Everyone is in Sales

In a recent post I quoted Warren Buffett who said, “The most important skill in finance is salesmanship.”

I said that I completely agreed with this statement, but it took me a while to come to this understanding. A few people asked so I decided to expand on these thoughts.

I always used to assume that sales were shady or a way to scam people out of their money. It was only a tactic that used car salespeople used to try to rip you off.

I certainly never looked at myself as a salesman. Then I tried to find a job and my older brother gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “You’re not selling yourself enough. You have to play up your accomplishments better.”

Once you start to look at the world this way you realize that many things in life are really about sales.

In a recent podcast with James Altucher, Seth Godin talked about the difference between advertising and marketing. Back in the Mad Men era of the 1960s advertising and marketing were the basically the same thing. And the more advertising you did the better you did with your customers and brand because that was the only game in town.

This worked until the 1990s when it all fell apart because of technological advances:

Marketing stopped being about advertising and it started being about a lot of things. And what I discovered in the process of doing my work is that it started in the square that was clearly marked as marketing. But what I discovered is every time you made that square bigger and bigger and bigger it got more and more effective. Because marketing is everything. It’s the promises we make, the work we do, the people we connect with, the folks we lead, the hard decisions we make, our values, our ability change the status quo…that’s all marketing.

In many ways, sales and marketing really are everything:

  • Finding a good job is about selling yourself and your strengths.
  • Finding a spouse is about marketing your good qualities (and hiding your bad qualities for as long as you can — kidding, kind of).
  • To put forward the thoughts and ideas that you care about you have to be able to convince other people that your opinions matter. This is especially true when you’re first coming up in the working world and have little-to-no experience.
  • Networking plays a huge role for many when finding a job these days so you have to have the ability to convince others that they should make a sale on your behalf.

Just about everyone is selling a good or a service, whether they realize it or not. And right or wrong, people are susceptible to a good story or narrative. So if you’re like me and weren’t born to always be closing, this is something you have to work on.

In The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, Blair Enns discusses the importance of sales:

We cannot be in business without embracing selling. We must, therefore, overcome the stereotypes and learn to do it properly – professionally.

Enns says that to sell is to:

  • Help the unaware
  • Inspire the interested
  • Reassure those who have formed intent

He continues:

The first thing we must understand if we are to approach selling properly and respectfully is that the client’s motivation, and by necessity, our role as salesperson, evolves as he progresses through the buying cycle. He moves from unaware of his problem or opportunity, to being interested in considering the opportunity, and finally, to intent on acting on it. As he progresses in this manner, our role must change from one of helping, to inspiring, and ultimately to reassuring.

The psychology of buying is the psychology of changing. Selling, therefore, is change management. The very best salespeople are respectful, selective facilitators of change. They help people move forward to solve their problems and capitalize on their opportunities. The rest talk people into things.

So selling doesn’t have to be a scam like many would have you believe. There are perfectly acceptable forms of sales that don’t require you to rip someone off. The first step in the process is actually having a skill, solution, product or service that others will find useful. From there it really depends how effectively you can communicate how your skill-set can fulfill someone else’s needs.

Everyone is in sales.

Many just don’t know it yet.

Change Your Mind, Choose Your World & More Genius Advice From Seth Godin (Altucher Confidential)
The Win Without Pitching Manifesto

Further Reading:
Ciadini’s 6 Principles of Influence & Persuasion

Now here’s what I’ve been reading lately:


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