Have you noticed how almost every aspect of life revolves around selling something? Sometimes it’s plain obvious – “Buy this face cream and look 10 years younger!” – While other times it creeps up on us without us even realizing that we are being sold to. That’s the kind of selling I’m going to dig into here.
Throughout my career I’ve met some incredibly talented sales people, using a wide range of proven techniques. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been so compelled to action as I was recently in New York while watching a team of street performers. It wasn’t until after the $20 went from my hand into their collection bag that I realized I had just been privy to some of the most unique, effective, sales techniques that I had ever seen! And while most of us can’t accompany our sales pitch with somersaults and comedy, we can ALL learn something from the team I watched in Central Park last month.
Engage your audience
Although we were a huge crowd watching the show, the performers made sure to make eye contact with as many people as possible, engaged with spectators on a personal level, and gave us the feeling they were talking to each and every one of us directly.
The same goes in business. Whether you are talking to one person or a full board room, you have to engage your audience from the start. Use people’s names, smile, and pepper your talk with humour or anecdotes or whatever is appropriate to keep interest while avoiding monotone monologues.
I didn’t doubt for a second that the performers would be able to somersault over a line of seven grown men when they said they would. I didn’t doubt their ability to keep me entertained even after I had contributed my money. And I certainly didn’t doubt that this was one incredibly professional crew. Why? Because they exuded so much confidence, how could I doubt anything they said?
Note I said, “exuded” – that means they gave the impression of being confident. It doesn’t mean that they were born confident, never doubt themselves, or walk around with their chests puffed out all day long. The same also goes in business. We also need to be brave and bold when we are selling a concept. It’s human nature to buy into the confidence of the person selling – and the reverse is just as true. Don’t worry if this one doesn’t come easily to you; these are skills that can absolutely be developed. As a Business Coach I regularly work with individuals to strengthen these areas.
Practice until perfect
I’ve never heard three people talk and move in perfect unison as I did that day. The stunts they performed left no room for error, but their dialogue was just as polished. I couldn’t help imagining the hours they must have put into their preparation. It was clear that even supposedly spontaneous interactions were carefully orchestrated and planned ahead.
And this ties into the previous point: the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be! If you are planning a presentation, speech, or sales pitch, make sure your notes and talking points are clear. Practice them in front of the mirror, a friend, or a camera. Make sure you know what you are talking about well enough that you can sound natural and not contrived.
Gain commitment before you leave
Most street performers I’ve seen perform their entire show then come round asking for money. Big mistake! This crew engaged their audience, drew us in with humour, threw in some tricks that got our interest, and then asked for money before performing the final BIG stunt. Genius! There was no chance we were going to walk away without seeing it by this point so we all paid up.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in sales is to do all the right things – engage the audience, convince them that they want what they are selling – then walk away and wait for the commitment call/email. If you know that your client is convinced that you or your service is right for them, then gain commitment while you have them in front of you. No matter how great your meeting, presentation or sales pitch, the second you walk away you leave room for procrastination, a change of mind, or someone else to step in.
Don’t underestimate your value (or they will too)
This was my favourite part of the show. When they came around asking for money, they didn’t pull out bowler hats or buckets. They each walked around with giant grocery bags! The message was clear: our performance is top notch and what you are about to see is of high value, so pay accordingly. They didn’t ask for “whatever you can give …” They asked straight up for $20 per person. And you know what? We all gave it willingly!
What can we take away from this? First off, know and believe in your value. If you know your service/product is one of the best in your industry, make sure the client knows! Don’t be shy about your achievements. And what’s the worst that can happen if you aim towards the upper end of the scale because you know you can deliver the results? You might get less than you ask for. That’s better than the other way around, because no one is going to surprise you by offering more than you suggest.
So there you have it. Amongst all the museums, monuments, history and exploration I did throughout New York, I learnt more from a group of highly practiced, engaging, confident and hilarious street performers than I did anything else! And without even stepping on the plane, I hope you can take something away from them too.