Start ups come in many shapes and sizes, reflect many fads and fashions and have more than their fair share of dreams and nightmares to look forward to. One thing they all have in common though is the act of trading: they all have something to sell in exchange for something else, usually, although not always, money.
Every start up has to learn how to sell at some point and there are endless Motorway Service Station manuals, YouTube sites and bubble gum vouchers which offer all sorts of tips, tricks and nonsense to this most elusive of business start up activity: trying to encourage someone to part with something they don’t necessarily want to part with.
Sheila, a young start up in Nottingham is approaching the moment of trade not a little nervously. She has developed a great line in lace lingerie but is utterly perplexed when it comes to the lines she’ll need utter when it comes to plying her trade. She’s seen the motivational videos; “look at yourself in the mirror and imagine you’re covered in treacle: stand like you’re six feet tall and bark like a dog; shake your customer’s hands vigorously and don’t let go until they give you their bank card’s pin code: But none of these hold the slightest interest for Sheila. She’s bored by the rants and the rhetoric and wants to – needs to – find an entry into sales which doesn’t involve her having a frontal lobotomy beforehand.
A simple trick when it comes to sales is to go to shopping: not with the purpose of shopping, but with the purpose of finding out what encourages people to buy. Sheila realises if she can look at the act of selling through the eyes of the buyer, she’ll learn lots more about how to sell her lingerie than she would if just kept looking at the transaction through the eyes of the seller.
And this is something that’s easily done as most of us, at one time or another in our lives, have gone shopping. Probably even today. So what happens when you go shopping? What’s your predisposition to the shop before you even go into it? Do you want to get the hell back to Kansas as fast as you can?
How do you respond to the shop assistant who walks alongside you, perpetually smiling at you whilst you choose your evening meal? Do they remind you of all those Apple Store operatives who seem to have had permanent dental surgery?
How do you react to the layout of the shop? The proximity of other shoppers? The possibility of picking up the goods, squeezing them hard and then putting them back on the shelf before anyone notices?
Whether they’re selling algorithms or apples, there are hundreds of other aspects to shopping which the Start Up would do well to observe and learn from: but not from the shoes of the seller, but from the viewpoint of the buyer. Try living in the shoes of a retailer for a day: it will do wonders for your sales technique.