A mentor once told me, “No matter what you do, you’re in sales.” Nurturing abilities in sales will help develop qualities that promote success in any area of life. Regardless of industry or occupation, sales is one of the few skill sets found in all successful people. If you want to get ahead in life, you have to sell yourself and what you add to the world on a regular basis. Whether you’re asking for a promotion or trying to get your family to adopt a new streaming subscription, the process is technically a sale.
“Professional Selling” by Shane C. Hunt, dean of the Idaho State University College of Business, indicates two things: “First, selling is a profession that requires skills that can be learned, practiced, and perfected. Second, the more that salespeople know and practice sales techniques and skills, the more effective and successful — the more ‘professional’— they become.” The first chapter is titled Everyone Is In Sales. Hunt continues, “Sales as a profession has great appeal for many. But whether or not you choose sales as your profession, as you move forward in your career, developing personal selling skills will benefit you in countless ways.”
My career has spanned more than three decades in education, sales and marketing. Developing an aptitude for sales has added tremendous value to my life. It has helped me become more outgoing in social situations, and improved my entrepreneurial mindset. Over the years I’ve asked multiple business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they feel contributes the most to their success. Every one of them named sales. They all felt success in any field is almost impossible without knowing how to sell. But to many people, the word selling implies manipulating, pressuring, cajoling. They think of all the high-pressure-salesperson stereotypes. Actually, selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision.
Investors must be shown how a project or business will generate a return. Participants in an organization need help understanding the benefits of a new process. Individuals and families require information about the health and safety features of a product. Nonprofits need to reach donors and keep them feeling connected and concerned. Social media influencers have to draw traffic to their pages among billions on the web. A GoFundMe by a struggling family needs to be written in a way that elicits compassion and empathy, then makes people take action. Parents need to convince children to do their homework and avoid junk food. Everyone needs to be adept at sales.
Sales ranks among the best frameworks to turn yourself into an effective communicator. Every human endeavor involves negotiating. Salespeople learn to listen, evaluate variables and identify key motivational factors. They overcome objections and find ways to reach agreement, without burning bridges. For many, asking for what you want is difficult. Persuading people to agree with you and take your direction is both an art and science, best cultivated in teams that train under seasoned mentors.
Step forward with self-assurance. Stand tall in times of crisis and duress. Build self-confidence. Learning sales is the perfect cure for shyness. It helps you create scenarios where both parties win. In every situation, you will be able to connect the mental dots between performance and reward. Leaders must be able to close deals. Salespeople constantly hear the word no. With personal growth in this arena, you will start to see “no” as a challenge instead of a rejection. You’ll develop roadmaps for getting to “yes.”
Sales education will help you gain an ability to grasp and disseminate information that is essential to responding to all types of inquiries in a timely and confident manner. A sales professional needs to do more than simply follow a script. They need to engage in meaningful conversations and ask probing questions. Professional sales training ensures that people are able to conduct any conversation with the depth of knowledge they need to be effective.
The Walter P. Brown Center for Sales Excellence at Idaho State University website states: “Whether you are a scientist seeking a grant to continue your research; a health care provider offering services to new patients; a pharmaceutical company developing a vaccine; a farmer cultivating crops; or a manager of a sports team — every field requires the use of sales principles. The scientist must sell the viability of their research to gain the grant; health care providers must show why they are the safest and most caring option for practitioners in the area. All of these fields require the sale and pitching of their area to succeed.”
Our economy has evolved from one that was agrarian, then industrial, to knowledge-based. While the world has changed, the fundamentals have not. More than 2,000 years ago, Aristotle produced his treatise, “Rhetoric.” The work outlined a formula on how to master the art of persuasion. The 21st century has its own currency: ideas. Mastering the ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the single greatest way to gain a competitive edge today.
Learn how to sell. Your investment will pay dividends forever.
— Michael Strickland teaches at Idaho State University and Boise State University.
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