Selling is not a magical power that people who are eloquent talkers possess. Rather, it is a skill based on communication between two people — one who provides a service and another who needs such a service. Selling is communicating your craft and profession to fulfill customers’ needs and solve their problems. It is not coercion or manipulation.

Learning to be a better communicator will help you sell, but few people consciously work at becoming better communicators. At the same time, our parents, our first bosses, our friends and others around us influence how we communicate. Don’t believe me? Think of the things you say to your children and how often you sound like your mom or dad. With just a little effort, you can learn to be a better communicator.

Selling is communicating with a purpose. It is not idle chitchat. One of the first mistakes non-professional salespeople make is to confuse social niceties with sales skills. Being friendly is important in any social setting, but it is foolish to think people will spend more money on your bid just because you like the same football team or think the weather is nice today. All else being equal, people are going to buy from the salesperson they trust and feel will solve their problems.

Selling is also a skill of listening, not talking. Professional salespeople sell like cats. They listen, watch and gather information — then pounce. Talking too early in a presentation and becoming the expert can turn people off. Learn to ask questions. Don’t bark like a dog, howl at the end of the presentation and then wonder why people do not buy. Find out what drove the customer to do the job now and to call you. It is doubtful the customer did so because of a magic dream or vision. Have you ever noticed the more the customer talks, the more the customer buys? One of your goals is to get the customer to talk. It is the only way to find out what they truly want.

The Four Types of Buying Logic

There are four types of buying logic sales trainers discuss when training new salespeople.

1. People buy from salespeople they like. This perspective has been around for years, but in reality people buy from who they like and who they also respect. Most of us have bought something from someone we liked, but he or she let us down because of poor performance. So people may like you, but that does not mean they are going to pay $2,000 more for your job. They need to see value as well as likability.

2. People love to buy things but hate to be sold. Buying is an enjoyable process. Think of the millions of people who march through shopping malls each and every day. People like to buy things, but they don’t like to be pushed. That is why professional salespeople make it easy for people to buy things by using choices and educating the customer, but they never push people.

3. People buy with their logic, not yours. Customers make decisions using their logic, not your logic. Ever tried to argue politics or religion with people? The more you argue, the more they dig in their heels and the stronger their position. You can only use supply information and ask questions to help customers re-examine their own buying logic. You cannot talk people into a sale. For example, consumers buying a roof often think they are merely buying shingles, and it is the salesperson’s job to educate them about a roof system.

4. People buy because they think you are going to solve their problems, not because they actually understand technically what you are going to do. Ever visited a doctor who prescribed medication? Did you really understand what the medication chemically did within your body? Probably not. You trusted the doctor and therefore took the medicine. As a contractor, what you are selling is trust. As much as you may want to explain the magnificent benefit of your master craftsmanship and ability, the simple truth is customers probably are not technically proficient enough to understand your message. Ultimately, they buy because they trust that you will solve their problems.

Putting it Into Practice

Think about the four types of buying logic the next time you talk with a customer. Too many contractors are merely estimate reviewers. While the technical side of the trade may be your strong point, it is not the customer’s. Too much emphasis on the technical issues and not enough time discussing what the customer wants is likely to produce a confused customer. Some will simply give up and buy from you. Others will merely take the low price.

Remember, it is not your customer’s responsibility to determine the difference between your bid and the competitor’s bid. It is your responsibility to communicate that point of difference. All contractors have lost a bid only to find out other contractors were bidding on something else. Herein lies the problem. You must communicate your point of difference but at the same time not talk too much. That is why it is important to find out what the customer is really looking for, and then provide that value. Listen first, talk second. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.