoken in dull monotone.
He had no imagination because he said nothing about topical features that might be coming out in the next issue of the publication.
He invaded the privacy of my home by ringing the bell and then took for granted that he should have audience simply because I opened the door.
He acted like a solicitor instead of a salesman. I could have forgiven anything, except that!
How to make your product jump through the hoop
I think you’ll agree that the higher the price of the product, the harder it becomes to sell. For example—automobiles, insurance, tractors, and washing machines are harder to sell than chewing gum and popcorn. Items like soap, notions, canned foods, which are purchased on a demand or habit-buying basis, do not have to be made to “jump through the hoop” for customers at the point of sale. It’s a different story when you get into the high-dollar class of item or service. This is the time you must be able to apply the technique of Dynamic Demonstration!
For example, your customer is far more interested in what your product will do for him or give him than he is in its technical construction. With a Dynamic Demonstration, you can melt the toughest sales resistance. This is the quickest way of proving that you have implicit faith and confidence in what your product can do when you put it to a dramatic and convincing test before the customer.
It makes no difference what you sell. More products and services can be sold more rapidly and convincingly when the customer is given a chance to sell himself first. This is the low-pressure way. Just think of how many more Polaroid Land Cameras could be sold by permitting the prospective customer to operate them. Think of how many more washing machines and electric ranges might be sold through “live” washing and cooking demonstrations with the customer “in the act”; how many more automatic pop-up toasters could be sold by dealers using “live” toasting demonstrations and serving the toast with tea or coffee right then and there!
Such items as radios, high-fidelity sound equipment, record players, and television sets can be sold more rapidly the low-pressure way by getting customers into the act selling themselves long before you yourself sell them. Here’s how a television salesman gets his customer to establish a preference, participate in the sale, and sell herself.
The salesman has asked the customer several leading questions to establish her preference for picture size, styling, and finish. Now he’s ready to get the customer into the act:
“Now, Madam,” says the salesman, “please tell me when to stop tuning in the picture for the brightness and contrast you would enjoy best at home.” Saying this, the salesman begins to increase the brightness and the contrast until the customer (now participating) says, “Stop there! That’s about the way I would like to see it at home.”
Naturally, here is where the salesman tells his customer, “Here, madam, see how easy it is to tune this receiver yourself. You do it.”
As you can see, this is a clear cut case for the low-pressure salesman who knows how to handle the customer and how to make his product jump through the hoop. He got the customer into the act. He got the customer to sell herself on “what she would like to see at home.” This is the moment for closing. He did more. He let the customer familiarise herself with the tuning controls. This will save the firm unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses for “nuisance” service calls. This is low-pressure selling because you’ve given your product an opportunity to do some talking for you.
Main Points to Remember About How the Low-Pressure Salesman Uses Product Knowledge to Build Dynamic Demonstrations
The low-pressure salesman never quotes a price until he has gotten the customer into a possessive frame of mind. He knows how to make his product “jump through the hoop” for a customer. He talks benefits and then demonstrates the product features.
Why product knowledge is a must
Without product knowledge, we ride and sell from an empty waggon. Remember:
- Product knowledge puts your sale in a quality
- It helps to sell your product on its merits.
- It helps you prove that your product is worth more because it has extra quality benefits and features that can be demonstrated.
How to focus a sale: know your product—show your product
Remember the story of the pipe salesman. You can sell your product the same way—from the top of the line. Remember:
- There are customers who like to pay more because they know that when they do they get more. Your job is to tell them, with facts and with demonstrations, why the better item is worth more.
How to get the customer to participate in the sale
Getting the customer into the act makes him a part of your sales story—gets him to sell himself faster. Remember:
- A good piano salesman lets the customer give the concert.
- It is always easier to prove your demonstration when the customer is doing it himself.
Remember how the clothing salesman got his customer to sell himself by using the low-pressure technique.
How the low-pressure real estate salesman got the customer into the act
You can sell better against competition when you review the “fine print” in the contract and give the customer time to make an important decision. Remember:
- Product knowledge combined with a low-pressure approach need not depend on a high down payment.
How dynamic demonstrations emphasise product knowledge
One dynamic demonstration of a product feature is worth at least 10,000 words. The real trick is to find out what demonstration of your product is the most dynamic and then be sure to use it during every selling opportunity. Remember:
- A dynamic demonstration makes your product come to life.
- Even customers who go bargain-hunting can be made to feel that quality is the best bargain in the world when this quality is demon strated.
- Even in competitive selling the difference between one product and another is often enhanced by the salesman who takes advantage or the dynamic demonstration.