Desperate fluffing of my CV has forced me to think long and hard about the skills I've learned in these three years of post-redundancy wilderness. I'll be honest, it's been toss at times, but I've learned absolutely loads. I've got good at stuff I have historically been useless at (anyone for small-talk?) and discovered things about myself that I never knew. The big one is that I NEED to work with people. I am fascinated by human beings, in fact. Even when they're horrid. Learning how to manipulate my Disney villain boss has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've done for years. Basic human psychology = amazing.
I digress. I am here today to tell you how I learned to be one of the best salespeople at our gym. Yes! Me, the girl who sat at the back of the classroom and refused to put her hand up because it would mean she'd have to speak. Me, who hates imposing herself on anybody, ever. I'm now totally confident at flogging things.
Sales skills are useful for way more than just getting people to hand over money for goods. They're useful in all your dealings with people, pretty much. That's whether you're managing a team at work or trying to sell the idea of doing the washing up to your partner.
First myth to dispell: that to be able to sell, you need to be able to bullshit. NOT TRUE. Lots of salespeople who've tried to sell you stuff will have had excellent bullshit skills, but did you buy what they bought? Of course you didn't, because they pissed you off. Or you did, and you regretted it later. That was a BAD salesperson. A good salesperson merely leads you to buy something you needed all along.
OK. so here are the things I've learned about being a good salesperson. I know they sound a bit cringey, but there's no denying that if everybody in sales did it this way, the world would be a nicer place:
Believe in your product. Even if I sometimes think the gym I work for is mismanaged, I know that the improved health and fitness you can achieve there is something that everybody can benefit from. I have seen hundreds of people come into our gym and change their lives for the better. Why wouldn't I want to help others get there too?
Understand your customer. We're a friendly ladies only gym in a working class area. We have lilac walls and hula hoops. If a masochistic gym bunny in her 20s comes in looking to shed another point off her already carb-starved BMI, she is not going to get what she needs here. If someone like that comes in for a trial and wants to walk away five minutes in, I'll happily open the door for her on the way out. She's just in the wrong building. However, if a nervous lady who's never joined a gym in her life, has just sent her first kid off to nursery and is coming to terms with the fact that she's an unhealthy body weight for the first time ever... if she comes in, she IS in the right place. And if she wants to leave without signing up, I want to know why. 99% of the time it's because she's scared to fucking death. I can help with that too. This leads me to my next point:
Listen. Talking does not sell, listening does. Find out about people, it's the only way you'll know if they actually need what you're selling. It makes them feel comfortable with you too, which stops them from making bad decisions. If somebody comes in wanting to sign up to the gym NOW NOW NOW I always make them try the equipment first, look around the place, have a sit down and a chat. The thought of somebody buying a membership when it's not right for them makes me feel a little bit sick. I don't want to cheat anyone. I have enough guilt, I like to be able to sleep at night.
Sales doesn't finish at Sale. Oh my god I feel like I need to start doing motivational speaking. You know what I mean though. Once you've flogged somebody something, it always pays to follow it up. Are they happy? If not, why not? What can you do to help? Even if you're flogging knitted iPod covers on a market stall, giving someone your card with an email address and saying "get in touch if you've got any questions" makes people feel looked after and like you're on their team. Which leads me to my final point...
Be on the customer's side. Even if you hate them. Even if they're prickly with you - it's probably only because they've had bad experiences with bullshitters trying to sell them stuff in the past. Selling is not tough and ruthless and nasty unless you want it to be. It can also be full of flowers and rainbows and bunnies eating icecream on a hot summer's day. Which is exactly how it feels when you sell something to somebody, and it improves their life enough for them to come up to you and say thankyou. THAT is something I never imagined happening to me before, and it is quite simply ACE.
When I finally get out of this godforsaken place, there will be a few things I will miss. This is one of them.