A firefighter, a professor, a computer repair technician and a lawyer are having dinner together. Which one is the salesperson?
None, right? One is in the business of saving lives; another teaches; one fixes stuff; and the last one keeps people out of jail.
They’re not in sales. Or are they?
The fact is that every job is a sales job. Even yours.
What do you think the firefighter is doing when he visits an elementary school classroom to talk about the dangers of playing with matches or setting off fireworks? He’s selling children on staying safe.
What skills does the professor use when she tries to convince her students to power down their phones and take notes during her lectures? Sales skills.
If a computer tech does a good job and treats his clients—who usually come to him in distress—with kindness and patience, will those customers choose him again next time they need service? If so, he’s made a sale.
And the lawyer spends all day selling juries on finding her clients “not guilty” and judges on ruling in their favor.
No matter what kind of job you can think of, it’s got a sales component, at least unofficially.
That means your job is, in part, a sales job.
If you’re like most people who haven’t chosen sales as a career, your reaction is probably something like, “Ick.”
Sales does have a bad reputation. But the fact is that we are surrounded by salespeople who are ethical and honest. Most salespeople do not practice the dishonest, manipulative, pushy brand of sales that created that bad rep.
You don’t have to sell that way when you make those unofficial sales at work that you inevitably make, even though your job title doesn’t say anything about “sales.”
Most of today’s sales professionals practice “consultative” sales. That means they try to sell only what their clients need. They look for products and services that will solve a problem for the client or make the client happy.
They don’t pressure or trick or lie to their clients. They figure out how they can get what they want—the sale—while giving the client what he or she wants and needs.
They know that nobody likes to be sold. But they also know that everybody likes to buy. So they figure out what each person they meet really wants to buy. That’s what they sell.
For people who aren’t sales professionals—but have lots of opportunities to make unofficial sales at work—the same strategy can work.
But going from a mindset of “ick” to one that embraces selling as the most-effective way to get a raise, a promotion, a thumbs-up for your business on social media or another contract from someone you already work with might not be easy.
So ease into it. Here are four points that could help you embrace your inner salesperson:
1. Realize that you already know how to sell. In fact, you’ve known how since you were a kid. Children seem to innately understand how to get what they want from their parents. They figure out at a young age that being nice and helpful—not demanding and stomping their feet—will get them that special toy or a later bedtime. They also know that they need to ask for what they want, because Mom and Dad aren’t going to volunteer it. Those strategies can still work for you. Follow the Golden Rule when you ask for anything: Treat people as you would like them to treat you. Be kind. Don’t push. Ask nicely.
2. Not only do you already know how to sell, you already do it every day. Every time you encourage your child to pick up his toys, your partner to pick up the dry cleaning or a co-worker to pick up the slack, you’re selling. Every time they do what you asked, you’ve made a “sale.” It doesn’t matter that the transaction did not involve money.
3. Think of selling as a way to help people. Everybody wants something. Once you identify the person who can help you get what you want, figure out not how you can “sell” that person, but what you have that can help that person. A professional who sells gutter shields, for example, has a product that can solve a huge problem for a homeowner with clogged gutters. A non-salesperson who asks the boss for a big raise can offer to take on more responsibility in exchange for more money. A sale—official or unofficial—should create a win for the “seller” and a win for the “buyer” so both of you get what you need.
4. You could be a superstar at work if you bring in business, even though that’s not your official job. Opportunities to do that are everywhere:
- Whenever you work with clients, find out what else they need. Ask what else you can do to help. Then, figure out if your company has a product or service that would fill that need, and offer it.
- Before you say “goodbye” to a client after a satisfying work experience, ask that customer to refer your company to friends and colleagues, and to write a positive social media review.
- Be a walking commercial for your company, on and off the job. Employees who tell positive stories about their workplace spread goodwill not only for the business but for themselves. The people who notice your pride in your company are more likely to contact you when they need its services than those who observe an employee bad-mouthing the boss.
Making a “sale” can and should be a positive experience for both you and the person you’re “selling.” There’s really nothing “icky” at all about trying to strike a deal that benefits everyone involved.