Small Business

Realize It or Not, We're All in Sales


By Michelle Nichols When people ask me what I do and I reply that I'm in sales, they sometimes sigh and say, "Gee, I'm so glad I'm not in your business." I used to wonder at that reaction, because I love being in sales. Maybe they didn't hear right, perhaps believing that I'd "just got out of jail." But then, when I take a closer look at their faces, it becomes all too clear that they were serious!

Professional salespeople make more money than some lawyers or doctors. They also have more freedom with their time. What's not to like?

When those who wrinkle their noses at my profession explain what they do, be it teach, preach, leech, or whatever, I can't help but laugh. To be successful in any profession -- any profession at all! -- you must also be able to sell. It's like taking a double-major of business in college. Even if your one true love is biology, add some basic business classes and you multiply your job options. And sales ability is the most basic skill of all, shaping every aspect of our daily lives.

KID STUFF. No matter if you are a mechanic or a psychiatrist, applying a general understanding of sales to your job will make you more effective and successful. Believe me, not only will you be able to be able to negotiate better rates with your vendors, you'll have happier customers and employees.

Dr. Barbara Pletcher, who founded the National Association for Professional Saleswomen, used to say that your selling skills make it easier for the other person to do his or her job. Outside of work, sales skills are especially helpful in the dating scene. Talk about prospecting, presentation skills, branding and closing techniques! And once the knot is tied, the selling continues. Want a new sofa? Better be able to sell your partner on that idea, not mention things like planning vacations or, for some folks, arriving at a decision to have one more child!

And speaking of children, every parent is a salesperson. Without the adept nudging and adroit persuasion of Mom or Dad, what kid would learn multiplication tables or eat vegetables? It is parents who must sell our young ones on the benefits of math and vitamins. Mary and Bob, former neighbors of mine, had 10 kids. Trust me, handling that brood required the equivalent of a PhD in sales. No parent could survive the 18+ years of childhood and adolescence without some pretty solid negotiation skills. Whether it's who gets a favorite toy, how much money represents a fair allowance, or who borrows the car on a Saturday night, good negotiating skills are a form of selling. And in families, that talent gets a 24/7 workout.

ENGINEERING CONSENT. Bear in mind that selling doesn't have to involve a physical product or a formal service. Some of the most frequently "sold" items are ideas, opinions, and points-of-view. If you have a suggestion to reduce waste and cut your outfit's overheads, a political opinion with which you hope to enlighten others, or a civic crusade you aim to launch with a letter to the editor of the local paper, well, each of those is selling. Seen from this perspective, it can make you wonder what those people who say they're not in sales actually do all day.

There's an old saying, "If you aren't selling, you're buying." Believe me, it's true. If you aren't presenting your thoughts in a way that sells the other person on adopting your point of view, then you're probably buying their opinions. If sales prospects convince you that your price is too high or your product is not the right fit, they've successfully sold you their negative opinion.

This wisdom even applies to techies -- engineers, lab rats, and every other assorted variety of geek. Hey, I'm an expert: I married one. They already make great friends and spouses, but they also need to learn basic sales skills.

I received a letter from Naveed last week, who wrote: "Dear Michelle, I am not a sales or a marketing person. In fact, I am a hard-core engineer and have been so for over 10 years. However, I believe that selling is not just limited to presenting a product, but to everything in our lives. Succeeding in winning the heart of the perfect match, getting accepted to a good school, finding the right job, winning the approval of your board, getting elected to office or motivating your kids -- it doesn't matter which, you need to sell."

THE UNIVERSAL SALESMAN. Number-oriented professionals who also understand sales are a real asset to any business. I'm speaking to an association of hydrologists this fall, and these experts want to know more about how to sell their ideas, products, and services more easily and quickly. I've also spoken to pharmacists, silicon chip manufacturers, and geologists.

There are many professions that sell but don't call themselves salespeople. Sometimes they prefer to call it persuading, influencing or negotiating. This includes those in law enforcement, lobbyists, and lawyers. College recruiters, whether they're on the prowl for students or student athletes, are also in sales.

Regardless of your occupation or job title, to be successful in today's competitive world, you must learn to also think of yourself as being in sales. Those who learn the basic ideas of sales and use them in every aspect of their lives will find more success, personal impact, and happiness. Happy selling! Michelle Nichols is a sales speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Houston, Tex. She welcomes your questions and comments. You can visit her Web site at www.verysavvyselling.biz, where her new CD, 72 Ways to Overcome the Price Objection is available. She can be contacted at Michelle.nichols@verysavvyselling.biz


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