Carole Hyatt didn't intend to hire the earnest young woman applying for an assistant's job in her market research firm. The applicant's typing speed was slow, her steno skills non-existent.
"But she came in on a typically busy day, looked around and said: 'It looks to me like you're on overload. I see you need someone to screen out unimportant matters and take care of your needs.
"I'm terrific at taking care of people, I'd love to learn about your business and help you on the job.'
"I hired her on the spot," recalls Hyatt, "and she was one of the best assistants I've ever had."
Hyatt relates this example of super salesmanship to illustrate her First Comandment of Success: "The ability to sell is basic to success in any endeavor."
"It might come as a shock," admits the 44-year-old author of "The Woman's Selling Game," "but whatever your job -- lawyer, actress, psychologist, secretary -- you're in the business of selling. It might be a product, a service, a talent or yourself.
"And selling is a woman's game, because nearly every woman has been programmed from childhood to serve others and to please. We're adept at understanding what someone needs and giving it to them."
Hyatt is her own best advertisement for the power of selling. A former child actress with a degree in education, she took her skills in theatrical improvisation and "repackaged it seven different ways." Some of them: teaching creative dramatics, heading children's theater company, producing children's television programs and starting her own New York market research firm based on projective, improvisational techniques.
She established in 1975 the Woman's Selling Game workshop, through which she has instructed more than 7,000 women. "Although women are natural salespeople -- listening to others and fulfilling their needs -- we're used to giving this talent away.
"When it comes to asking for something for ourselves -- closing the sale -- we have trouble. We're afraid we'll be refused or disliked. And asking for money's a little like prostitution to nice girls who learned at the dinner table that it's not polite to talk about money.
"So selling's become a dirty word, making us think of the con man in the spotted tie and plaid jacket pushing you to buy something you don't need. But selling can be a 'win-win' situation. You fulfill a need and get something in return."
Whether it's selling your boss on giving you a raise or selling a pair of shoes, says Hyatt, the key is uncovering the buyer's "hot button."
"As buyers, we all have some special interest. My 'hot button' is the word 'bargain.' You tell me something is high quality at wholesale price and I'll listen. Some people want status, others want originality. A boss might want employes who make him or her look better and can earn the company more money.
"The effective salesperson probes to find the buyer's hot button. The he or she slants their sales talk to show how they can really deliver in the area. oThe probing technique depends on the product, but usually it's a matter of asking key questions and listening, listening, listening."
Of the "big-three" words in selling -- yes, no and maybe -- the worst is maybe, says Hyatt. "Yes is the best word invented, and no is a fact of life. I must write six proposals -- and get five no's -- to get one yes.
"A no is not fatal. Nobody wins them all. And it's not necessarily the end of the line. If you don't fall to pieces, you could turn the no into a yes.For example, if someone says 'No, your fabrics don't fit my color scheme,' you could come back with 'As a matter of fact, these fabrics come not only in the blues I showed you, but also in yellow.'
"But maybe is a worthless answer. It could really be a postponed decision, or it could be a put-off to get rid of you. You've got to turn a maybe into a time frame by saying something like, 'Do you agree that a month is enough time to think it over? Let's set up an appointment to meet then and resolve the situation.'"
While each selling situation is unique, the basics are the same. Hyatt's "anatomy of a sale:"
The Opening -- Use small talk to establish rapport.
Timing -- Be sure to control the agenda, moving the conversation gently on to where you want to go, without displaying impatience.
Creating the Mood -- Make direct eye contact, keep your body relaxed and open, be enthusiastic and confident.
Sales Pitch -- State the reason for the meeting and describe the one major benefit your product or service offers. Reinforce this with back-up information via a brief visual or oral presentation.
Trial Closing -- Once the prospect agrees with your points, try to establish if this person can close the deal. If he or she can, continue the presentation. If not, inquire who has the authority and eliicit help in getting to see that person.
Negotiating -- Ask short, direct questions about the order: how many, when, at what price. Get around indecisive answers by giving the prospect a choice between two or three possibilities.
closing -- When definite interest has been aroused, close the deal. Briefly summarize the points you have agreed on. Then ask for the order. (This is where many women fail, for fear of rejection.) Once the sale is closed, be sure you have written contract or a letter of agreement.