When you think of a salesman, you might think of the pushy loudmouth, trying to hoodwink you into buying something you don’t need. But, according to author Harry Browne, that is the exact opposite of what a salesman should be. In the book, The Secret of Selling Anything, Browne says that the secret to selling is to listen to the motivations of the customer.

According to Browne, a person will never buy something unless he feels it will make his life better. As a seller, you’ll be wasting your time if you try to sell something that doesn’t appeal to a person’s self-interest. Your job when selling is to ask questions, listen, and understand the needs and motivations of the customer. Even a quiet introvert can do this. In fact, a soft-spoken introvert may be able to do this much better than a smooth-talking extrovert.

Listen First

Nobody buys something unless it makes their life better. A salesman needs to understand how each customer is different. The salesman must appeal to the customer’s self-interest. He must listen to the customer’s needs.

Browne gives the example of a salesman selling encyclopedias. While this example is dated, it still has merit. The salesman asks his potential customer: “What is the most pressing problem when it comes to educating your children?” The customer tells how the public schools aren’t doing a good job of educating his kids. Knowing that the customer needs help with education, the salesman shares how not only is he selling encyclopedias, but he is also selling workbooks and lesson plans on various subjects for a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a tutor.

Had the salesman tried to push only a set of encyclopedias, he would have been turned away. But, because he listened to and understood the needs of his customer, he was able to sell the encyclopedias as an educational package.

Isaac Morehouse on selling

Seek to Understand

Because each individual is different, a good salesman seeks to understand the unique needs of each customer and customize his pitch to that person. This requires creativity and listening skills. Nobody buys a product, they buy what it can help them accomplish. By listening carefully, and asking good questions, you’ll be able to understand what your customer is trying to accomplish. What are their most pressing needs? What are they trying to do?

We Are All Selling

We are all selling something. A crying baby is selling his desire to be fed. A student writing an essay is selling his essay to the teacher. A job hunter is selling his skillset to an employer. I’m selling you on the idea that you don’t have to trick people in order to sell. Selling is something that we can all do if we just pay a little attention to the desires of others.

Develop a Sense of Wonder

As you go about your day, think of the products and services you use and how they improve your life. A pen, for example, doesn’t just transfer ink onto paper – it lets you transmit ideas through space and time. Your phone doesn’t just text and make phone calls – it enhances your life by allowing you to make deeper connections with others.

Through practice, we can learn to cultivate a sense of wonder about the products we use to enhance our lives.

“We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” – G.K. Chesterton

Interested in sales? Check out the CareerHackers.com Guide to Sales Careers.

Originally published at aaronolson.blog.