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Customers Tell How to Sell
by Barry J. Farber

If you want to know how to be a successful salesperson, ask a customer. Not just any customer, but a customer who is used to dealing with the cream of the sales crop. Over the years, I’ve conducted thousands of hours of interviews with my customers’ customers, who were selected because they have been sold to by the number one sales reps in their industry; therefore each of these customers has exceedingly high standards. Here are the five things customers expect from successful salespeople:

1. Listen and learn. Customers want salespeople whose main goal is to understand them and their business. They want reps who spend time in pre-call planning so that they have basic information before they get there, who understand their total environment, their overall industry and their main competitors. They want to know that the rep is interested in finding out about their goals and objectives (a good sales rep might even help the customer define those goals).

2. Have a broad range of knowledge – knowledge of the customer’s goals and environment, and knowledge of his own product and policies. Customers want to know that the rep will be able to provide solutions, eliminate headaches, and help the customer grow his business. David Duley, Category Manager for Hanneford Bakery in Scarborough, Maine, deals with some of the top reps in the country. “If I were a rep,” says Duley, “I would learn what my customer and his company are trying to do. Then I’d go back to my company and say, ‘What products do we have that can help this customer?’ “Most times, a sales rep shows up here with five products, and I know he’s brought them in because his manager said, ‘I want you to push those products.’ Don’t think you’re going to plop those products in front of me and I’m going to say yes on the spot. It’s tempting to go for the quick sale, but you’re better off making sure you understand my strategies and goals and the big picture of what I’m trying to do.”

3. Sell what the customer sells. One of my favorite stories is about a rep who tried for years to sell a copier to an ice cream store owner. The owner always said no until the rep came back to him with colorful, creative menus he had put together using the copier. Once the rep began to sell from the “ice cream” point of view, the deal was made. The great sales reps always think of ways to meet the customer’s goals. When that happens, they don’t just make a sale, they create a loyal customer.

4. Build strong relationships. Every customer I ever interviewed talked about the strong relationship they had with their favorite sales reps. They were confident that these reps were not just concerned with making commission, but were genuinely interested in their overall needs. The saying that customers buy from people they like, trust and respect may be old, but it couldn’t be truer. It’s the bond that cements a customer to you for life.

5. Follow through. Customers want salespeople to keep their promises. The best reps establish a schedule for follow-up calls and customer visits. They make sure that everything following the sale, such as delivery and installation, goes smoothly. Customers want a sales rep to be a ‘point person,’ someone who will cover any problems they might have with customer service, maintenance, or billing.

Customers are the true sales experts. If you listen to them, they’ll tell you how to strengthen your relationship, how to sell more and how to increase your bottom line. What they ask in return is that you treat them with respect as human beings and that you value their business as much as they do.

Barry Farber consults with a variety of industries to help them grow and
expand their business.
He is the best-selling author of 11 books on sales, management and customer
service. His latest release “Diamond in the Rough” CD program is based on
his best selling book, radio and television show.
Visit him at: or email him at: