7 tips for selling Christianity
Updated: Mar 11
“The key is to keep believing in your product even when your target is determined to destroy it. If your faith is strong enough, it will punch its way through the smuggest facade and into the mind of the target. And once the target has an “I wonder…” moment, reel him in and close the deal.” –Al Eline
The quote above is from a former giant of the retail hardware world. When he said this to me and a few other young twenty-somethings, he wasn’t talking about Jesus or religion or evangelism.
He was coaching us to sell 200 insanely large and unmarketable spray paint kiosks he received from a manufacturer. It took us a little longer than he wanted, but a lot of New Jersey hardware stores had really ugly spray paint displays that summer, thanks largely to Al’s mentoring and determination.
Sales is hard. I was awful at it. But as with any life experience, I learned a lot from those times. And in trying to achieve wisdom to go along with my old age, I often look at past experiences to make sense of my life today.
Nowadays, I peddle Christianity. I have faith in our product. I have faith in God. I know He is in control. I know everything is part of His plan. Well-meaning friends and mentors pounded this into me at every crisis point in my life.
So if we really believe God is in control and everything is part of “The Plan”, why are so many worried about the future of Christianity? Have these folks lost their trust in God? Where is their faith in our product? Maybe these tips I learned as a young salesman will help.
1. BUYERS WILL WANT A LITTLE SOMETHING MORE.
“Where’s the bottle opener?”
It was a line usually met with jovial laughter at the expense of a manufacturer’s rep. He may have just presented the most complete all-in-one tool known to man, able to slice, dice, paint, mend, lift, scrape, clean, and polish every item ever made.
And then someone would ask for one more thing, usually a bottle opener, and remove the smile from his face.
“Christ offers you eternal life with God in Heaven.” Ok…but why do I have to suffer through illness and loneliness here on earth? Your competition is way more helpful with those things.
2. PEOPLE RARELY WANT THE WHOLE PACKAGE DEAL.
Great marketing minds spend thousands of hours developing wonderful promotional display devices. But when we sell them to the stores, the retailers are focused solely on product price points and saleability.
The unit that held it all together, promoted the manufacturer, and explained how to use the product is often cast away. The sellable items are placed in their assigned space to be sold or not.
“Christianity offers salvation and love”. OK…but that whole church and community won’t fit in here. And I’m not sure I can squeeze in all that obedience either. Let me play with it.
3. SOMEONE ELSE IS ALWAYS TRYING TO UNDERCUT YOUR PRICE.
Competitors usually have a good idea of what products cost the other distributors. So when someone comes in with a ridiculously low offer, we know something is going on.
For instance, “if you buy this other item, I’ll give you the price you want for the first.” The buyer is so happy that he got “his” price on the first item, he is blind to the fact he just paid double for everything else.
“Christ has already paid the fare for you to travel the narrow path to eternal happiness.” OK…but your competition says they paid the fare for me to travel this much wider and smoother path over here.
4. BUYERS’ PRIORITIES ARE A MOVING TARGET.
First, there was the screwdriver. Then came the magnetic tip, the power screwdriver, the variable-speed drill, the reversible drill, cordless drills, longer-lasting batteries, solar rechargers, and finally the self-loading, long-life solar-batteried, ultra-light, variable-speed, reversible power attachment tool with self-stored magnetic tips, flashlight and carrying belt.
For only $999, you can easily do the work of a $1.19 screwdriver (but you still need a can opener!)
“Believe in me, Love Me, and love your neighbors. That’s all you have to do to be saved.” OK…but your competition says if I believe and love him, he’ll throw in drugs, alcohol, and sex. These things are kind of cool accessories to me right now.
5. QUIET SALESMEN ARE EFFECTIVE, TOO.
There was a television and radio ad campaign in the seventies that featured a disheveled man screaming at the audience for fifteen seconds, and ended with the catchphrase, “Our prices are insane!” It was one of the most successful advertising bits in history.
The principle of “make them remember your name at all costs” persists even today. Annoying jingles, shocking visuals, and volume are all tools that make us remember a product.
But there is a large component of society that doesn’t want to be told what to purchase or think. They want to make decisions themselves in their own time.
Bart was a successful salesman who trained me. We brought coffee to a hardware store one day and waited for an aggressive competitor to have his time. Afterward, the harried owner looked warily at Bart, who simply held a cup out to him and asked, “How’s it going?” The conversation turned to children, sports, and the weather.
We were about to leave when the owner asked if we offered the same huge spray paint display the competitor was trying to sell. He took two.
“Remember me.” OK…but your competition sure is loud and he takes up a lot of my time.
6. SOMETIMES, WE’RE COMPETING WITH OURSELVES.
The basic spring-loaded mousetrap still sells well. But glue traps, box traps, and various repellents put a serious dent into that business over the years.
People who never bought into the newer items feel justified because the original still works and sells well. Those who invested in the newer versions feel justified because they also have sustainable numbers and results.
All the products work to promote the common goal of mouse-free homes. So why do we need to argue over which one is more successful or “better”? Does it matter which one we sell?
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) OK…but there are so many people giving me different directions to get to you…..
7. CROSS THE BRIDGE WITHOUT BURNING IT.
We can’t always make a sale on a first visit. Timing is important, as are other factors.
Each autumn, we offered customers great deals on snow shovels. Some anticipated a harsh winter and received a full load of shovels. Others bet there would be fewer storms and bought less. Others bet there would be virtually no snow and would not accept the offer at all.
Throughout the autumn, I’d remind the buyers about snow shovels. But every winter, as the first storm approached, my phone would start ringing. “I need more shovels!”
We would come through for our customers, but they often paid a much higher price than those who prepared for the storms earlier. Still, they were always grateful for the “save” whenever it came.
“You may not understand now, but someday you will understand what I offer you. Call me and you will find that I am right here.” OK… but right now your competition seems to be taking good care of me.
Jesus doesn’t scream at us to be saved. He tells us He is here when we need Him. (And then He is.) He does not rant and rave about how evil we are. He calmly explains the issues and what he is offering.
Then He stands by, content to nurse a cup of coffee until we understand. He has plenty of snow shovels. He also has big snow blowers, chemicals, big tall boots, mittens, and anything else we need when we are ready.
He won’t pull us out of the storm until we are done playing in it, even if we freeze to death first.
Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, but even He watched thousands walk away when they heard the requirements of following Him (John 6).
Many are not willing to buy our snow shovels right now. And despite our intentions and love, some will not be saved.
All we can do is CALMLY remind them of all that Jesus offers and be here when their storms hit.