We all are salespeople and constantly sell throughout each day. Do you sell cars? You're a salesperson. Do you build websites? Salesperson. Do you clean the floors? Salesperson. You see, regardless of what you do for a profession and regardless of who you spend time around, you spend a lot of time selling. Don't believe me? Keep reading this article to learn how we sell every day.
I owe a shift in this mindset solely to an audiobook I listened to 6 or so years ago by Daniel Pink called, To Sell Is Human. I highly recommend all of his books - having read three of them myself. Each of them has shaped a lot of my business philosophy as well as a bit of my life philosophy. Either he's just very convincing (you know, selling his point...) or he's actually driving home some very important points. I'm thinking it's both.
This is from his website:
"According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in nine Americans works in sales. Every day, more than 15 million people earn their keep by persuading someone else to make a purchase. But dig deeper and a startling truth emerges. Yes, one in nine Americans work in sales, but so do the other eight. Whether we're employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling students to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we're all in sales now."
Finding this particular book came at a really interesting point in my life. I held a firm stance against my ability to sell. I know sales is important. I know that there are people who are good at it. I just have never felt like I've enjoyed sales or that it was a part of who I was. I tend to approach "sales" from a factual standpoint rather than an emotional standpoint and I thought that made me a poor salesperson. Listening to Daniel Pink's book was an eye opener. It basically told me, "Look, you might not think you're a salesperson, and by title, you might not be a salesperson, but you sell every day."
No matter who you are, your goal is to sell. Your job is to sell. You have an intrinsic motivation to sell. Most of the time it's involuntary. Let's say you're the pastor of a church. You're constantly selling your congregation on the good news of the Bible. If you are a stay at home parent, you are constantly selling your children on your philosophies of parenting and on your philosophies of life. If you are a Solopreneur or freelancer and have your own business, you have to sell your clients on your abilities as well as new services you think may benefit them.
This all seems a bit obvious when it's broken apart like this. It's also interesting that, often times you have to sell yourself. I thought it'd be fun to share a few personal examples of how I sell everyday and have been sell for years.
My job fresh out of high school was working for America Online. This was back when they were a really big internet company. I spent three years working with AOL. I joined the team to do phone support. There was a specific, ongoing problem that happened to everybody using Apple computers at that time. The fix was deleting some files and letting the Mac regenerate them. And it was a known issue that persisted from version to version.
The reality of this situation is, when somebody's has a problem so many times, they're frustrated. They don't want to keep calling and are often at the end of their rope with frustration. This is were sales comes into play in a strong way. When you have an "irate" caller, you need to know how to both calm them down AND be confident and knowledgable. This requires selling yourself both as a knowledgable helper and as an empathetic human being. One of the best selling opportunities is when you make a mistake. You can fix it and if you go over and beyond, you turn a negative scenario into a wonderful experience with your company. That is an example of how you can sell every day.
After America Online, I started a 13-year career with a coffee company. After that, I started Wapiti. Now as much as I'd like to say I started Wapiti and was wildly successful and drove fancy cars and lived in fancy houses, that's just not true. I started Wapiti and probably made an unwise decision to jump into working full-time on Wapiti before it could support my family. I ended up having to find a couple of other jobs to help make ends meet while I worked on Wapiti.
I actually applied at the local Best Buy. I'm geeky so I figured joining the Geek Squad might work. This particular location had a management position open as well. I spent 13 years between America Online and this point of my life in management so I figured I could do that. After applying, I went in to chat with the current Best Buy manager (I'm pretty sure I was over-qualified, to be completely honest). He chatted with me and said: "Look, the position that you're applying for is a dead end. I'll give it to you if you want, but it's a dead end position." He then said, "Really, I don't think you should take that. I think you should go into sales. Work the floor, do sales, and if you are any good at that, you can someday have my job when I move hopefully to the next position in the company."
The truth was, I didn't want his job or the position I was applying for long-term. It was a life-preserver until I could get Wapiti profitable. I listened to what he said, however. I ruled out the job I was applying for specifically and said, "Look, I don't enjoy sales. I like managing people, I like growing a company but sales is not my thing." He paused for a moment and then responded, "Look, you're going to have to sell at some point. It's a skill that you should have, especially if you're wanting to grow your own business."
