Shut Up And Sell

Sorry I just couldn’t write about this topic without referencing a book I stumbled across as a young child in my father’s library, “Shut Up and Sell”. At the time the title only caught my attention because of the vulgarity used (I was really young when I first found the book), but later i’d discover in it a few lessons on salesmanship that still hold true today. I won’t bore you with my recollection of what was gleamed from the book however a recent post over on the Hidden Persuader blog reminded me of it as well as a few other great articles on the importance of knowing how to talk to your customers.

The link shared was to a recent Wall Street Journal article that talked about How to Sell a $35,00 Watch in a Recession. The article is an interesting look into some of the various tactics being taught to salesmen at a high-end IWC Schaffhausen boutique in Beverly Hills. If you’ve ever had a job that required direct B2C selling (especially cold-calling) then you’ll probably appreciate the examples given. For instance you want to avoid asking yes or no questions unless you’re positive the answer is going to be yes. In order to do so, better ways of phrasing simple questions are looked into that help ‘engage’ the customer. They gave the example of asking a customer if they’d like to try on a Cartier watch, instead of asking directly, they’ll try “I invite you to try the watch. Please take a seat.” I don’t know how effective that particular example is but you get the drift.

After reading the WSJ post, an old social psychology article regarding debunking pseudosciences came to mind. How to Sell a Pseudoscience by Anthony R. Pratkanis. The article is an in-depth look at various ways in which the author has seen pseudosciences marketed. In order to help his readers be able to ‘debunk’ widely popular quacks, he tries to teach the tactics they’re using and how you can use them too. You can take the majority of his examples and relate them towards selling just about anything. Great read.
The article has had a good life since it was originally published in 1995 (I’ve been sent it dozens of times over the years), but if you haven’t seen it, I recommend checking it out.

You’d be amazed at just how many people graduate from prestigious business schools & advertising programs but have no clue how to actually talk to a customer…I see it all the time! The best approach that I’ve come across was from a Sr. executive at an agency that represented one of the large American automobile manufacturers (and both identities will remain nameless for now). He made it a requirement that any new hires in his department had to spend their first month working full-time on the lot of a local dealership. If you could make it through the 30 days and be able to share something you’ve learned then you’d be able to start your ‘real’ job at the agency. I know of a few folks that quit before the month was over, however those that made it still rant and rave about how much they learned from their brief stint in auto-sales.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like face-to-face salesmanship is a missing component in business school/marketing courses or is it a dying skill better left to car salesmen and Avon rep’s?


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