Two weeks ago I conducted a full-day session on a topic that is near and dear to me: sales. This is rare, as I might only get once or twice a year to teach the art of selling for an entire day. With people’s busy schedules, the investment of money and time away from the office, a full-day for busy professionals on this important topic is a serious commitment. The session took place in Lansing for the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE).
As we did our initial welcome’s around the room with attendees a common theme kept popping up during the introductions. Many of them deep down mentioned their fear and dislike for the selling portion of their job and that they were there to figure out how to solve it and pick up a few new ways to sell more effectively. As we finished introductions, I probed a couple people deeper with the question as to why they had such disdain for selling. Here’s what I concluded:
More and more employers, be it for profit or non-profit, are making it a job requirement and expectation that selling is a big part of what their employees must do. Whether selling ideas to their teams or fellow co-workers to get things done, or getting them involved in traditional direct follow up with new and current customers, the times are a changing.
I always ask two questions when discussing sales with groups that are quite revealing about human nature and people’s overall mindset about selling:
- How many of you have ever lied to a salesperson?
- How many of you have ever been lied to by a salesperson?
As you can expect, everyone raises their hand when I ask both questions and many people chuckle as they know that this is how they act or have been treated in the past. Here’s why I ask the two questions: we all have sales baggage which shapes our current perceptions of whether we’ll attempt sales or grudgingly resist it. A lot of what I talk about in sales training are the key mental components top sales people possess and how they view what they do in a totally different light. Two main things they almost all have is a positive mindset and a firm belief in what they are offering or selling. Without these two critical pieces in place, they would be nowhere near as successful in their chosen profession or likely they would be in a completely different line of work.
Once we shatter the myths about sales being a bad thing we can next begin to help remove the negative thinking and fear related to it. Unless we identify up front and quickly get to the root cause of the problem we are only attempting a ‘quick fix’ when it comes to effective, long-term sales success.
Let me offer up an important reminder: we are ALL in sales. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or title you’ve been given, it’s important to never forget it. The best ideas must be sold internally and externally. In an age of Google, massive choice, and short attention spans we are bombarded with choice. With that said, we can no longer take a client’s attention, time or business for granted. It will require building better relationships with current clients and being able to attract (sell) new business and earn (sell) repeat business.