Guest Post by Steven Leeper, founder and owner of Matchstick

In one way or another, we are all in sales — whether we’re selling a product, an idea, or a job candidate, or putting ourselves forward for a job. I recently gave a talk as a part of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP, an amazing Texas-based organization that offers a competitive entrepreneurship program to incarcerated men) on “Selling without being Salesy.” Here are some of my pro tips on setting yourself apart as a salesperson.

1. Be a person first

Invite your clients to things you truly care about so they can know you better (and vice versa). This creates a grace-filled relationship margin where they begin to think of you as a person first, not a vendor. For example, I invited contacts to the PEP graduation dinner and silent auction because I’m involved with PEP and care about the role it plays in our community. It made our relationship more personal; I invited them into my world.

2. Be interesting

Try interesting things professionally, and share insights about your experience on social media. It will give you the opportunity to engage and intrigue your client and show them that you have something unique to offer.

3. Respect clients’ wishes

Put your product forward, but know when not to push. It is ultimately the client’s decision and their money being spent, so listen to what they want and be ready to pivot or take a step back when necessary.

4. Really know your client’s needs, then confidently present a solution

The job of a salesperson is 80% listening to the client and 20% responding. Ask smart questions, then present your solution with confidence and on-point insights. Addressing what your client really needs always trumps great product benefits.

5. Ask permission before making an exception to your client’s criteria

If you’re going to step outside of what the client has initially expressed that she wants, ask permission before presenting your solution. If you don’t, you risk coming across like just another salesperson who doesn’t listen.

6. Manage expectations

People need clarity and don’t like surprises when it comes to their business. Cultivate a trusting relationship with your client by under promising and over delivering. Your client should be able to expect that you will follow through on every expectation you’ve set forth.

7. Maintain smart boundaries

You’ll work diligently to serve them, but your business relationships need smart boundaries. Don’t be available every moment, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when you need to. This will communicate that you value yourself and your time, and that you’re not just waiting by the phone for their call. As trust between you and your client grows, formality will decrease. However, it is important to establish a pattern of maintaining boundaries and continue to hold to them, even with clients you know well.

8. Be human; talk human

Looking for jobs, products, or services is tough. Show your humanity and compassion. Don’t use canned answers; your client won’t trust them. Honesty surprises people and contradicts what they may expect from a salesperson.

9. Be proactive and professional

Being proactive and being professional are closely related. Show your professionalism by being prepared and answering your client’s next question before he even asks. When I send a candidate on an interview, I give them extensive information on the company and position and what to expect so they can set themselves apart with relevant talking points and questions in the interview.

10. People like to buy from people who are a joy to be around

Put yourself in sweet spots where you can be a light and play to your strengths. Give clients the opportunity to enjoy spending time with you. It’ll make them look forward to doing business with you.

Steven Leeper, founder and owner of Matchstick, spent the last 12 years in the marketing, creative and recruiting fields. From evaluating creative work and developing strategies at TM Advertising Agency to serving as VP of client services in the recruiting world, Steven has a unique understanding of the intricacies that come with finding and attracting the best marketing talent. Through his experience and leadership on the American Marketing Association (Houston Chapter) board, Steven has built an extensive contact throughout the Houston market and beyond.

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