BooksLeadershipPeopleDecember 2, 20132Seeing Selling Differently

Nervous about selling? Try this...

I’ve always had a pret­ty good rela­tion­ship with the idea of sell­ing.  For some rea­son, even from an ear­ly age, I had the idea that sales was sim­ply about find­ing peo­ple who had a real need for what I had to offer. So, for instance, sell­ing Camp Fire Girls can­dy in grade school held no ter­rors for me: I’d go around and ask peo­ple if they want­ed to buy it, and if not, I’d ask the next per­son. I fig­ured there was no harm in ask­ing, even if they did­n’t want it — and them not want­i­ng it did­n’t have any­thing to do with me; maybe they did­n’t like can­dy, or were on a diet, or had already bought some from some­body else.

And actu­al­ly, that’s pret­ty much how I sell today, 50 years lat­er. I set up a con­ver­sa­tion with some­one; I lis­ten to find out whether he or she could have a need for some­thing Pro­teus offers.  If so, I explain the ser­vice or prod­uct I think they might find use­ful. I ask if they’re inter­est­ed in explor­ing a pos­si­ble fit between their need and our offer.  If not, I assume it’s because they 1) don’t see the need in the same way I do, or 2) they believe they have a bet­ter way of meet­ing that need that does­n’t involve Pro­teus. Next!

I recent­ly read a won­der­ful lit­tle book, Dan Pink’s To Sell Is Human, that pret­ty much rein­forced the pos­i­tive ideas I’ve had about sell­ing for all these years.

How­ev­er, it also made it much clear­er to me why most peo­ple don’t view sales in a pos­i­tive light — why they have a ‘cringe’ rela­tion­ship with the idea of sell­ing. Rather than see­ing it as a col­lab­o­ra­tive, mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial process of find­ing a fit between need and offer, they see it as manip­u­la­tive, pushy, inau­then­tic, slight­ly sleazy.  Sales, for most peo­ple, evokes images of being glad-hand­ed and lied to by some untrust­wor­thy used car sales­man in a shiny suit and bad toupee.  No won­der peo­ple think they don’t like to sell!

The prob­lem with hold­ing on to that old, out­mod­ed con­cep­tion of sell­ing is that almost all of us need to be able to sell.  If you define sell­ing, as Pink does, as ‘the art of mov­ing oth­ers,’ we’re sell­ing ideas, opin­ions, and pro­posed cours­es of action every day — to our kids, our boss, our spous­es, our PTA group, our employees.

And for those of us who are entre­pre­neurs or free­lancers, even more of our time is spent ‘mov­ing oth­ers’ to see that fit between our busi­ness or our­selves and their need.

So it makes sense to shift our ideas about sell­ing — and that means (you know this is favorite top­ic of mine) chang­ing our self-talk.  Here’s a quick and sim­ple exer­cise for doing just that:

1) Ask your­self: What words come to mind when I think of myself as a salesperson?

2) Lis­ten to the response that aris­es inside your head:

2a) If you find you’re think­ing words like help­ful, part­ner, prob­lem-solver, rela­tion­ship builder, mutu­al ben­e­fit  — con­grat­u­la­tions. You have the core mind­set of a suc­cess­ful 21st cen­tu­ry salesperson.

2b) If your thoughts are run­ning more along the lines of words like rejec­tion, pushi­ness, annoy­ing, drudgery, scary — I sug­gest you con­tin­ue on to step 3.

3) What could you say to your­self dif­fer­ent­ly that’s more pos­i­tive and hope­ful about the idea of you sell­ing — yet still feels true to you?  I asked my hus­band (whose self-talk about sell­ing is quite neg­a­tive) and his response was, “I have a great prod­uct that some peo­ple will find use­ful. If peo­ple don’t want to buy it, it’s no reflec­tion on me.” Great, sim­ple, pos­i­tive, accurate.

4) Once you’ve come up up with more sup­port­ive (yet still believ­able) self-talk, you’ll need to remind your­self of it when­ev­er your old, unhelp­ful self-talk mus­cles its way toward the front of your brain.

Chang­ing your mind­set in this way is key to feel­ing dif­fer­ent­ly and then act­ing dif­fer­ent­ly about sell­ing. And as sell­ing starts to occu­py a new place in your brain and heart, you might feel com­fort­able enough to explore ways to get bet­ter and bet­ter at it.

Just in case, here are two arti­cles to sup­port your evo­lu­tion: The Unex­pect­ed Secret to Being a Great Sales­per­son, a post on my Forbes blog from ear­li­er this year.


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