How can we all sell more effectively?
I was asked to speak at a media organisation’s sales conference recently on the psychology of selling and the mindset that it takes to succeed. Towards the end of the day, there was a panel discussion in which five people (who had all been nominated by their colleagues as inspirational people) took questions from the room.
One of the questions asked of the panel was: ‘What qualities do you most need to succeed in sales?’ I’ll tell you what a few of the panelists said, but I found it particularly interesting as their answers mirrored three of the skills that I’d identified in my research into high achievers in my book E is for Exceptional. Here were their answers as well as my thoughts:
- Having a long-term focus – not just in selling to customers but also in your own career. The panelist said that some sales people have quite a short-term focus: on selling to a customer to meet the month’s target, but he suggested that the most successful sales people think about longer-term relationships. However, the panelist said that having a long-term focus isn’t just about sales but also a sales person’s career – on focusing on learning the right skills and getting the right experience for the long haul years and years on rather than worrying too much about the next promotion. In my E is for Exceptional book, I call this skill Visioning – having a clear picture of where you want to go both professionally and personally and then working out the steps you need to get there.
- Integrity. This panelist said that the very best sales people have the integrity to probe customers properly to find out their needs rather than just trying to sell them the first thing they can. I argue in my book that high achievers need the skill of Citizenship, which is ultimately about making good decisions that set an example to those around you. In an age of increasing transparency and customers using Facebook and Twitter, we all need to think: ‘Am I happy for everyone – other customers, my colleagues and future employers – to know about what I’ve done here today?’
- The ability to bounce back. Selling can be tough. It can involve a lot of rejection when customers keep saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’. So sales people need a lot of mental tenacity and resilience. In E is for Exceptional, I call this skill Centredness – the ability to keep our spirits high and recover from setbacks and failures.
A senior figure at the conference who doesn’t work in sales said that it surprised her how much of her job was actually about selling. Even if you don’t sell to customers or clients, you still have to sell your ideas, proposals and plans constantly to colleagues and bosses. So maybe we’re all in sales after all.