You’re in sales whether you realize it or not.
When you apply for a job, loan or entry into a club, you are selling your skills, your credit worthiness or your social capital. As a worker, you help sell your company’s value to customers even if your title doesn’t include “sales.”
Still, the idea of selling makes a lot of people uncomfortable. The stereotype of the sleazy salesman is pervasive. Car dealerships try to get past it by stressing their no-hassle pricing or no-pressure sales.
Small business owners, you have to sell to be successful. So learn to sell “only if you want to do business and get your ideas across,” said Jim Joyce, who teaches sales and entrepreneurship at Durham Technical Community College and Wake Tech and coaches students at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
I took Joyce’s class, “Sales for People Who Don’t Like to Sell,” to get over my aversion to marketing and promoting myself. The new conventional wisdom says you can’t manage your career well if you can’t sell yourself effectively. The class shifted my perspective.
Joyce pulls lessons from his career in the computer industry – he worked with Fortune 500 companies and was vice president of sales development at Computer Task Group.
One thing Joyce taught me: You shouldn’t be a sadist.
“Don’t leave someone twisting in the wind when they’ve indicated they need help and you have something to sell that can help them,” he told us. “That’s just cruel.”
Here’s why Joyce believes people don’t like to sell, and how to get past it.
1. You don’t want to be pushy.
Solution: Explain the value. “If the customer understands the value of what they will be getting, you don’t have to be pushy,” he said. “The customer will get it, and you won’t have to talk them into it.”
2. You fear talking to unfamiliar people.
Solution: Find out what the person wants. “If you’re asking rather than telling, you don’t have to worry about talking so much, because the customer is doing the selling,” he said. “What makes a salesperson successful is being able to really put yourself in the customer’s shoes.”
3. You don’t appreciate the value of your offering.
Solution: Get riveted on the benefits of what you’re selling. Focus on what the customer gets, not what you get (a sale). For instance, your service will make life easier, save time, make someone feel good or eliminate stress.
“People want to know: What’s in it for me?” he says. “That’s just human nature.”