Sales has a complicated rapport. Many people think that “sales” means something like working at Walmart dealing with cranky, needy customers who don’t want to be there, but are because they need mac n’ cheese for dinner. Maybe you think of a pushy car salesman that will do or say anything to get you to spend your money., There’s also my personal favorite, the common cold call from ”John” to tell you about the latest craze software program that you have no desire to hear about. To many people, this is all sales is, and it’s a very exhausting job to be a part of.
Luckily for everyone involved, that is not the norm. In fact, there’s an entire world of sales that you can be a part of and each company looks a little bit different. Meaning the possibilities are extensive and vast for sales positions. That being said, there are a lot of similarities concerning certain skills and traits that make a good salesperson no matter where you work.
What kind of sales position are you interested in? If you’re like many, there are numerous options to begin with. So where to start? To simplify it, let’s break it down into product sales vs service sales.
What are Product Sales?
A product sale is what you see most often walking into a store. You are there to purchase specific items to meet your specific needs. The salesperson’s job is to help you find the best fit for you by asking you questions and gauging your experience to solve the task at hand.
To make product sales, a business relies on inventory and production. If you don’t have the specific items that your customer wants then there isn’t much you can do to help them. They are the most commonplace sales because unless you’re completely self-sustaining, homemade-everything, increda-person, you’re going to need certain goods eventually.
Now that you know what a product sale is, how do you know it is right for you? Let’s look at a real-life example.
While working at Menards, part of my department was all the seasonal and lawn and garden items. When a customer comes in looking to spruce up her lawn, I’m the person she speaks to.
As a good salesperson, I need to know about the product, the different variations, and all of the qualities and features. So I ask her what kind of work she is looking to do and how familiar she is with the tools. Has she already established a preference? Is this a new experience for her?
When she decides she just wants a small gas lawn mower, I show her all her options and suggest which ones I think will fit her needs best. I want to make sure she is happy with her purchases so I make sure she leaves with everything she needs to get started today including oil, a gas can, and all the other little details. The whole interaction is a very personable one, I’m listening and learning to create a solution to make her lawn dreams a reality.
The difficulty with a product sales position begins with the fact that you really have to rely on the product itself to work for your customer. If it doesn’t work, they can exchange or return it, and the process to fix the solution begins all over- sometimes with the competition.
To combat this challenge, being knowledgeable and having common-sense and critical thinking skills are essential. If you can predict the customer’s needs and potential problems before they occur, selling and keeping the sale becomes easy. But product knowledge does not develop overnight, nor is it as simple as it sounds.
What are Service Sales?
Selling a service often uses the same people skills. Service sales can be a really wide topic since any specific action you can do for your customers could be considered a service. Selling your personal skills, talents, or time are all service sales.
Rather than marketing a product to help solve a problem, you’re now using a person or group of people to solve that problem. Their job is to make your experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
One example of a service sale would be in the restaurant industry. While working as a waitress at a casual dining restaurant called Doc B’s, it is my job to serve each customer with a friendly demeanor and a plate of warm food. We have many different types of people come into the restaurant off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile who are all looking for a pleasant and unique experience.
I recently had two tables come into the restaurant back to back- the first was a couple who just came from Wisconsin to do some shopping for the weekend while the second was a regular who works nearby, but comes in to grab a bite while he does work on his small black laptop. While both tables received similar meals, I contrasted my conversations and actions completely.
In the former, we talked about all the Chicago sights and shopping. The whole time speaking lightly and freely, they even laughed at my jokes! The businessman was very different. He was there to work so I spoke quickly and sometimes not at all as I placed his food and refilled his iced tea. The change between the two interactions shows what you can do to tailor your service to the individual you are serving.
A significant benefit to a service sale is they are usually low cost to operate once they’re established, and you can mold the service benefits to each individual customer rather than hope the product works perfectly for each individual need.
You also have the ability to negotiate and develop your skills to make them more valuable. A big downside can be that if people don’t like your service and review you poorly, it can be detrimental to the business. There is a bigger emotional tie working with people so the reviews for them usually go deeper than reviews for products.
What Did We Learn?
Sales are not as straightforward as they may seem to be. The common connotations appropriated with them are not accurate for the entire field. The best way to get to know sales and whether you would make a great part of them is to start working with them!