Salespeople are everywhere, from the telemarketers who call you nonstop to the MLM distributors sending you DMs. Certain industries, such as auto dealerships and jewelry stores, are notorious for their aggressive salespeople. Eventually, you get tired of being treated as nothing more than a wallet.

That’s why salespeople are going the way of the dodo. But then, how can you make sales? After all, that’s the whole point of running a business. Don’t worry, there’s a way to sell to people who hate being sold to.

Step 1. Treat the Customer as a Hero

Let’s quickly review the basic psychology of a customer. Absolutely no one heads to a shop thinking, “Great, time to spend some money!” In fact, they may be dreading the task. They don’t want to spend too much. They worry they won’t find what they need.

Or, they’re excited to do some shopping, but not because they get to open their wallet. They want to feel good. Perhaps they’re treating themselves to new clothing. Or they want to upgrade their phone so they can take better photos and store more music. You get the idea: there is either a problem or a wish motivating their purchase.

But to solve their problem or fulfill that wish, they must go on a journey. And that’s where things get frustrating.
Everyone likes to feel special, confident, and in control. No one likes to feel manipulated or lied to. Unfortunately, bad salespeople have ruined traditional sales tactics for everyone. Classic sales pitches involve tapping into customers’ pain points and continually prodding them until they buy. Even worse, the product may not be as promised. (Consider the stereotypical used car salesman overselling features and undermining a customer’s concerns.)

Today’s consumers have a sour taste in their mouths from those experiences. Studies show they’re much likelier to make a purchase — and spend more — if they feel like the hero of their story. Let them feel like they’ve discovered their solution or made their wish come true, and they’ll come back for more of that dopamine boost.

Step 2. Provide Value First

When customers are seeking solutions or wishes, they’re on a journey. The length of this journey varies, although big purchases tend to involve more time and consideration. In the classic “hero’s journey,” the protagonist realizes they need to solve a problem or fulfill their destiny. They face several obstacles, but with the help of a wise guide

As we learned in Step 1, the customer is the hero. Your role is to be their wise guide — but to become that, you must earn their trust. This is where traditional salespeople have done a lot of damage. Consumers are now highly skeptical because they’ve learned that salespeople will say anything to get their money. That’s eroded customers’ trust, and they go on the defensive whenever they realize they’re being sold to.

To fix this, you must give customers something they’ll find valuable. Trust only happens after someone knows and likes you. To make a sale, start with good marketing: create an enjoyable experience, share some helpful information, and show off your personality! These tactics help prospective customers warm up to you. Instead of poking at their “pain points,” tap into the core desires that will ultimately launch them on their journey.

Step 3. Focus on Benefits, Not Features

Take the classic example of the used-car salesman. He’s talking up the stereo system, power windows, satellite radio, and so on. All those features are nice, but they’re rarely key decision factors. When someone buys a car, they want more than a set of features. They want what a car can offer them: room for their skis or kayaks, more opportunities to travel, being able to hold their gear and book more gigs, etc. And because cars are expensive, customers must overcome a lot of objections to pull out their wallets.

That’s why traditional car salesmen tend to poke those pain points. They invite customers to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy a car they don’t need. They sense that a middle-aged man might want a flashy sports car, or that they can prey on a mom’s concern about having enough room for her kids by selling her an oversized SUV. The goal is to make the customer feel that the cost of not buying the car is steeper than buying it.

Those tactics don’t work as well anymore. As consumers have become more discerning, they’re also less willing to put up with BS. Their chief motivation is to fulfill their quest. When selling our products and services, we must highlight the reward our customers can get — benefits, not features.

For example, an SUV is more than its all-wheel-drive or roof rack. It’s a chance to take the kids on their first camping trip. It’s an opportunity to launch your lawn care business. The automatic locks and theft alarm give you peace of mind that your vehicle won’t be stolen. The halogen headlights help you drive safely down dark country roads. These are the benefits. They can mention features, but you should focus on what’s truly motivating your customer.

Of course, not everyone would benefit from an SUV. A customer who only needs to drive to work and parallel-park in a busy city probably prefers a compact vehicle. Your role as a business owner is to know your target customers and guide them toward their ideal solution. In short, if you’re selling SUVs, don’t try to convince your compact drivers to buy one. As the original saying goes, the customer is always right in matters of taste. Let them be the hero of their journey!

Wrapping Up

These days, the most effective sales tactic is … not selling — well, at least not overtly. Rather than pushing the sale or manipulating the customer’s emotions, give them something valuable. Guide them on their quest, whether that’s to get a new vehicle or enjoy a little dopamine boost from a new sweater. By leading with your product’s benefits and enticing your customer, you can help them to know, like, and eventually trust you enough to buy from you.