For most of my career I defined myself as an “anti-salesman.” Sales seemed like a dirty word to me. All those people cravenly going after the almighty dollar. Terrible. Then I discovered one of the most effective salespersons out there was – me. What!? How could this be?
It all came full circle a few years ago when I was teaching graduate students in business school. At the end of the term, I asked the class of nearly 50 students if any of them planned to go into sales. Maybe three raised their hands. “Really?” I said. “I have news for you. You’re all in sales. We all are. Most of us just don’t realize it. And I am Exhibit A when it comes to that realization.”
These graduate students saw their lives as having a “higher calling” in their career path. No mere sales job would do for them. In my younger years, working as a journalist, I was determined to embody credibility and never appear to be swayed by outside forces. What I didn’t realize was that I needed to “sell” people on that idea every day. When writing a news story, I had to do it well to compete with any other journalist who might be covering that story. From my first on-camera words I had to make sure people didn’t reach for the remote control and switch the channel. I was selling them on the idea I had the best version of their news options.
Some of this distinction in how we view sales comes down to our view of the topic. If we only think of sales as a crass effort to get money out of another person’s pocket at all costs, we are seeing a very narrow view. Here’s a more realistic definition: You are selling anytime you are convincing another person you have a better idea. You are selling every time you set out to change someone’s mind on a topic.
From there it’s important to understand you can have the best idea or you can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t “sell” others on your idea it will go nowhere! Now you can understand that all of us are salespeople, and we better get good at it or we can get very frustrated quickly.
Those graduate students needed to get out there and sell people on their new skill set. Then, once they got the job, they needed to sell those around them they could do the job day-to-day – and on and on.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we all face the same circumstances or opportunities, but no matter our station in life we should be able to advocate for ourselves. At the end of the day, never be held back by a limited view of what it means to “sell.”