Well-known sales gurus Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy taught me that selling is everyone’s job. That means my job, and your job too. Not just selling “stuff” like consumer goods in stores, but also selling ideas, opinions, dreams and options.
For example: when you are an agile coach, you may wish to sell the idea of visual management to development team members and business managers. As a business analyst you perhaps want to sell a great solution for a business problem to developers and project sponsors. As a manager you might need to sell the urge to increase productivity to workers.
All around us are people we want to sell thing to. We wish people to adopt, or at least consider, our ideas. We want people to see things our way, dream the same dreams. We hope or even expect other people will act based on what we show them or tell them about. We are selling all the time.
The point is that we do not always succeed in selling something to another person. Mostly because we forget that there’s something else involved: buying. The other person has to buy what we sell for a sale to be successful.
Both Zig and Brian have written books that give us incredible insight in how to be more successful in selling. I highly recommend their respective books “Secrets of closing the sale” and “The Psychology of Selling”.
Now to give you some typical examples of what I ran into as a buyer. You’ll probably recognize it.
Just last weekend I was shopping for new shirts. Dress shirts, to be more specific. After an unsuccessful couple of hours of shopping I accidentally stepped into a small men’s store. The first shirt I laid eyes upon…I fell in love with. The fabric! The texture! My size was still available (as it was a sale item) so I ran towards a fitting-room. Alas, on my way to that fitting-room, I saw another great shirt. And then another. And my size was available for all of these! I ended up trying on 4 shirts on that first run and I loved them all! The fit! They looked great on me. I felt awesome and confident.
A very helpful ‘salesman’ was aiding me in unbuttoning the shirts in an otherwise empty store. Alas, that was the main thing he did apart from roaming the shop after me in search of more shirts and proper sizes. Even though I told him at least twice I really loved to be in his store and carefully examined everything he had on sale, he never asked me questions other than “are you doing fine?” and just once “do you need anything else?”. Even though I answered that last question with a hesitant but firm “well, you do have a lot of great things in your store!” he never asked anything else and stood waiting behind his counter.
This guy could have sold me his entire shop!
Now of course I was glad that he did not try to sell everything to me. Let alone be pushy. But I truly wanted him to think along a bit more and give me suggestions for matching items.
Just to protect myself from spending too much money, I called it quits myself, paid, and got out with six new, neatly folded shirts.
This time, the products were so good that I will probably be a returning customer, but that return have been soon if he would have offered me to keep me informed about new arrivals or sales items or just told me “I hope to see you again soon!”. None of that.
Just one week before, I bought some jeans in another store. I wasn’t even looking for jeans. I was looking for a blazer. The saleswoman didn’t have any blazers of my liking but she asked me a great question: “what will you be wearing your dream blazer with?”. That way she sold me an awesome pair of jeans for a price I never considered buying jeans for. But I never regretted the choice! Even better: my standards for jeans are now a lot different than before. And I am on their mailing list.
In that same week, I found yet another store where I found a near-perfect blazer. It fit so well and it looked so good on me that my wife could hardly drag me away from the mirror. Alas…I already bought another great blazer 20 minutes before. Just one question pounded in my head: “how can I justify also buying this near-perfect blazer?”. In this case, the saleswoman was pushy, hasty and almost nasty. I felt awkward in her presence. That made me want to walk out as soon as possible. Which I did…without a near-perfect blazer.
Of course these examples involve consumer goods. But it’s similar with ideas, opinions and dreams.
How often did you fail to recognize a great idea just because you didn’t like the person who presented the idea? Just how many times do product development teams stick with the first appealing solution because nobody is selling them better, cheaper, more effective alternatives? How many people hate the change that is forced upon them by middle managers who do not communicate nor translate strategic vision that would provide insight in the importance of that change?
You can find examples everywhere.
The trick is to find those examples of great sales and then copy the behaviour involved. Like in the jeans example I gave you. When you do that, people actually start buying what you sell.
You can recognize your own sales success by witnessing people doing things differently than they did before after you interacted with them. Sometimes you were the example and they now copy your behaviour. Sometimes you inspired them with a great presentation and you now hear your words echoing in the corridors of the company. Sometimes people turn into return customers: they will watch you and proactively ask for your opinion and your help!
If you want to be effective as a professional, in any job, become a succesful salesperson. It might take you some time to recognize how that applies to your own job, but what is there to lose by considering it?
By Patrick Verheij