Sales 101 – How to Sell Anything to Anyone

When I left the Marines in late 1991 I had no job and no prospects. No matter how hard I read the paper, no one was looking for a guy like me. I needed a less dangerous skill set, and fast.  My inexperience forced me behind the counter at a men’s clothing store, and, although the job wasn’t how I pictured my life unfolding, I was lucky; it gave me a chance to pick up a talent that other people have to pay to learn.

The Jordanian store manager was an expert at selling clothes. When a customer came in for a new shirt, Mazin made sure he left with a tie as well. It never failed. And if it wasn’t a tie it was a sport coat, or slacks. Good salesmen have good teachers, and Mazin was mine.

His technique wasn’t high-pressure or devious. Instead, Mazin would smile as he walked over with “…this tie that matches that shirt puur-fectly.”

After working there for a couple of weeks I developed my sales theory based on his simple technique:

  • Half of selling is showing – the rest is enthusiasm.

I didn’t learn much about life while selling clothes, but I did learn something about sales: People buy what they see. Every salesman would do well to stop telling his customers, and start showing them.

I smile now when I remember Mazin’s cheery accent saying: “You know what would look great with those slacks?”

Nowadays, when I’m dragged to the mall I cringe. Not from driving on Wadsworth on a Saturday or finding a parking space (we’re in a recession, why isn’t there any parking?), but because I have to deal with teenage clerks. Sometimes it seems they took Discouraging Sales 101. Retail isn’t a great job, I get that, but I worry that the kids aren’t learning anything.

What they don’t know yet is that life is all about sales.

I recommend that every person who works at any job read a book about sales as soon as possible. Once you learn to sell, you’ll realize how important it is. If you want a promotion – you have to sell. If you want a bigger office – you have to sell. If you want a home cooked meal – you have to sell.

Even the President of the United States has to do it.  Every day, Mr. Obama has to sell himself if he wants support for his budget plan, or if he wants votes in November.

There are very few interactions where one party isn’t selling to another, and if you want to sell yourself or your idea you really should know how to do it.

Here’s a suggestion: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger. You can get a copy from Alibris.com for less than a dollar. That one dollar purchase may be the best investment you ever make.

If you don’t make it to a bookstore, at least remember the lesson I learned: Half of selling is showing, the rest is enthusiasm