Talk less; listen more.
During the average customer interaction, most salespeople talk 80 percent or more of the time and let the prospect speak little. Usually salespeople start out with a long sales pitch about their own favorite products or current specials. That's a mistake, because the salesperson may not have the same favorite product as the customer, and the customer may not be interested in current specials. The first step to good salesmanship is to get the customer talking about what they want, when they need it and (most importantly) why they want it. This gets the customer involved and active in the sales practice and gives the salesperson important information for developing an effective pitch.
Ask open-ended questions.
The trick to getting the customer to tell you more is, of course, to ask good questions. This is best accomplished with open-ended questions. By this we mean questions that cannot be answered with a "Yes" or "No." Open-ended questions not only generate useful information, but they also help the customer think his way through what he really wants to buy. "Can I help you today?" is an overused question in the retail world, for instance, and rarely generates any more information than, "No, I'm just looking." Try "Which of our products are you looking at today?" instead. This begins a conversation that provides a salesperson with important information.
Learn the "why."
Why would the customer consider giving you her money? It's not just because she might want to buy one of your products or services. It's because that product or service will bring her something she wants. For instance, does she want a new car primarily to look stylish, to save money on gas or to carry the kids and their soccer gear? Does he want a new MP3 player to download music or to watch movies? These answers tell you how to structure your final sales pitch, but you can only obtain this kind of information by asking your prospect, "Why?"
Create a sales pitch based on what he's told you.
After you've spent a bit of time asking questions, and after you've spent a bit more time listening intently to the answers, only then are you ready to deliver the sales pitch. Using information you've obtained from the customer to craft a personalized pitch is key to helping your customer believe you care about her needs and are looking out for her best interests. At this point, you're not so much a salesperson as you are a consultative partner, educating your customer and helping him come to the right decision. The pitch might start along the lines of, "So you say you're looking for a budget computer, suitable for kids to use, with Internet access but without a lot of bells and whistles you don't need to pay for. Am I understanding you fully? Great, then may I recommend...."
Be proud of what you're selling.
By this point, you should have created a targeted message for your customer and shown her how a certain solution will meet all her needs. If you've done this properly, there's no need to look or sound awkward, uncertain or apologetic, even if your solution is a bit on the expensive side. You'll never see a salesperson for a high-end sports car apologize for its price, and you'll never see a high-end coffee shop blush to sell you a $7 cup of coffee. Why not? Because they truly believe their product is a good value for the price and the only way a customer can satisfy a certain need. Be confident about your product.