Let me start by wishing you and yours all the love and joy that family, friends, and our pets give us in the New Year. You know the truly important things in life. As for work, that’s just something that allows us to provide a better way of life and to make sure the important things are taken care of. So keep learning and working harder and smarter this year.

Part of my learning curve is remembering to use all the good habits I’ve learned over the years—mostly basic things that over the years I find myself forgetting. The short list is: staying positive, treating people like people not a dollar bill, finding interest in my customers, being thorough on my customer interview, and always doing what is in the best interest of my buyers. When I’m on a cold selling streak, those are the things I catch myself forgetting; the things I know I’m normally good at.

Let me explain the one other thing I’m going to work on this year. Here’s a hint: it’s not “closing the deal.”

Always Know the Answer

When I first started in sales, it was for a Cadillac/Pontiac dealership in Saginaw, Mich. There, I was taught the sales technique of “overcome the objection and close.” When that failed, it went to “overcome the objection and close again.” If that failed, you just kept repeating the process until you made the sale or the customer got mad and left.

I never did use that tactic because it made me feel unethical, and I did not want to become a mean-spirited person. So I went about just talking to my customers and simply asking them why they needed a new or used car and what purposes they needed the car for. That actually worked well and my sales numbers were great. But after three months, I could not stand the “big dogs that wanted all the big toys” attitude of the other salespeople and left.

After I left, the rest of the sales staff were told in a meeting by the general sales manager: “If there are any more of you nice guy wimps here, get out now and go sell carpet with Kelly.” I was actually proud to hear about that from my few friends that still worked at the dealership. Starting fresh in the flooring business gave me a new attitude about thoroughly interviewing my buyers.

The great part I learned about finding the real wants, needs and means of prospective buyers was that a good interview meant I never had to close. When all my questions had been answered, I simply knew where to direct my buyer to the best product for their situation. That was the close. In essence, when I set up a measure and an install date, I know the answer is yes.

To give you an example of how doing the footwork will give you the answer before you have to even ask the closing question, I’ll tell you about the story of when I proposed to my wife Anne. After we had dated about a year, I knew that Anne was “The One” and I also knew I was the one for her. So the night I was going to pop the question, I called my parents and sister to tell them I was going to propose. My sister said, “What if she says no?” I said quickly, “She is going to say yes, or I wouldn’t be asking.” I realized in an instant that Anne and I had asked and answered all our concerns about living together, and all that was left was the love part. We had that part then and we still share it today.

If you listen to what lawyers are taught, you’ll understand why interviewing and research are so important. Lawyers are taught that in court you never ask a witness or defendant a question if you do not want the answer you are going to get. Lawyers and doctors know that interviewing and research are what puts them in the position to put their client/patient in a winning position. In our case of selling flooring, we put our clients /buyers in a winning position by learning their true needs and showing them our products that will fill that need. When you can prove your case to your buyer, you both win. So the old cliché of “win-win” really is true. When I brag about never having to ask for the sale or close a deal, it’s true. But like all other good selling traits, I simply have to remind myself to do that with every customer.

Interviewing Perks

Earlier, I spoke about wanting to enjoy my customers more and making them enjoy me more as well. That is achieved very easily. Start asking a few questions that have nothing to do with selling.

Currently, Anne and I are about finished with building our new home. So I tell my customers how I’m going through what they are, in choosing my own flooring. That always opens up conversations and I learn about their own experiences. Then they always ask about where my new home is.

Fortunately, my house is on the main drag of Loveland across from Lake Loveland and everyone I speak to has seen it. That’s when they get to make me feel good because every one of them compliment me on it. Many of them ask me if they can come see it when the inside is all done. But in any case I’m enjoying them, and they are enjoying me.

Opening up conversation is as easy as that. Have you ever gone to get an address to measure a home and found out they live two blocks away from your home? I’ve done that and I felt like a fool. If I had only told them where I live earlier on, the conversation would have given us some more common grounds.

So make a habit of asking more “ice-breaking” questions and you’ll find your New Year is much more interesting. Your sales numbers might just improve as well. Thanks for reading in this New Year.