No matter what our title is, we are all salespeople.
Whenever we are trying to…
- persuade others
- lobby for our point of view
- satisfy a disgruntled customer
- ask for a raise…
we are selling.
Below I offer nine suggestions (from sales training) as reminders on how we can all be better at selling even when we are not in sales.
- Be Proactive: If there is a problem, issue, or delay, we need to tell the other person before they find out and have to ask us. In negotiation language, being proactive maximizes our leverage, while asking for or explaining something after the fact weakens our leverage.
- Keep It Simple: We understand our position or issue; but the person with whom we are communicating likely does not (although they will usually say that they do). As such, we need to keep it simple and keep it clear so that they can understand us. A confused person does not buy anything nor change their mind.
- Pre-Plan and Prepare: Good pre-planning and preparation ensures that we are keeping our message simple and clear. In sales training, we first focus on understanding the customer’s hot buttons – what really matters most to the customer and will determine their decision. We then prepare scripts and do role playing to ensure that we address these hot buttons as succinctly and clearly as possible. Similarly, when preparing for a persuasive discussion, we need to prepare and practice to ensure that our key points will be understood and that we are addressing the customer’s hot buttons.
- Be Liked: The salesperson adage is that customers generally buy from people they like. So, we need to ensure that we are liked and respected. This means being kind and respecting the other person.
- Provide Compliments: We all like to be complimented. Providing compliments, even some flattery, to the other person helps them to like us and keeps them in an open frame of mind where they can change their viewpoint to support ours. If we lead off with negativity, the walls go up and the person will not be convinced.
- Think Win-Win: In sales, we teach that the customer is only listening to one radio station, WII – FM (What’s In It For Me). Similarly in persuading and convincing, we need to look at the customer’s viewpoint and hot buttons, think about what benefit they will gain from supporting us, and present our arguments as Win – Win that will benefit both of us.
- Be Humble: Despite what we see on television and in films, the arrogant salesperson usually loses. Humility is far more fruitful. This includes anticipating the other person’s concerns or issues and proactively addressing them. This includes being less certain: we can lead with questions; we can present our ideas as a suggestion not a demand or requirement; we can present facts or insights as a reminder of “what they already know.” Finally, we are humble when we let the other person feel like they offered the solution. As former FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss writes:
Persuasion is about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea.
- Build Trust: We build trust by fully listening to the other person and respecting their viewpoint. We build trust by being credible and having a strong history of having done what we had said we were going to do. We build trust by discussing and admitting weaknesses in our product or argument (and then showing how the positive attributes overwhelm these weaknesses). And we build trust by setting up a commitment or deliverable and then fulfilling that commitment on-time and with good quality.
- Recap and Follow up: At the end of the meeting, we need to re-cap what was said, specifically any progress made, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Then we need to follow up in writing to record and confirm what was said and agreed to in the meeting.
By following these nine suggestions, we all can sell our ideas and ourselves better. This better selling ensures that our good ideas are adopted and implemented, advances our careers, and moves our companies forward.