Developing Your Character
There aren’t many professional roles where much of the result is a referendum on a single person who walks into a client’s office by themselves. As a salesperson, you must show up and create value for a complete stranger who is measuring you on your performance.
Because success in sales is individual, you are a key variable in each deal—even if you think that’s unfair, and even if you mistakenly blame your company or your product for every lost deal. Besides, the same people who blame pricing or competition for a loss are happy to take all the credit for their wins! Sales requires that you smooth out your rough edges, improving yourself personally and professionally. Here are a few key skills.
Acquiring the Ability to Listen
The caricatured salesperson is a fast-talking slick. Nothing could be further from the truth. Salespeople are often very good with words, yes, but the great ones have learned to be even better listeners. You will do better in life when you learn how to cede the floor and give someone else your full attention.
The fact that you listen without interrupting, seeking to understand and not simply to respond, shows people that you care about their goals and how they want to reach them. When other professionals see you listening actively and taking notes, you increase trust in the relationship.
How to Uncover What Others Need
There can be no sales conversation if your contact doesn’t have some outcome they believe needs to improve. A good bit of sales is helping other people understand why they have certain problems and what they should do to turn things around. To generate that result you have to ask good questions, they kind that enlighten the other person and educate you.
Selling isn’t about transactions, and it is not something you to do to someone: it’s something you do for someone and with someone. The better you are helping other people, the better you’ll do, both personally and professionally.
Learning to Resolve Concerns
This skill has two key applications. First, when you sell, people will express their concerns, often masking them with language that obscures the truth about what’s stopping them from moving forward. To succeed in sales, you have to learn how to help people resolve those concerns so they can get better results. This problem-solving attitude is useful in every area of your life.
Second, from time to time, your clients are going to have real issues with what you sold them. Because you promised them a certain outcome, they are going to expect you to help them, whether you do it yourself or collaborate with your colleagues and your client’s team to turn things around.
Resolving both kinds of concerns means using your resourcefulness, exercising leadership, and becoming comfortable with conflict. Though you may hope to avoid significant conflict, sales will train you to embrace problems and solve them proactively.
Effectively Presenting Your Ideas
To succeed in sales, you must be able to present your insights and ideas with clarity, compelling people to act. You have, no doubt, already sold people on where to grab dinner, what movie to watch, and where to go on vacation. Selling will help you become even better at presenting your ideas and gaining the consensus of the people you are helping.
Particularly for future leaders, it’s critical to present your initiatives clearly and compellingly. Because the consequences are high, and because sales can be unforgiving, you learn quickly how to make your case effectively.
When you sell, people tell you no. They reject your request for a meeting, they reject your price, and they reject you and your solution outright when you do a poor job or don’t provide what they wanted. After hearing “no” thousands of times, it won’t cause you even the tiniest bit of discomfort. Remember, the “no” you hear is just one of many, and you can expect many more.
At the same time, all of those negative responses teach you to trust the process and persist over time, eventually converting the “no” to a “yes, please.” You develop thick skin and intestinal fortitude by working in sales! Learning to sell will help you persist until you get what you want, overcoming any obstacles in your way.
Negotiating Win-Win Deals
You were never a better negotiator than when you were two years old. At that young age, you would offer to go to bed AFTER you had just one more cookie. You won most of those contests, even if your only opponent was your mother. At some point, though, you grew up and stopped negotiating for what you wanted.
Selling invariably demands that you (re)learn how to negotiate, like it or not. When different levels of value can be created, different prices exist. Your clients are always going to ask you for a discount, and you are going to have to ask for something in return, in order to give them what they want or need. Learning to create win-win deals will help you negotiate a bigger and better life.
Growing Powerful Confidence
Finally, working in sales helps you develop an insanely powerful confidence. You’ll learn how to walk into a meeting by yourself and run the show, even when your client brings thirteen other people to the meeting (true story). You’ll be challenged by people who want to test your mettle, pushing you to see if you really trust what you’re recommending to your clients. Over time, you’ll get very comfortable in your own skin, freeing you from worrying about what others think about and allowing you to be who you are.
Many jobs can help you grow outside the 9-to-5, but selling is right at the top of the list.
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Filed under: Sales