“Learning to sell effectively isn’t really about improving your income (although it does that very effectively), it’s mostly about increasing your happiness and satisfaction with your life, results, and relationships.”
~ Chandell Labbozzetta
What Do Life and Business Have in Common?
Maybe you’ve already guessed what I’m going to say, but let me tell you about two friends of mine…
Alison really does have everything she wants. She has a well-paid, flexible job in financial planning that is satisfying, her husband adores her, her 3 children are well-behaved and do well at school and basically her life has just the right blend of adventure and stability for her.
Matt is also married, is CFO of a major company but worries about getting overtaken in his position by younger men who seem to be moving ahead faster, an attractive wife who also works, and 2 children who never seem to be doing as well as he’d like them to do.
Both have similar backgrounds, but where Matt feels as though it’s always a struggle to get what he wants, Alison is confident that when she wants something, she’ll get it… including more money and responsibilities if and when she goes back to full-time work because she knows how to sell her ideas, skills, and products whether she’s trying to persuade her children to do homework or chores, her colleagues to pursue a specific course of action, or her husband to agree to holiday plans.
You can call it persuasion or influence – both marketing terms that put a gloss of sophistication on the subject – but really, what Alison has that makes every aspect of her life easier and Matt does not, is the ability to sell. This one skill has immense power not only to help you get what you want, but also to help other people get what they want as well.
That’s why I say that Sales is the #1 Life Skill that can make your life easier, more satisfying, and can also make the world a better place.
So let’s look at sales in a few different contexts:
Sales and Human Psychology
Psychological research tells us that people generally respond far more positively to their own ideas than to ideas that come from outside themselves, and they actively resist adopting ideas or actions that are forced on them… Even things that, in different circumstances, they might welcome (like food or exercise).
This is why prisoners sometimes go on hunger strikes or find other ways of asserting their independence. It’s why some children refuse to cooperate with teachers and parents, and it’s why some work-places have a culture of stubborn resistance to change.
Parents and teachers know that the best way to get children to cooperate enthusiastically, is to engage their interest and provide an appropriate level of challenge so that the children feel as though they are the ones deciding to commit to the project. They also know what happens when they fail to get that intrinsic commitment: every step becomes another struggle.
The art and science of successful sales in any arena involves piquing interest and creating a sense that the desire to be, do, or have any specific thing comes from within the person to whom you want to sell. After all, if you truly believe that your solution or course of action is appropriate, don’t you want other people to adopt the same perspective?
Sales @Home and in the Wider World
Here I’m talking about selling ideas and habits to your friends and family. Following are some common ideas or actions you might want them to adopt:
- Doing homework in a timely fashion
- Getting adequate exercise and sleep
- Reducing the amount of alcohol or soft drink consumed
- Making healthy snack and meal choices
- Doing housework and cleaning up after themselves
- Resisting bad influences
- Pursuing hobbies and interests
- Serving other people
- Limiting screen time
- Developing friendships and having fun…
In any of these cases you have the option to force a pathway on others, or you can ’sell’ them the positive course of action in such a way that they feel as though they chose it themselves. If you make people do (or avoid) these things, then it’s only a matter of time before they go behind your back or openly rebel against the decree so selling creates far greater compliance and diligence and leads to better outcomes.
From landing your initial role, to gaining promotions, and building your reputation and portfolio, your ability to sell your personality, skills, and experience is always a factor. You initially do this through your resume and interview, but often the person who gets the position is the one with the best sales skills, not the best technical skills.
It doesn’t matter whether you like that reality or not… But you do have a choice: you can wail about how unfair it is that you are being surpassed by people with a lesser skillset, or you can improve your sales skills and give yourself a chance to shine.
One of my clients was fed up at having her ideas ignored or passed over when she shared them, and then enthusiastically applauded when one of her colleagues put them forward. I pointed out that she could complain till the cows came home and nothing would change… OR… She could improve her sales skills so that people listened when she shared anything. She chose the latter course, and moved up the hierarchy at dizzying speed as her true capability and quality became visible.
The truth is that sales skills help you become more visible and valued and work and that brings along a host of other benefits like higher salary, more opportunities, and the satisfaction of seeing your ideas adopted.
Classic Sales Contexts
You can bludgeon someone into a single purchase, but if you want them to come back again and again and be a valuable lifelong customer, it’s better to use more subtle tactics.
Contrary to popular opinion, sales people are made not born… And that means that there is hope for everyone. I believe that anyone can learn to sell effectively, confidently, and congruently as long as they believe in the product or service they are selling to solve a prospect’s problem.
My own closing rate is over 100% (thanks to delighted clients referring me to others) even though there are times when I use my selling skills to convince a prospect not to buy. You see, desperation and ignorance are the two main reasons why people use selling techniques that make them feel uncomfortable.
- Desperation or Neediness: is when you feel that you simply must make the sale even if you realise that it’s not the best course of action for your prospect. If that’s your sales modus operandi then, of course you hate selling, and you hate yourself when you sell… And you should!
- Ignorance: is when you simply don’t know how to sell effectively so you stumble around with no process or system. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you have no idea why.
When you solve these two sales problems then suddenly your confidence grows, your sales pipeline and closing rates both increase and your job security and income increase (if you’re a member of a sales team) or your business grows in value, if you’re a business owner.
If sales is such an important skill, what are you doing to increase your mastery?
Complacency is the enemy of mastery.
- I know enough;
- I’ve done enough;
- I’ve practice enough;
- I’m good enough;
These are all the enemies of mastery. Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist, famously said, “If I miss one day’s practice, I can hear it; if I miss two days’ practice the critics can hear it; if I miss three days’ practice my audience can hear it. As a result, I do everything I can never to miss a day, and never to just go through the motions of practicing.”
Sales skill growth is a bit like that (but not quite so intense). If you don’t commit to investing time, resources, energy and money to improving your skills they grow cold. I make a point of investing every week into something that will help me improve my sales skills and hone my ability to teach others to do the same. I share these tips and learnings in my courses, challenges, and semi-weekly emails.