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Alan J. Zell
Selling Ambassador, Businessman & Advisor
Alan J. Zell is an American authority in sales, business success and business management. He has become a national authority from advising business, educational, services & governmental organizations.
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The Rules of Selling by Alan J. Zell The Rules of Selling by Alan J. Zell

Every game needs rules. If, selling is called the "selling" game, then by all logic there should be rules. Some think there are too many people offering too many rules and I am one of them. I believe that because there are too many rules most people think selling is difficult. There are penalties attached to breaking the rules - lost sales, lost raises, and maybe even lost jobs.

For every rule expounded by a "sales-expert" I have heard or read, there is an opposite "rule" to contradict that rule. No wonder selling is so confusing an occupation. People in sales find themselves wanting to break the rules all the time because rules get in the way of making the sale.

I have found only one rule that seems to hold fast and true in EVERY selling situation and that rule is:

At First Glance Or At First Hearing The Presentation Must Be Logical And Understandable To The Customer!

All the other "rules" you read or hear about should be considered "guidelines". If these guidelines do not fit with the rule, the guideline should not be used. If products or services are not presented in a logical and understandable to the customer, the sale will most likely, not be made.

The difficulty for the person doing the selling is to determine just what is logical and understandable to a customer. It is my opinion that this is where presentations fall down. I think that the most difficult task in the merchandising of anything is for the seller to look at what (s)he is offering and the way (s)he is presenting it, as if the seller knew nothing about the product.

I am often asked to critique displays, booths, windows, brochures and web sites for my clients. Most of the time they don't want a critique what they are really asking for are compliments. My method of critiquing is not to tear apart what they are doing.

What I ask them to do is to step back and look at what they are presenting as if it was new to them for the first time. If it's a window display or a trade show booth, I have them stand across the street and I ask them to describe what they see. I have them walk (stroll) down the street and look at their window as it first comes in view. I have them measure the time it takes from that first glance until the window is no longer visible to their eye.

If it's auto traffic they are trying to attract, I have them drive by. Then I ask them to describe the kind of story does the window tells during those few seconds customers have to make up their mind about what the window shows.

A window display or trade show booth has to appeal to customers in many ways. If customers do not have ANY notion of buying what is in the window/booth, they will have given it only a furtive glance - and that glance has to tell them that what was being displayed did not fit into anything they were doing or thinking. If the passerby determines with that furtive glance that what is being shown might fit into future ideas or plans, they will register a bit more information. If what is being displayed fits into what they are currently doing or actively planning, then they will stop and peruse the display further. The next step is entering the store or booth.

All displays, window display being just one format, are a method of communicating a story between a business and the end-user. Between the two, there are many intermediaries -- a customer, and those they talk to about what they are considering before making a purchase. Part of that communication process is lost if the passerby is not able to carry the story to others.

Some people think that what makes a great presentation is that it is fancy or beautiful or "with-it" when what's important is how logical and understandable it is. In most instances, it is "window dressings" that get in the way of making the sale.

Store layouts are a combination of many other types of displays. They set the ambiance for all other displays. There needs to be a logical look to the store.

One of my many mentors drummed this into my head early on in my retail career. It was his Rule #1. He said,

"The merchandise is the accent; the accent is the merchandise!"

When people are distracted by things that cause them to talk or think about something other than merchandise or services offered.

This same "logic and understandable" presentation is not limited to store displays. It should be applied to everything a business does: brochures, catalogues, web sites, advertisements and verbal presentations.

Selling is made easier when the Rule of Selling becomes a way of life for everyone in business.

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Alan J. Zell, Ambassador Of Selling
Offers seminars, workshops and consulting on selling and business topics that affect sales.
He can be reached at: (503) 241-1988 or by post at PO Box 69, Portland, OR 97207
Additional articles about selling and business topics that affect sales are on his web site --


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