5 Ways to Sell Anything

Last Updated Nov 5, 2010 5:51 PM EDT

How to SellBack in the day, the doorbell would ring, you'd open the door, and a salesman would say, "Good evening, ma'am. I was wondering if I might demonstrate a new type of vacuum cleaner; it's called a Hoover."

If you were interested, you'd smile, swing the door wide open, and say, "Please, won't you come in? Can I get you some tea?" If not, you'd tell him you've already got a nice vacuum cleaner that does the job just fine. He'd politely thank you for your time, say have a nice evening, and be on his way.

To say things are different today would be like saying Lady Gaga looked strange dressed in meat.

Today, you, me, and everyone else is constantly bombarded with an overwhelming assault from our smart phones, inboxes, the media, social networks, advertisements, blogs, and yes, still, people trying to sell us stuff.

This isn't how it was supposed to be. The Internet started out so benignly, you could casually check out a website and then move on. Now, it's nothing but push, push, push.

So, if you want your ideas, products, services, whatever you're selling, to become hopelessly lost in the deafening roar of the Internet collective, that ginormous cloud up in the whoknowswhereosphere, then sure, by all means, sell it, and sell it hard.

If, on the other hand, you're an entrepreneur who actually wants his ideas to be heard, or a sales rep who actually wants to sell her products or services, here are five ways to help you actually engage people and not get virtual doors slammed in your face.

  1. Never waste people's time. Given that we're all so overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed, that means the absolute worst, dumbest thing you can do if you want to sell anything these days is waste someone's time. Yeah, I know what you're going to say, how do you know until you try? Well, I think that if you dig down deep, most of the time, you know.
  2. Try making sense. No, not to you, to the person or company you're targeting or pitching. And that inherently means doing two things that, for inexplicable reasons, people rarely do. First, ask yourself what's in it for them. Second, actually try it out in advance on the closest thing you can get to the audience or targets you're trying to reach. Third, iterate until you get the sort of "aha" reaction that means you've gotten through their defenses.
  3. Differentiate. No, that doesn't mean yell louder, be more over-the-top, or get more hits. Few of us have the budget or the brand to register above all the noise. What it means is offering an idea or solution that solves a problem better than anyone else does. How do you do that? By doing hard research you really don't want to do. And if you can't come up with a truly differentiated value proposition, then ditch the idea and try something else. Seriously, don't waste your time.
  4. Give and get. As sales techniques go, this is a relatively subtle and cerebral approach. First, offer something of value. No, not some dumb self-serving study your company funded or a cheap MP3 player. Something of real value that might actually get folks to engage. Ask them what they think, and then, guess what, you've got interaction. I'm sure you can take it from there.
  5. Get humility. I don't know why, but some salespeople think they need to pump themselves up so, when they finally get in front of someone real, we either want to punch them or run away screaming. Understand that you're just a person who's genuinely trying to connect with others to offer them something they might really need. If you're genuine, they'll react in kind. But if you come off like a preacher on steroids, be prepared for some ugly rejection.
Bottom line. It might seem that, to move the needle these days, you've got to really be over-the-top. Don't fall into that trap. Let those who lack a unique value proposition, the confidence to be genuine, or the good sense to not waste people's time, compete with all the noise. If you want to sell and win, you need to be smarter than that.

Image CC 2.0 courtesy Flickr user Alaskan Dude