Vending, Clerks, and Sales

sales skills

There are three primary ways in which things are sold: vending, clerks and sales pros. How do you know which combination of styles will work for your business? It may be that all of them are right for your offering. Vending relies on traffic and marketing strength. Clerks rely on strong displays, foot traffic, and marketing. If you’re a sales professional, you need sales skills and marketing support.


When things are displayed, and all or most of the transaction takes place without interacting with a person.  This is true of vending machines, online sales, and grocery stores to name a few.  People are versed in the product and in their particular needs, and can/will make purchases without additional information about features and benefits.


When a shopping experience takes place with a human assistant to the sale.  Clerks will direct you within a store to help you find the product you are seeking, and make suggestions regarding fit or ancillary products that work well together.


The shopper is guided through the entire process because the features and benefits must be explained and understood on an individual basis.  Buying a car, or consulting a stock broker or insurance agent are excellent examples of sales. Product or service knowledge and sales skills are key to clients making the right purchase.

Which one are you?

Most of us in the sales world think of ourselves as professionals, but find ourselves behaving like clerks more often that we’d like.  Remember, it’s usually a mix of vending, clerks, and sales reps that make it work. We have a customer who wants to take control of a sale, or who is only motivated to shop, and not buy, and we find ourselves directing them to investigate on their own (“it’s all on our website, Sir.”) We choose not to sell to them, but instead to deflect them because they’re difficult. Helping them focus on the urgency of their need seems pointless. It’s not! Directing them to the website is fine, but we still need to conduct a thorough discovery process, and keep following up.

How do we motivate ourselves to be a salesperson all the time?

We must decide to never give up control.  It may be taken from us from time to time, but we should never give it away.  Salespeople are hired when they are necessary for the product to meet its full market potential.  Some features and benefits are not obvious, so we need to show the  customer how the product improves their unique situation.  We never know which information the client doesn’t have – and we know better than to make assumptions – so we need to be ready to cover it all.

Keep control of the sale

When we surrender control of a sale, we end up relying on the customer to ask the right questions to get the answers they need to sell themselves.  They won’t do it.  They can’t do it.  Prospects are focused on their desired outcome, not on your offerings.  You need to lead them through the process to ensure they cover all the information that will help them.  You also need to keep them motivated and excited, because without that, the sale will never close.  People love to acquire, but they hate parting with their money.

    • Stick with your sales flow, and commit to answering questions in your own timetable. “I’d like to get to that in a minute.”
    • Take notes while the customer is speaking, so they can tell that you are interested in their specific needs.  (It also helps you remember everything!)
    • Frequently refer to their comments and situation that you took the notes about so they know you’re involved.
  • Ask primarily “yes” questions.  (“Wouldn’t you love never having to clean the oven again?”)  Yes questions rarely lead to the customer objecting, so you can build goodwill, and the customer will feel understood.

Control is the difference between a sale and a callback.  Make sales!