All of us are sales people, whether we admit it or not.
Sales people are in every walk of life: the CEO who has a new strategy to present to her team, the entrepreneur who's wooing a strategic partner, the young college graduate trying to get a foot in the door at a prestigious company, even the part-time worker at a fast food restaurant who asks, "Do you want fries with that?" They're all sales people.
Because not one of these people will accomplish their goal without using effective selling skills.
They may be "selling" different things, but they are all selling - whether they admit it or not.
Of all the non-sales people likely to be selling, entrepreneurs are the most common. Considering that entrepreneurs typically start their businesses as a one-person show, if that entrepreneur is going to grow his business, he must be willing to sell every aspect of it to everyone he needs to make it work - support staff, investors, clients.
Everyone will have to be "sold." The sales challenges facing entrepreneurs are among the greatest in business. Even when an entrepreneur becomes successful, the necessity of selling never ends.
"I still work hard to know my business," says entrepreneur Mark Cuban, chairman of entertainment firm HDNet and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. "I'm continuously looking for ways to improve all my companies, and I'm always selling. Always."
Another common salesperson is the job seeker. In this tough economy you've got to be an expert at selling yourself to beat the competition for the best job. Most applicants think selling yourself means listing your education, qualifications, experience, hobbies, interests - whatever makes you seem desirable.
In reality, selling yourself to a prospective employer is about asking the right questions to determine what the employer needs and then showing her what skills and qualifications you possess to meet those needs.
Even in our personal lives, most of us are sales people. Have you ever tried to talk your significant other into buying the car you prefer or vacationing at the place you've been dreaming of?
Undoubtedly you had to employ a selling technique or two to get your way. Perhaps you've struggled with a child who was doing poorly in a particular subject in school and had to "sell" her on the virtues of learning the challenging material.
Most of us sell in our lives because it is essential to accomplishing our goals, achieving our desires and even sometimes, to meeting our basic needs. Selling is, in so many respects, the most universal of behaviors. We do it almost unconsciously.
If all of us are selling then why are most of us so reluctant to acknowledge it? Perhaps it's the lingering negative image. No one wants to be thought of as a used-car salesman.
To avoid becoming that kind of stereotype, you must learn to sell in a way that not only benefits you but also benefits the person to whom you are selling. Here are some ideas:
Mind your manners: Making a positive first impression is crucial when meeting people essential to your goals. Introductions, however, can sometimes be awkward in this era of evolving etiquette. Only a few decades ago, for example, it was considered rude for a man to shake a woman's hand before she offered it. In today's world, many women would be offended by a man who never bothered to shake her hand upon first meeting her.
Understanding that a positive first impression depends greatly on politeness, do your homework on the culture of the company you're interviewing at, the values of the person you're meeting with or the protocol for the committee to whom you are presenting. It may seem minor but people will remember you as much for your manners as they do for your ideas.
Seize opportunities: Think of a time when you left a hair salon with a great new cut, style or color and the front-desk person simply took your payment and bid you a nice day. What if, in that moment of exuberance over your great new look, the front-desk person suggested you make a follow-up appointment in six weeks to keep your color fresh or your cut looking sharp?
Imagine what an asset she would be to the salon, capturing all that repeat business and making re-bookings quick and hassle-free for clients. If a chance to provide a benefit to both you and the person you're selling to comes along, seize it.
Learn to listen: If there's a silver bullet in selling, it's listening. Most of us are so busy talking we fail to do the most important thing: listen to the person we're trying to sell.
What do they want?
What do they need?
What would they like? Ask these questions, and really listen to the answers.
That way you'll know if what you want and what they can give you are in alignment.
Don't hesitate to communicate: Have you ever known someone who was a genius at his given trade but who was starving because he had no idea how to sell to customers? A person like this doesn't need to be a sales genius; he just needs to learn effective communication.
That's all selling is: It's a conversation wherein both parties agree that one is offering what the other needs and wants. Think of genius inventors like Henry Ford or Steve Jobs.
How different would the world be if they had never been able to effectively communicate their ideas, if they had never been able to sell to the right people. Not everyone is born with great communication skills, but everyone can acquire them. If you're going to reach your goals, you first have to learn to communicate.
If everyone is selling, then why not embrace your status as salesperson?
It will help you create win-win situations that bring joy and success to your life and the lives of everyone you sell.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.