Ask any successful business owner about the one skill that contributed to their success. Without a doubt, they’d say “sales skills.”
You might be thinking, “This doesn’t apply to me – I’m not a salesperson or business owner!” But if you think about selling as explaining the logic and benefits of a decision, then everyone needs sales skills.
It’s the art of persuasion. The job of a salesperson is to get customers to buy products and services. To convince people that their product is the best, a salesperson needs to gain customers’ trust in a short period of time. This is true whether you’re peddling a product, a service, or your personal brand.
Sales skills can help you win friends and influence people, no matter what your job is.
Here are five rules of thumb as you develop your sales skills.
1. Build relationships first.
Before making any requests, build trust with people. Try to find out what they’re interested in by observing, listening, and asking questions. Instead of using “I” and “me” in conversations, veer toward “you” and “we.” Show genuine interest in their personality, work, and hobbies.
As you build this relationship, nurture trust and others will naturally want to reciprocate. No matter what goals you try to achieve, focus first on your relationships with people. People aren’t easily persuaded to believe in things; but they do believe in other people they grow to trust.
2. Tell compelling stories.
Here’s the thing: “hard-selling facts” are emotionless and they will not make people feel interested.
Spin your ideas creatively to catch people’s attention. Tell stories that touch people’s hearts, that make people feel happy, or surprised, or even sad or angry. Take Steve Jobs’s presentation on the iPod as an example:
I’ve got a pocket right here. Now this pocket’s been the one that your iPods going in traditionally. The iPod and the iPod mini fit great in there. You ever wondered what this pocket’s for? I’ve always wondered that. Well now we know because this is the new iPod nano.
This is a great example of a spin that induces surprise, and it keeps you hooked line by line.
A restaurant with a run-down interior can turn people off even if the food is out of this world. Even if an idea is undeniably great, it really has to be packaged in an equally captivating way. Otherwise, it will just be another great idea forgotten.
3. Take brutal rejections calmly.
Even the best salesperson has experienced many rejections from customers. Rejection does not equal failure. Rejections are opportunities to learn. Maybe the approach or the timing wasn’t quite right. If you can recognize this, you can see your own performance more clearly. And then you can identify what to do better next time.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and now the artistic director for Condé Nastworked was a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, early in her career. But after she did a lot of edgy shoots, Tony Mazalla fired her. She then became fashion editor at Viva and had a tremendously successful career afterward.
Rejections are common: ideas, relationships, you name it. If you can accept that rejects are opportunities to learn and grow, you are on the path to success.
4. Anticipate questions, and have answers ready.
Nobody wants to work with someone who’s unreliable. A truly experienced salesperson should make you feel like they know everything about their product, and that they understand clearly what you need.
Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. What kinds of things are they interested in? What might they be concerned about?
Having answers ready to go makes people feel that you’re capable and trustworthy. And as you build relationships with others, demonstrating how reliable you are inspires real and lasting trust.
5. Be proactive in seeking opportunities.
A good salesperson never waits for opportunities to come by. Because salespeople usually have a challenging target to achieve, they actively look for customers. They use all of their connections and resources to help reach their target. And they seize every possible opportunity to introduce their ideas to others.
Joe Girard, known as the “best salesman ever,” is a car salesman. He actively looked for opportunities to sell cars in big events, looking for potential customers and getting more and more referrals. If you do something great for one customer, you’re likely to reach about 250 of their friends, who are all potential customers.
Waiting passively makes people miss out on a lot of potential opportunities. Stay alert, so you notice when and where to introduce your ideas.
Be a salesperson of your own life.
No matter what your job is, it’s important to work hard to cultivate your own ability to influence others. The more you can inspire trust and emotions, take rejection, prepare well, and seek out opportunities, the more professional success and personal satisfaction you’ll find.