I'm embarrassed to admit that this was a fairly recent conversation. I mean, this was only like five years ago. Sales in general, but specifically floor sales sounded like a punishment to me. It was about this time that I listened to Daniel Pink's book. I chose not to do something purely based on the fact that I didn't want to do it. The reality is it would've been great for increasing my skill at sales and it would've been something that helped pay the bills for a little bit added to my long-term talent.
Finally, I landed a part-time position at a library in a neighboring town. It was a great job. I really enjoyed it. It was so low key. I'm not used to that. I'm used to working hard and basically burning the candle at both ends, as the saying goes. At the library, it was literally sitting at a desk waiting for people to come to you and ask for help. And of course, I was the tech guy at the library so I had some other responsibilities that felt like play-time to me even though they were necessary.
We had a training night where the library patrons could come in for tech support on computers, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. Working at the library struck me as probably the least sales-y thing I could possibly do. I'm literally just there to assist people. Of course, in an atmosphere where two people communicate with each other - sales is a key part of the equation.
Sometimes I was asked questions that I didn't know the answer to (thank God for Google search). In these scenarios, I had to sell the person I was talking to on the fact that I could figure out the solution pretty quick. I had to sell the staff in the library on my abilities. There were a couple of times that I recommend that new hardware be purchased for the library itself. The first time came with a little hesitation. Once my recommendation proved itself out, future recommendations were much smoother.
One of the things that I'm known for with my friends is the ability to find the right program for anything. I actually just got an email yesterday from a buddy of mine asking about a program that was on sale and what I thought about it. And I was able to articulate some thoughts because I had tried it and I try lots of programs. I've mentioned this in previous articles. Trying different apps is kind of one of my hobbies.
In this particular instance, he was asking about a website image optimization plugin. I was able to succinctly articulate that I thought it was good but that I preferred what I was using. Since it was a big discount, I encouraged him to give it a shot.
I'm involved in a lot of similar conversations every week and the thing I'm learning is because I'm known as this person who just figures these things out and uses them all the time, my friends always respect my opinion on things. "What web server should I use?" Well, this is what I recommend. Should I use a hosted email program like Google's G Suite or Microsoft Office 365 or should I just use one that comes with my hosting account? I am unintentionally selling other products to my friends nonstop.
This is one of the things that I bring to the table with Wapiti. We have an amazing ability to help businesses connect systems and solutions together to build their business on.
Let's move this conversation to Wapiti. First off, when you're a solopreneur, you have to be a salesperson regardless and I was a solopreneur for a long time. Everything falls on the solopreneur's shoulders: Sales, task management, customer relationship management, marketing, accounting. You don't have the luxury of delegating the sales to someone else.
This doesn't change even if you own your own business and have a sales team of 1000 people. You are still going to have to sell. You have to sell your employees on ideas, on thoughts, on the direction of the company. You're also going to be talking with people who are potential big clients and you're going to need to be able to sell them as well. You can't just clam up in a shell when they ask you a question and say, "I don't want to answer that," because you're definitely not going to grow your business with answers like that.
Any position in any company has to sell from time to time. And I kind of mentioned this earlier, but let's look at the position of a janitor. Let's say your business has a janitor. Well, that janitor has to sell himself or herself on whether they can do a good job or not. They're going to have to be able to explain why things are a certain way and that explanation process involves sales. Yes, it's the truth and should be the truth. When trying to prove a point (aka sell your point to the listener) the truth needs to be presented in a way that sells your position, sells your opinion and your thoughts.
I'm going to kind of wrap this up with a couple of thoughts...
First off, the best selling that you can do is when you're passionate about something. So if you're passionate about finding the right programs to integrate for a business to make it successful, like I am, you're going to be an awesome salesperson at that because you're going to talk convincingly, you're going to know the pros and the cons of every solution, and you're going to be able to eloquently convey all of that.
Secondly, I want to give another mention to Daniel Pink's great book, To Sell is Human. I also recommend his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. It's a slightly older book and you can totally see what he was saying playing out right now. Checking out Daniel Pink and his books and remember, everything you're doing is selling. Make sure that you're passionate about it and that you're selling people on the right thing.