Retail education: Speak less, win more

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by Kelly Kramer

It’s no secret that effective sales professionals are great listeners. They get their customer to open up and basically talk about herself, her family and her situation. What sales professionals don’t do is speak a lot about themselves and get bogged down in long sessions where they do most of the talking.

One of my favorite past times is simply observing people; not just at my business, but in social situations and every day passersby. What I like to observe most are the professional interviewers on TV. The best start out asking the interviewee a few questions about his personal life and some more fun aspects of his life. This includes asking sometimes famous people about a new baby, his new movie, a recent trip overseas or a pre-discussed funny thing that recently happened. The interviewee has a chance to brag, tell a funny story, or show what a wonderful spouse or parent he is. He is now more relaxed and more willing to disclose more interesting things that the interviewer wants to discuss.

If you will notice, the really great interviewers ask a few questions and then shut up. They almost never interrupt with their own story or ask another question before their interviewee is done talking. In short, they are practicing what I consider the greatest sales question that can be asked: Tell me about yourself.

Seeing is believing

I’d like to share an observation I made about one of my wife’s best friends whom my wife has known for more than 30 years. I met her 22 years ago and this friend is one of those people everyone likes. It was obvious that she was funny and had a great smile, but I was intrigued to understand why this was psychologically. I tried to go deeper than appearances and for once I shut up and observed more.

The first thing I noticed is that she always asks us about something like a trip we had just taken, about our pets or how our parents were doing. Then of course my wife and I would answer with a fun story or at times about something bad that had happened. But in either case we were talking about us. Better yet, she seemed genuinely interested and would ask follow-up questions to get us talking even more about us.

Once I learned her secret about how to relax people and put them in a good mood, I again dug deeper because I wondered if she even knew what a great skill she had. After a few visits, I realized she did not: This gift was natural. She has something most people like me had to train themselves to do. This little education even helps me in social situations because I’m not the kind of guy who walks into a party and has people gravitate to them.

Today, instead of being the guy who is bored at gatherings, I start talking to someone about themselves first. Then guess what? I’m the guy that’s interesting. They may not know any- thing about me, but they know I was interested in them. The fun part is that I have a much better time myself. Over the years, my wife has asked me how I know so many private details about all the people we’ve met. I simply answer, “I asked them.”

Be a sales advisor

When you’ve asked enough questions with the customer interview, you gain the right to give professional advice. Simply spitting back the facts you’ve gathered will prove that. When you can honestly say, “from what you have told me,” you can recommend the best solution to fix her problem. Now, that little bit of speaking you do wins more.

Thanks for reading.

Kelly Kramer, based in Loveland, Colo., is an author, inventor and owner of Kelly’s Carpet Wagon. To book him for public speaking engagements, call 970.622.0077 or e-mail

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