Sales is a favorite topic of mine.
Over the past 19 years, I’ve been a successful sales rep, recruited sales people, studied sales and written about sales. Sales makes for a fascinating subject matter because it continues to be misunderstood. Think about it – most of us love to shop, but we don’t like to feel “sold to.” When we think of selling, we often conjure up a one-sided transaction where the salesperson manipulates us into making a decision we’ll later regret.
On the flip side, one of the first things I learned as a sales rep with Vector Marketing is that it’s not one sided. Selling isn’t something you do to a customer. It’s something you do with or for a customer. Sales is really just about influence. In order to be successful in sales, and really in business, both sides must benefit.
Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS magazine says, “If you aren’t good at sales, life will be more difficult for you.” He’s the publisher of a magazine called SUCCESS! He must know something! Hardy goes on to say, “selling is not just a business skill; it’s an essential life skill. But selling really isn’t as complicated or mysterious as we make it out to be. Selling is simply about influencing an outcome.”
I agree with him completely. We all sell every day but we don’t think of it as selling. When we talk about our ideas, our point of view, even where we want to eat lunch, we’re trying to influence an outcome. Since we’re already selling, we may as well get good at it.
I was walking through my local farmer’s market about a month ago. I came across a vendor selling some of the most unique handcrafted benches I’ve ever seen. They were truly works of art. As I was sipping my coffee at a nearby table, I watched him not only struggle to interact with people that walked by, but he almost apologetically offered the price and was afraid to ask for the order. As a veteran in coaching salespeople, I was tempted to go over and give him some tips.
You’re young. You’ve got some big milestones ahead of you. Wouldn’t you like to be prepared to put yourself in the best position for success? Those who have sales skills will be much more effective negotiating their first salaries, paying a fair price for their first brand new car, or even convincing that special someone to accept a first or second date. The key to all of these scenarios is what a good salesperson already knows: it has to be win-win. Both sides have to see the benefits.
With your DECA experience, more and more of you have aspirations to start your own businesses at some point in your careers. Whether that’s a small shop on Etsy, starting a chiropractic clinic, or launching the next tech sensation, sales will be at the core of your success.
In Daniel Pink’s best selling book, To Sell is Human, he asks us why we fight sales. DECA members are constantly surrounded by people who are comfortable with leadership and want to influence people, but they often ignore the fact that influence is selling. Pink points out that everyone is in sales:
The existing data shows that 1 in 9 Americans work in sales. But the new data reveals something more startling: So do the other 8 in 9. They, too, are spending their days moving others and depending for their livelihoods on the ability to do it well. Whether it’s selling’s traditional form or is non-sales variation, we’re all in sales now. (p. 24-25)
Pink goes on to talk about the benefits of both parties in selling:
To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end. That is also what, say, a good algebra teacher does. At the beginning of a term, students don’t know much about the subject. But the teacher works to convince his class to part with resources—time, attention, effort—and if they do, they will be better off when the term ends than they were when it began. The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. (p. 39)
So, I challenge you, whether it’s through DECA, a part-time job with Vector, or at another sales company, get some sales experience and spend time getting good at sales now. Then, be proud of those skills, because they truly will make all the difference.
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