I firmly believe that being able to master the sales process is critical, if you want success in any aspect of your career.
Now, I’m not saying you should jack in your job to become a salesperson, but let’s face it: in order to do anything nowadays you have to be able to sell yourself to other people. If you’re trying to get a pay rise from your boss, you have to convince them that you add value to the business, or if you’re seeking capital for your business, going to the bank for a mortgage or doing business with investors trying to build a portfolio – you have to be able to sell the benefits to them.
I really do believe this is one of those key skills that will really elevate your career and your standing in any aspect of what you’re trying to do. So here are my top tips!
Your ability to interact with someone, and build rapport, is a key skill in sales and always has been. What has changed in more recent times, is that we use email, Whatsapp or other messaging platforms more and more to interact, which makes it harder to get your personality across.
Where possible, you should look for opportunities to speak to someone face to face, or at least on the phone. If that’s something that makes you nervous – practise! I think that a lot of younger people have spent so much time on social media that they’re nervous of speaking on the phone, so it’s an important skill to develop.
If someone can really get to know you and what kind of person you are, it stands you in far better stead than someone who communicates solely via email.
Don’t sell, encourage
Back in the day, people didn’t have as much access to information prior to an initial meeting. They didn’t have much knowledge about you, about your business or about your product, so you really had to do a lot of what might feel like ‘traditional’ sales – explaining to them what the product was and why it was better than your competitors. Nowadays, there’s so much information on Google alone for somebody to do their own research that buyers now have become a lot savvier. You’re not really selling to them, it’s more like you’re trying to encourage them and assure them that your service or product is the one that they should be investing in.
Think about your body language
When you’re going into a meeting – whether it’s to sell your product or yourself – you have to be aware of your body language and what unconscious messages you might be giving off. You need to walk in the room confidently (whether you are or not!).
Again, this is something you can practise. Look at yourself in a mirror in your bathroom and look yourself in the eye – develop that confident persona!
Don’t go in with your arms crossed – this can come across really negatively, and have a good strong handshake: there’s nothing worse than shaking someone’s hand and it feels like a limp wet sponge.
You make not feel confident in the moment, but you need to pretend that you are. There are a lot of shy people who out themselves in the limelight by coming on podcasts or sitting on panels, or whatever else that takes them out of their comfort zone – so practise stepping outside of yours.
Do your research and show the benefits
Whatever you’re selling, you need to be able to show people how it will benefit them. You might have the most fantastic product, or you might be the best person for a job, a payrise or a promotion, but all the person you’re selling to is interested in is how it’s going to make their life better or easier: people are more likely to invest in something when they can see the positive impact it will have.
This means you’ll need to do some research on the person you’re selling to. Dig around on the web, see if you can find anything helpful on their LinkedIn profile or from their social media. If you’re selling a product (rather than yourself), take a look at the company website and learn more about them. It’s all very well walking into the room with a prepared presentation but that’s no use if it doesn’t address anything your customer is looking for! Which leads me to my next point…
Learn to listen
You have two ears, which means you should learn to listen twice as much you speak!
Of course, you’re going to try to get out as much information from your prepared presentation script as possible, but it’s key to ask questions and really listen to the answers you get. Listen to why the customer needs whatever you are selling and if you can find out one key thing that your product or service has over and above your competitor, zone in on it! You’ll only find out that information if you’re listening. If you constantly over talk somebody as you try to get all your information over, they’re just going to get annoyed at you.
Understand their motivations and needs – and if you’re listening to them speak (rather than just waiting for a gap in the conversation so that you can talk again), you can actually figure that out very quickly. Don’t go in with rigid expectations, saying ‘this is the deal, this is how it has to be’ and make sure that you give them a chance to talk. If you haven’t listened at all to what it is they’re looking for, you might be trying to sell a lemon to someone who’s trying to buy an orange.
Learn to accept rejection
It might sound pessimistic, but learning how to accept rejection is really important part of the sales process: every rejection provides an opportunity to learn and refine your approach. It also helps you become more resilient – accepting rejection will also build emotional intelligence, allowing you to maintain positive rapport even when someone is saying ‘No’. Over time, you’ll find that being able to gracefully handle rejection not only strengthens your sales skills but also gives you a better understanding of customer needs and preferences. Remember, each rejection is a stepping stone towards future successes, making the sales journey more effective and rewarding.
I hope you’ve found this useful! Developing your ability to sell is a critical skill that will really set you on the path to success – if you’d like to hear a more in-depth conversation on the topic, take a listen to my conversation with Mark O’Dwyer on episode 76 of the podcast.