Truly amazing Salespeople seem a breed of their own, but just like all talents only some of it is innate and most is developed through training and experience.
Erica Feidner is one of the world’s leading salespeople.
She was the top sales representative for Steinway & Sons worldwide for eight consecutive years, selling over $41 million dollars in pianos, costing anywhere between $2,000 to $152,000.
Bearing in mind selling pianos is a difficult job (high investment, requires skills to play,not many repeat purchases), how did she become famous for her sales skills? More importantly, what can we learn from her?
1. Share Your Knowledge Freely
When she is selling, Erica will often use her skills as an ex-piano teacher to sit down and teach a novice to play something very simple.
This opens the potential customer’s mind to the possibility of playing the piano, even if they have little or no starting ability.
What starts as a browse in the piano showroom (maybe due to a long buried interest in playing) becomes playing a song, which turns into the grand step of purchasing a piano!
A reporter interviewing her thought a fine piano out of his price range, but Erica showed him two second-hand pianos and encouraged him to come in again with his favourite sheet music. The second hand pianos were still priced far out of his expectations for an instrument. However, he did come into the showroom again, with his favourite sheet music. When he experienced how much better his playing sounded on a fine piano, he quickly put down a deposit for the remaining secondhand piano (as the other one had already sold).
The lesson – they wouldn’t have come to your store (or wandered onto your website) unless some aspect of them is inherently interested in your product.
A little more understanding about your product or industry may sway them to buy from you.
2. Share Your Passion
“It is not unusual for Feidner’s customers to describe her as a force of nature. This is not because they feel pressured by her but because after they meet her many soon find themselves in the grip of musical ambitions they never knew they harboured. These ambitions often include buying a specific piano that they feel they can no longer live without, even if it strains both their living rooms and their bank accounts.”” – The New Yorker.
Erica has gone on record saying that each piano is so different as to have a type of soul, which needs to match with the personality of its player.
She once described one piano as having an “inner fire” which matched the personality of its buyer. The way Erica views pianos through the lens of a sensitive artist or poet.
This comes across to people, who are buying into her passion as much as her product.
3. Know Your Product and Your Customer
The combination of in depth product knowledge and understanding her customer needs has placed Erica into being recognised by Inc. as one of the world’s top ten salespeople.
Once she learns more about a person, she educates them on the different sounds and feels of different models of piano. Like a wine tasting tour in sound, the customer is shown how each type of piano differs from each other, and using the feedback she gains more information about what the customer really desires in an instrument.
She now works independently and has a website called Piano Matchmaker, where people can try pianos all over the world until they achieve their perfect match.
4. Be Patient, Not Pushy
Erica is famous for spending an hour or more with a potential customer. She is also known to never push a sale, but advise a customer to wait until they found the right piano for them. This seems counter-intuitive to many people in sales (“strike when the iron is hot” type of mindset) but it shows that soft selling can be more effective in the long term.
Erica knew she could make record sales (over 5 million dollars in each year) without hurrying or hard-selling anyone, just by sharing her expertise and passion in a personable way.
Erica is recognised as being one of the most talented salespeople in existence, but as for herself, she doesn’t see herself as a “salesperson”.
By not focusing on the bottom line, and focusing only on the customer experience of buying, sharing her knowledge (in pianos or playing) and communicating her incredible passion – she built a following of customers through referrals.
If she can sell PIANOS like hotcakes, just imagine what you can do – with the right technique and mindset, following your passion for your product or service.