How to Succeed in Sales Without Being “Salesy”

As a speaker and sales expert, I’m often asked how small businesses can stand out and create memorable customer experiences. Recently, during a speaking engagement, I shared examples of companies that have mastered the art of wowing their customers. The lessons we can learn from the fishmongers of Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Fish Market can transform your approach to customer service. Read on for insights from my talk on how to create unforgettable customer experiences.

A woman with a thropy

Turn Your Business Into A Memorable Experience

When I started out in sales, I didn’t realize the power of focusing on customer service. Early in my career, I struggled to close deals and rack up sales numbers like my co-workers. What I lacked in flashy sales skills, I decided to make up for in service. This approach paid off – I went on to lead sales teams and drive millions in revenue.

But providing excellent service means more than just being helpful. You need to craft an incredible experience for each customer. This lesson hit home for me when I wandered into a charming little shoe store called Becker’s in Mount Dora, Florida. From the eclectic shoe displays to the personable staff, everything about Becker’s exuded attentive customer care. The saleswoman spent time getting to know my preferences and suggested the perfect pair of shoes. My wife and I ended up chatting with staff and customers, having fun trying on shoes, and spending hundreds more than we’d planned. We left feeling like we’d visited old friends.

That welcoming, personal experience made us eager to return and recommend Becker’s to others. Like those famous fishmongers at Pike Place, the owners of Becker’s realized they were not just selling shoes – they were creating an unforgettable shopping adventure.

Make Your Customers Part of the Show

What makes the flying fish of Pike Place such a legendary customer experience? This Seattle fish market was nearly bankrupt in the 1980s when new managers decided to completely transform their approach. They brainstormed fun ideas to attract attention, like throwing fish and engaging customers in silly antics.

Soon the energy and excitement of the fishmongers became a trademark of Pike Place. Word spread, and the market’s popularity grew. Today it draws huge crowds daily as customers flock to see the fish-flying show and interact with the gregarious fish sellers. The business succeeded by turning customers into active participants instead of passive observers.

Like the fishmongers, Becker’s Shoes encouraged my wife and me to engage with staff and other shoppers. That personal connection turned us from one-time shoppers into eager brand ambassadors. Consider how you can make your customers part of the action:

  • Chat with them like old friends and get to know their stories
  • Invite customers to interact with your products and services
  • Surprise them with an unexpected but memorable experience
  • Encourage customers to engage with each other and chat in your space

When you make clients active players in an enjoyable experience, they become invested in your success. Not only will they come back for more, they’ll eagerly promote you through reviews, social media, and word-of-mouth.

Give More Than They Expect

Another way to provide exceptional customer service is to give more value than people expect. I learned this lesson from renowned entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. He grew his family’s wine business from a single shop to an industry giant by generously sharing his wine expertise online.

Rather than keep his knowledge secret, Gary freely created detailed educational videos and built a community around the subject he loved. He delivered so much free value that customers couldn’t help but be drawn to his business when making wine purchases.

The restaurants, contractors, dentists, and other businesses I love working with all share Gary’s mindset. They give away helpful advice, share insider tips, and provide little “extras” that surprise and delight. Think about how you can saturate your customers with value:

  • Create free instructional content like how-to videos and informative articles
  • Share insider information that makes their lives easier
  • Provide bonuses like free gifts with purchase or additional services
  • Follow up with helpful tips and ideas after the sale

When you give generously without expecting anything in return, people can’t help but want to check out your business and buy from you.

Listen Intently to Connect

Speaking of building community, another way to provide top-notch customer service is to listen attentively. Author Stephen Covey breaks down the art of listening in his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He notes that most people listen just long enough to prepare their next response. True listening involves listening with empathy to understand the other person.

When someone feels heard, that connection releases oxytocin, the “love hormone” that promotes trust. I learned this firsthand working in sales. By listening patiently to prospects, I built trust that ultimately earned me their business.

So listen attentively, ask questions, and relay that you understand how the other person feels. This simple act of empathy pays off through:

  • Deeper connections that lead to sales
  • Insights that help you improve products and services
  • Valuable word-of-mouth promotion

The next time you interact with a customer, employee, or anyone else, focus intently on listening between the lines for underlying emotions and motivations. You’ll be amazed at how this builds lasting bonds.


Bringing the fun in sales to your own business may sound daunting. But it’s just a matter of infusing creativity, generosity, and empathy into every customer interaction.

Master these principles of delivering incredible customer experiences, and you’ll earn lifelong brand advocates and learn how to sell without being salesy. If you found these examples and tips helpful, please share this article with fellow business owners who want to improve their customer service game!