“The Art of Selling” by Zig Ziglar is a must for every salesperson to be successful. It has brilliant and simple principles.

Here are my 10 commandants of sales learned from the book:

1. Persuade, don”t just convince.

The book opens with an interesting story about when Galileo challenged Aristotle’s thought process that if two weights of the same material were dropped from the same height, the larger object would fall faster. Galileo went to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, dropped two weights dramatically different in size but of the same material, and they hit the ground at precisely the same time. But even after this experiment got documented, they kept teaching that the heavier weight would fall faster for a long time.

A similar episode happens in sales. Prospects get convinced that they have an apparent need which your product/service fills, but they don’t take the next step of “closure of sale”. The art of persuasion is the means to the sales. And ‘persuasion’ is not used here in the negative sense but in a positive one of engaging the customer in a meaningful dialogue.

Ziglar states:

“You don’t persuade by telling, you persuade by asking questions.”

Ask customers relevant questions, listen to their answers carefully. Those answers will lead to the next set of questions and ultimately a sale. Listening to people is a great relationship builder, which is important to the persuasion process.

2. People buy solutions not products/services

We all buy products of the products/services – called benefits or solutions. That’s why salespeople should lead with the need. “Don’t waste your time and the prospect’s time telling them what the product is. Tell them what it can do and how it will do it for them,” Ziglar wrote.

3. The primary objective of sales is to add value.

If your prime objective is to make money from sales, most often you would miss-sell. Making money has to be the by-product of sales.

Therefore, the focus of the discussions should always be on what the product is and how it adds value to the customer. If we focus on these two points, money would automatically be taken care of. Ziglar states, “Successful sales professionals make the sales call for the benefit of the prospect and not for their personal gains.” He further states, “You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want!”

4. Do ethical business.

Honesty is an integral part of any business for long-term success. As management guru, Dr. Steven Covey stated, “ The right thing in life is to do the right things”, we should only engage in doing the right things.

Our focus has to be on building “trust” with customers. That trust is always a product of ethical business and deep relationship. Ziglar states, “You do not invent or create the needs. That is not selling. You uncover a need or problem that is already there and, in the process, render a solution, a real service.”

Never forget that it takes years to nurture a relationship and a few minutes to break one.

5. Prepare, prepare, and prepare.

Entering into a meeting without preparation is a big disaster. Forget the sale, you’re wasting an irretrievable component of someone – their time.

Prepare in advance about the product/service. Spend time researching the potential customer, his business, and potential requirements. List down questions in advance. Have the objective of meeting clear, listen carefully, make notes, conclude meeting with action points/next steps.

Never forget to respond to the customer with what you promised – honor commitments. People always remember what you promised and what you delivered. Review notes of previous meetings when you go to see the customer next time. Here, it is relevant to quote Swami Chinmayanada “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

6. Start with people you know.

Most of the time, we ignore persuading our near and dear ones for the product/solutions we offer out of the fear of losing the relationship. On this, Ziglar states,

“If you think your product is good enough for all those strangers, why isn’t it good enough for your friends and your family? If what you are selling is not good enough for your friends and family, then why are you selling it? If it is good, then why would you want to keep it from those you care about most”.

7. Build on the positives in life.

Positive conditioning of the mind is an immense tool for success. Impressions of the past do play on the present. So flush all the so-called not positive impressions of the past and build future on positive impressions.

This is not easy, but practice will help. Remember, success leads to success. Swami Vivekananda stated, “if you think, you can, you can; and, if you think, you can’t, you can’t. Either way, you are right.”

Also remember, when people refuse to buy something from you, they reject the business proposal and not you at the personal level. Zigler states, “When your prospects say no, the reason is most often that they don’t “know” enough to say Yes”.

Moving your potential customers from ‘No’ to ‘Know’ and finally to ‘Yes’ demands an understanding of their aspirations/ambitions/motivations and the ability of your product/service to satisfy them.

8. Balance emotions and logic in discussions.

Most of us claim to make logical decisions. But the reality is we generally make emotional decisions. Therefore it makes sense to combine emotion and logic in the sales process.

Advertisements on television are the live proof of that. Zigler states, “Emotion makes the prospects take action now, and logic enables them to justify their purchase later.”

9. Price not on a cost-plus basis but on a value-creation basis.

Pricing, while, has to be competitive, more importantly, it has to be fair – fair to both the parties (buyer and seller). A good customer respects that salespeople need to make money from the business.

If one reduces the price continuously under competitive pressure and then does not deliver value because the pricing was diluted, this is ‘dishonesty’. Stick to the pricing based on the value of your product/service to the customer and focus on differentiation/value creation for the customer.

You will win in the long run.

10. Identify the decision-maker clearly

Many times, salespeople spend a significant amount of time interacting with non-decision makers. There’s no point executing a nonsense plan brilliantly, no point investing time with people who are neither decision-makers nor decision-enablers.

Therefore, the first job of a salesperson should be to identify the decision-maker and/or enabler and then drive the discussions.

Final Thoughts

Sales is not really about sales. It’s a process to help customers buy!

Engage with potential customers by questioning their needs and the relevance of your products/services. If discussions could lead to a match between their needs, and the utility of your products/services, the sale will happen automatically.

Wish you great time selling!

By Manish Bansal

Manish is the Managing Director of SME Value Advisors, a platform that connects businesses with curated professionals who can deliver solutions. You can connect with him on manish@smevalueadvisors.com.

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