Everyone gets their start to sales somewhere, my start to sales was in an empty lot in Ridgefield, Connecticut selling Christmas trees.
These days I have a professional career in sales selling Spiro’s amazing proactive sales platform, but I still make the trek home every year, lace up my boots, put on my Santa hat, and sell trees. One of the biggest reasons I still continue sell Christmas trees year after year is simple – it helps me to understand people. And understanding people is a top skill you need to have if you want to succeed in sales.
In my time on the tree lot, I have learned these three things about interacting with people and selling a unique product:
1. Be Patient, But Not Too Patient
With hundreds of trees on the lot at any given time it can be overwhelming for people to pick out the perfect one. With Christmas trees, lots of people take their time looking at many trees before finding one that suits them. In sales, prospects are looking for the absolute best product for their company and teams, similar to that family looking for the best tree to put up in their living rooms for the holidays.
Patience is key when showing the trees, and in sales. But knowing when to step in and give them an assertive push to a final decision is also just as important. I have used this in my own sales career when approaching clients and prospects. Selling trees has helped me understand the intrinsic needs of a buyer and to learn more about how an individual buys.
2. Keep It Simple
Ever caught yourself over-selling your solution or feature loading on a product? One of the things the tree lot has helped me to understand is that sometimes people just want things “as is”. I have caught myself many times selling trees based on the thickness of the branches, the smell of the tree, or its freshness. Granted, there are people who take all of those factors into account when purchasing a tree, but some people just like the tree for what it is, without me pointing out all those additional things.
I have found on the tree lot, and in a professional setting, that keeping it simple, creating value, and then showing that value is the most important thing you can do to sell any product.
3. Know Your Audience
One of the toughest parts to any sales cycle is truly knowing if you have a champion on board. The toughest part about selling a Christmas tree is very similar: understanding who is making the decision in the sales process. Getting a Christmas tree is usually a family event with more than 2 people in a party involved in picking the correct tree. But who out of that party of 3-4 people is the true decision maker? Is it the son who is way too cold and just wants to get back into the car? Or is it the daughter who is adamantly telling her parents, “I think we can go a little bit taller”.
During my time on the lot I have learned it is important to understand who you are selling too, and then determining what is important to the champion making that final decision. This is important in many other sales situations as well, showing a demo to the wrong person or pitching to the wrong team can be costly and just a waste of time in the end.