This post draws from my personal experience as a street salesman. Back in June of last year (2015), I launched a portable phone charger and needed to make sales to get it off the ground. Given that my only POS (point-of-sale) was in-person and that I only had so much time in a day to meander around the streets of Santa Monica and Venice selling the Flux Charger, I started timing and optimizing my pitch so that I could go from “hey, how are you?” to “sign here please” as quickly and as often as possible. In this blog post, I will explore the mechanics of how to sell anything on the street plus, at the end, I will share the very same sales template that I give my salespeople to close more sales.
Logistics of selling anything
First, get your game right.
The first key to sell anything on the street is not the product neither the person you are approaching, is all about you and your mindset. If you are not fully confident (and calm), you won’t be able to convince anyone to buy your product. You must believe in the product if you want others to do so. You must be ready to face a lot of NO’s and know that eventually you will get you to a YES. This leads to my second point:
Be an approach-machine
Someone said no? Ok, move on. There are 5 other people within 10 feet that you can talk to right now. The key to making sales is to always be selling.
Friendships sell. People like approachable people with whom they can make a connection. Also, people tend to associate the buying experience with the quality of the product itself, so make sure you are making a good impression. The ROI of positive word-of-mouth (which starts with how friendly the seller was) far outweighs what any sales army can do.
Now on to the sale
You must know the product or service from the inside-out. Being knowledgeable about the product will give you confidence and will make your street selling experience successful. However, never give a flat-out scripted pitch – this kills any sale. It should feel more like a dialogue between you and the other person.
Tailor the sales tone based on your audience
The streets of Venice exposed me to a varied crowd of people from tattooed skaters to high-school couples to old men working out at Muscle beach. Every single customer has different needs but most importantly communicates in a slightly different way. To the geeks, you should talk specs. To the single mom, you should talk experience. The more comfortable someone feels, the more likely it is that they will purchase.
Preempt most but not all of their questions
Once you have tried to sell your product to a handful number of people, you will realize that most of them will ask you the same questions again and again. “How is your product better than XYZ?” should be preempted from the start since most people have probably already seen a competitor product and have a general idea of its features. The main concern of anyone that is being sold on the street is being scammed, so they want to make sure they are getting a good deal (the definition of a good deal meaning a good value, i.e. your buyers feel like they have saved money by purchasing a better product or their lives are improved because of your product).
To ensure that your prospect feels confident about the purchase, your pitch should answer all their questions so they have no excuse but to buy your product. However, a customer also wants to feel in charge of the logical decision process so you should leave some room for them to ask questions at any point during the sale (but especially at the end).
The key here is to walk the prospect through a series of logical assertions (based on facts) to help them be sure that they are making the right decision when giving you their money. Selling a great product makes this so much easier, because the product specs sell themselves.
Let them do the talking, it is easier that way
The secret of world-class salesman is how little they actually talk. Tyler Bosmeni, CEO of Clever, mentioned during his YCombinator Startup lecture that the top 1% of sellers ask a lot of questions and let the prospect do about 70% of the talking. When I was selling down Third Street Promenade, I usually let the customer take the lead on the sale by asking simple questions such as “do you usually spend your weekends here?”. It is incredible and even counterintuitive, but the more the customer talked, the higher my closing rate.
ABC: Always. Be. Closing.
As soon as you begin the sale, you should be thinking about closing. Not only will this keep you focused on the target (making the sale) but will also improve your closing rate. A lot of people that I coached on sales are afraid of asking for the money. This is the single most important point of the sale, since it is when the sale actually happens. Up until the close, all you have done is informed the prospect; however, it is not until you ask for the payment that your efforts become worthwhile.
If you can’t close, know when to leave
I could generally gauge whether a prospect was going to buy or not within 20 seconds of our interaction. If you are spending too much time talking to one customer, your opportunity costs rises as you are not selling to someone else. In my case, the conversion rate declined sharply after 5 minutes of talking. So, after the 5-min mark I would try to close or move on.
6 techniques to improve closing rate
1. Offer a free trial
Let your prospect feel, touch, use the product. The more time that they have invested in familiarizing with your product the harder it will be for them to walk away, especially if they have the product in their hands. Also, a free trial gives them confidence that what you are selling is functional and not a second-hand product you picked up on the street. For my chargers, I let the prospect to charge his or her phone while we were chatting.
2. Ask them to do YOU a favor
According to the Benjamin Franklin Effect, if someone does a favor for you, they are more likely to do another because that will be consistent with what they think of you. (The next favor being buying from you, of course). Example: Ask the customer to hold the product for you while you search in your backpack. This seemingly small favor has major psychological implications that loop back to the point about being friendly and establishing a trusting relationship.
3. Street-selling is all about discounts and timed offers
Remember the last-time you bought something on the street. Did you try to negotiate? Most likely you did. Bargaining is intrinsic to the street selling environment. You can take this to your advantage by quickly discounting the price (margins permitting) of the product and convincing the prospect to make the purchase. I like to do this and up-sale products by bundling them as a combo (i.e. 2×1, second one 50% off, etc).
4. Wow them with a feature they were not expecting
A prospect that is strolling the streets killing time on a Sunday afternoon is yearning for entertainment. Your job as a salesman is to not only inform but also do so in a way that is engaging and doesn’t feel like a sale. The worst part of a sale pitch is when there are no inflections in tone or rapid change of emotions (which should usually lean towards positive emotions, unless you are asking for donations to a charity).
A great way to keep the conversation fun and engaging is to tell a story or show a feature in the product from an angle that the prospect wasn’t expecting. If you can crack a subtle joke, even better.
5. Social Proof (this one is HUGE)
My favorite type of people to sell is a group of 3-4 people. They are usually more friendly and open about having a conversation. It is a bit harder to keep them interested but if you do you can potentially make 4 sales simultaneously. This is where things like charisma and a slightly higher voice volume work very well. When the time to close the sale comes, make sure you ask the second most interested person in the group to buy. If you manage to convince this person, the group will easily follow. The most eager person was already sold, you convinced the 3rd most eager person to buy because they were on the fence of buying; and the skeptic ends up buying because all their 3 other friends did.
6. Make the customer feel uncomfortable (yes, uncomfortable). [This one requires practice and may be kinda tricky]
When asking for a buying decision, ask and remain silent to see what they say. Most people are not strong enough to say no and will end up buying.
Now as promised, here is the exact script that I and my sellers use (albeit not verbatim) when selling the Flux Charger. The documents contains a classic pitch, answers to most commons objections when buying a portable charger and a handful of pre-empted questions. I like to use this document as an reference since it is a real-world example in action of the techniques I talked about. This script and procedure can be adapted to sell pretty much anything.
In the early days of any business, the ability to close sales can determine success in the long run. Whether it is selling a physical product or convincing someone to sign up as a user on your platform, understanding key sales techniques can help you generate your desired outcome.
To be really good at selling, you must love it. I consider myself a salesman at heart and love selling. In the past 3 years, I have coached and trained dozens of sellers with the aforementioned simple yet powerful tactics and helped them make more sales in less time. Nevertheless, techniques on paper are worth nothing. The only way to get better is getting out there and trying things out. You won’t understand how fulfilling sales can be until you close your first sale. Time to put those tactics into action.
Also, shameless plug: If you would like to purchase the Flux Charger you can do so directly at www.fluxchargers.com or via this widget:
If you have any questions, please post them on the comments!