Sales: The Original People Business


With the holiday season fast approaching, it amazes me how many stores have so-called sales associates who have no clue how to sell anything! I have been in sales my whole life. I guess I come by it naturally, since I was brought up in a family full of salespeople.

We were a bunch of talkers, jokers and helpers who enjoyed being with and sharing each other’s lives, thoughts and ideas with other people. Basically, that is what sales is about.

With the digital age in full swing, the world has changed in how we relate to each other. Today’s up and coming sales professionals have grown up talking to their friends and families behind a big black screen. That is the main way they communicate with each other…and the world.

So now they are ready to work in the real world, with real live people. What I have noticed is that most retail sales associates are nothing more than order takers. This includes all types of jobs–clothing stores, hardware stores, the five & dime and restaurants. This new generation of sales people have not been taught to look people in the eyes, to find out what they like or what their needs are. They have not been taught to pay attention to the potential buyer of their products.

No matter what you are hired to sell, it comes down to the same principles. People buy from people they like and trust. Period!

So, how do you become likeable?

  • First, it is not about YOU…it is about the customer!
  • Never think about making the sale for your benefit (the money). Customers will sense it and, may buy from you at the moment, but are not likely to return.
  • Pay attention to the customer! Ask questions that lead to discovery.
  • Give the customer a chance to tell you what they want…or need.
  • Be friendly, engaging and, most of all, sincere.

You may be able to fake interest, but, faking it doesn’t win trust. To win trust you must be sincere and have a real desire to put the needs and wants of your client before your own desire or need to make a quick buck, win a contest or impress the boss. Or…before you own desire or need to text your friend or visit with a co-worker instead for taking care of the person who provides you with a paycheck…the customer who actually buys something.

That customer walked into your business because they want to buy something–either now or in the near future. Yes, they truly may be “just looking.” But more often than not that “just looking” is a social habit. The ARE looking. Your job is to engage that customer in seeming small talk that makes them comfortable…and you likeable. If you don’t establish a bond with the customer, they will walk out still “looking” until somebody shows interest.

Case In Point

Recently I wanted a black skirt to wear to a business engagement. I went to the mall “just looking” for the perfect black skirt. At one store, the clerks were so busy talking between themselves, they couldn’t be bothered to speak to me. At another store, they were more preoccupied with who was going on break and I was definitely an inconvenience. I went to 4 or 5 stores before giving up and heading downtown to a little boutique.

When I walked in I was greeted by friendly people who just couldn’t do enough for me. They asked questions. The were friendly and polite. They engaged me until I told them I was looking for a black skirt. They asked about the event I needed it for. I walked out…not with a black skirt, but a pretty trendy pair of slacks, perfect shirt to go with it, shoes and accessories to match.

That is how retail sales work. That “just looking” potential is almost always a customer wanting a reason to buy. Put down your phone. Smile. Show interest. Your co-worker isn’t going to buy anything from you. Guaranteed. It’s ALL about the customer…and your job is to focus on THEIR needs, wants and goals.

Try it. You’ll be surprised at how good it makes you feel!


Nancy Walters has spent a lifetime in sales–her grown-up lifetime that is. She understands the importance of honest, sincere interest in the customer. Whether selling yellow page ads, a set up at the local pub, or baby clothes in a department store, core principles never change.

Colleen Perry
Colleen Perry

Colleen Perry has spent more than 20 years in the publishing industry. Prior to co-founding BSavvy Magazine in late 2015, she spent 10 years in the yachting industry where she developed effective advertising campaigns within the marine industry of high-end yacht builders. It was during this time that she began to realize the value of a publication that offered relevant and timely advertiser-driven content.