I don’t think there is any profession that comes close to sales in terms of the constant quest for improving your craft.
Every professional cares about getting better at what they do, of course. Teachers try to be better teachers, carpenters try to be better carpenters, doctors try to be better doctors. But it’s nothing like salespeople. With salespeople it’s constant, it’s relentless, it’s part of the very blood of the profession. They want to do it. It’s part of the very competitive, immediate-results-driven nature of the business.
This might be part of another divide I see in the professional world. This perceived divide is repeated in almost every company, across almost every sector. And the divide is that there are two kinds of people – salespeople, and everyone else.
For a variety of reasons, non-salespeople view salespeople as a very peculiar kind of alien. They make their living doing things that seem absolutely horrifying. And as a result, most people don’t include any sort of sales skills into their professional skill set, even if they’re otherwise very well-rounded and even though those skills are universally helpful.
The problem with this, of course, is that even non-salespeople have to sell stuff on occasion. You might not be selling a used car or paper products, but you may have to sell an idea. Do you know what “bedside manner” is? It’s sales skill for medical professionals. Not every doctor that opens their own practice is successful, and some of those failures don’t stem from lack of medical ability but from lack of sales ability. Just because you’re a doctor doesn’t mean patients have to come to you!
That means that every single professional should have some sales skills. But most sales training and sales information documents are aimed very squarely at the professional salesperson, and they’re (as I said) a very peculiar alien. Most sales training is aimed at people who want to sell, and thus want to get better at it. Most people that aren’t professional salespeople, however, don’t even want to sell in the first place. Some of them are afraid of it, some people actively think it’s bad! People that think those things won’t get much from traditional sales training.
So here are some real meat-and-potatoes tips for non-salespeople to get better at selling. These are NOT expert-level tips, and they won’t be of much use to even novice salespeople. But they can grab a LOT of low-hanging fruit for people who aren’t sales pros but sometimes need to ask for that signature.
- Earn the right to make your pitch. Before you come anywhere close to a sales scenario, decide for yourself what would let you be able to ask for something without feeling “cheesy” or “aggressive” or however else you think of salespeople. Think in terms of free samples, or examples, or up-front value. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, maybe you don’t feel comfortable just talking to a potential customer of the company you work for and pitching your services right away. But what if you did an hour-long consultation where you provided real actionable value and demonstrated your skills – for free? If you’ve done an hour of work, do you feel like an honest payment for that time is a few minutes of their attention while you present your client model? If so, then just always do that before asking for the sale. You’ll feel more confident. Basically, put yourself in a position where you feel like you’ve done enough favors for the other person that you’d feel comfortable asking them for a small favor in return. A ride somewhere, a meal – or listening to a sales pitch.
- Sell to a hypothetical person instead of who you’re talking to. A common complaint I hear from non-salespeople is that they don’t like what they feel is an “aggressive” conversational track. So instead of pitching what you do to the person in front of you, talk instead about the modal person you help, and then connect it to them at the end. For instance, something like: “The type of client who gets the most value from our graphic design service is a business that has a need for branding across multiple channels, both online and off. If a client really needs their branded content to pop no matter what format it’s in, then they really benefit from our cross-channel expertise and years of design experience. So if that sounds like you, we should definitely talk more.”
- Tell people in advance that you’re going to sell by promising that you won’t until some set threshold is met. For instance, if you’re about to deliver a one-hour free demo to an individual or group, you can start by saying “Hello everyone! We’re going to do a deep-dive in today’s topic. In case you were worried, I promise to do absolutely zero selling for the first 45 minutes, and then we’re going to do a check-in to make sure everyone feels like they’ve gotten their value out of today’s talk. After that we’ll talk about how you can use our product for the future!”
These tips should help clear some of the mental hurdles that keep you from engaging in a light sales process. If you’re an engineer, designer, etc. – sometimes you’re doing a webinar, a product demo, answering potential client questions about your subject matter expertise, etc. If you can do that and sell a little, you’ll be so much better off than if you leave it entirely to the salespeople to close the deal.
After all, those people are weird, aren’t they?