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24 | TRAINING WORDS | Paul Owen Simple selling

Being a successful salesperson doesn’t mean that you have to relay all of your knowledge and expertise - keeping it simple and listening to your buyer is key. Paul Owen elaborates on his recent visit to buy a bed

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” - Albert Einstein. From John Wayne to Albert Einstein via Bill Gates, this column can never be accused of lacking big names. The words of one of our brightest minds came back to me on a recent shopping trip to buy a simple bed. Let me tell you what happened and why it matters.

My wife and I wanted to buy a bed.

We had been recommended to a bed shop in London. We had decided upon our budget. We had three outstanding questions (unanswered as opposed to high quality). With three small children in tow, we would have limited time to have those questions answered and take on board the advice before choosing a bed. Ding ding, we entered the shop. A reasonably warm greeting was followed by the offer of some chairs for our children (not a bad swap some might say) which felt very welcoming. “We’re here to buy a bed,” was our

rather obvious opening line and was met with a brief explanation of the shop’s layout including the different categories

of bed (yes, there are categories). “Feel free to have a look around.” Over the next 90 minutes, our attentive sales assistant with over 35 years’ experience (of which he reminded us at least three times) kept joining us at certain beds to explain the benefi ts: the mattress, its design and manufacture plus the guarantee. And how to care for it. Then back to the design and why mattresses are made that way versus how they used to be made plus, probably, how he thinks they should be made.

At no time, not at the beginning nor at any stage in the middle or the end, did he answer our three questions with anything approaching clarity. I’m not sure he even heard them and we were not speaking quietly. He was simply too busy on each occasion showing how much expertise he had, how much knowledge he’d gained over the years and how complicated the art of buying a bed really is.

As we left the shop, confused, bored and thoroughly fed up, he laughed as he said, “Well, I’ve given you lots to think about!” Congratulations, Mr Bed Salesman. We came in today to buy a bed and

Paul Owen was fi rst chief executive of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), building the membership to 400+, creating its annual consumer guide and setting up the AIPP Awards. He now runs The Clear Path Company, specialists in sales recruitment and sales training, which this year launched ‘Let’s get Britain selling!’, a nationwide programme of free sales training for 16-24 year olds in the UK. Call: +44 (0)20 3004 9113

were willing to spend about £5,000. All we had were three questions. All you had to do was to answer those questions then recommend us to buy the bed that best matched those answers and fi tted within our budget. Instead, you decided to give us a Bed Master Class. You wanted to teach us things about beds we will never need to know. We just wanted to buy a bloody bed, pay for it and wait for it to be delivered. Then take our kids out for the afternoon.

So, back to Mr Einstein. It’s easy, as this shop showed, to make things diffi cult and cumbersome but much harder to make them simple and digestible.

For those shouting at the page at my ignorance of the complexity of beds, I accept that there is probably a great deal. I just don’t need to know it. I’m

buying the thing not studying it. Now of course, salespeople should know their product well. However, one of the skills of a successful salesperson is to take complex ideas and piles of information and share only the relevant details with a buyer, explained in words that make sense to them. Take time to understand what the client knows and what else they want to fi nd out. Give your answers in clear, simple words and short sentences using, where possible, the vocabulary they use themselves (the bed man kept using technical words to ‘correct’ our layman’s terms – yes, infuriating) Proper selling is helping people to make good buying decisions. Listen. Keep the explanations simple. They’re more likely not only to buy but to thank you for the help. Now, anyone know a good bed shop in London?


“And it’s as simple as that..” Simplicity is key | Don’t overload your buyer with irrelevant information

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