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Art of successful selling demands engagement

Ever been to an art gallery?

What was the experience like? Was the artist there? If so, I’m sure you were more interested in the artwork.

How did the salesperson engage you? What did the salesperson ask or say?

Maybe the salesperson asked a question like: “Are you looking for anything special?”

Maybe the salesperson made a statement like: “I’m here to answer any questions you may have.”

OR… maybe the salesperson asked: “What did you admire in the window that made you walk inside?” I was recently asked this incredibly engaging question when I was in a small retail clothing store where I bought a bunch of stuff. Could there be a connection between the question and my purchase?

Now, back to artwork and what I have found to be true about buying art in art galleries: your taste determines your interest. You gotta like it. If you don’t, you’ll never buy it. Maybe you need a piece of art for an empty wall in your office — but with art, taste prevails over need.

You might spend a minute in a gallery or linger for an hour. It depends on ONE THING: How much you LIKED the artwork.

But the real key to buying art has little to do with price or perceived value. Those are the “after motives.” The KEY to the purchase? You gotta like it. Get the theme?

So, what’s the secret of getting people to buy art (as opposed to the secret of selling it)? Engage them…find out how much they REALLY like the artwork… get them to agree to take it…and get paid.

And although “want” occasionally overtakes “need,” when you sell any product, people wanna buy — not be sold. Wanna be “sold” a car? Or would you rather “buy” it?

I visit art galleries all the time. Every salesperson has a choice when greeting me: ENGAGE me or DISENGAGE me with the first few words.

Last week I went into a gallery in SoHo (an upscale shopping area in New York City) that featured many of the legendary Andy Warhol serigraphs. “Can I answer any questions?” the standoffish salesperson asked.

“No, I’m just walking through and admiring the museum,” I replied.

“This isn’t a museum,” he snapped, “it’s a gallery. All of these prints are for sale.” DUH. Jeez, I never would have known that if he hadn’t told me.

What could he have said?

How much more friendly could he have been?

How much more engaging could he have been?

How much more helpful could he have been?

How could he have hooked me and qualified me?

And while you’re laughing or nodding your head about how “pathetic” the salesman was, how about asking yourself the same questions about the way you engage your prospects?

You want me to buy, right?

Keeping those questions in mind, here’s a list that will help you better understand how to engage me (or anyone), so I buy. Better stated, the 10.5 things to do if YOU want me to buy. Whether it’s art or another product, the selling points are the same.

1. Engage me with my interests, not yours.

2. Be friendly, not professional.

3. Be forward, not pushy (ask first — then tell).

4. Be my equal, don’t be smarter. When I ask questions, inform and educate me.

5. Make statements that reinforce my interests.

6. Don’t tell me what you just sold, concentrate on me.

7. Be excited about my interests.

8. Be excited about the art.

9. Approach me if I seem to favor one piece or a particular artist.

10. Ask: “If you were to acquire this piece, when would you like to take delivery?”

10.5 Ask for the sale.

The critical questions

The art of the sale rests in the engaging questions:
ENGAGING QUESTION: “If you could have one piece in the gallery…”

ENGAGING ACTION: “Stop by when you’re done looking and tell me which piece you liked the best.”

ENGAGING QUESTION: Ask a closing AND engaging question at the same time: “Mr. Jones, where would you hang this in your home?”

ENGAGING QUESTION: “Mr. Jones, most people who like a specific piece of art also have a vision of where it would go in their home or office. Would you share your vision with me?”

Meanwhile, the salesperson is still busy trying to sell me “whatever.” What is he thinking? The real art of selling is never letting anyone feel they’re being sold.

GitBit: Want more answers about the art and science of asking questions that engage? Go to www.gitomer.com — register if you’re a first time user — and enter SMART QUESTIONS in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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About Jeffrey Gitomer

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