Most people think sales is icky
The truth is that sales is a part of everything we do.
I love selling. I think it is one of the most underrated skills on the planet. Everything is sales and today I am going to tell you why you need to be a better salesperson. I’m also going to tell you how you can do that.
WAIT!! Don’t go! I can imagine what you are thinking right now. “Um, hell no Mike. I hate sales. I never want to be THAT person. I’m outta here!”
Let me tell you why you should change that mindset and give you some sales tools you can actually use. I recognize that most people think of “selling” as a bad thing. There is this visceral feeling that sales is all about manipulating someone into buying something they don’t need. Take a pause. Take a breath. Let that feeling settle.
The truth is that all of us sell. All the time. In all facets of life. We can’t avoid it. Sales is all around us and it is part of our life. Let’s look at a few examples that we don’t immediately think of as sales.
Do you do volunteer work? Do you donate to charities?
At some point you had to be “sold” on those organizations worthiness of your time and or money.
I do a lot of volunteer work in the nonprofit sector. It is one of the ways that I give back and find some meaning in my life. I serve on committees and boards, I discount some of my professional services in order to make a contribution to the fabric of our society.
I come from a 25 year background in sales and business. I often see things differently than those who have spent their life in the non-profit sector. I often hear “We’re non-profit. We don’t sell anything.” Wrong!
I’m here to challenge that way of thinking.
You see as a non-profit with a cause you are 100% in the business of sales whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Whether we are talking about fundraising, grant requests or something a little less obvious like having the clientele you serve buy into your message or service. You are constantly selling people on getting behind your cause. We are all vying for the same limited resources. There are private, for profit corporations that spend billions of dollars to gain the time, attention and dollars of the same consumers you serve.
Isn’t the “product” you “sell” more valuable than a Coca-Cola? Then you better gain at least some skill in selling what it is you do.
If you are a parent you know this. As a parent you are selling all the time.
You are ‘selling’ your kids on the idea of doing their homework.
You are selling them on the idea of cleaning up their rooms.
As a parent I definitely had things I enjoyed doing with my kids more than others. I also had the things I really disliked doing with my kids.
Anyone remember Caillou?? If you know, you know.
If you have ever had to sit and watch that TV show you know exactly what I am talking about. I became very adept at the art of selling my kids on the idea of an alternate TV shows.
My kids are now 18 and 20. Both graduated from high school and both unsure about what path to take. Clearly I have a little bit of experience figuring out which path to take. My challenge today is to “sell” my kids on listening to the wisdom of that experience as they debate career paths and schooling choices. This may be the most difficult thing I have ever had to “sell” and I certainly do not have the magic formula for “closing” this “sale”.
In your intimate partner relationship there is always a modicum of sales. Again understanding that sales isn’t about persuading someone to do something they don’t want but rather it is about helping people with their buying decision. When you and your partner are making decisions on vacation destinations, options for your kids, or even where to go on date night you are actively engaged in the sales process.
The truth is that I make an effort to ‘sell’ my partner on the ‘value’ of being with me every day. You may feel that I shouldn’t have to ‘sell’ my partner on being with me. You are right. I shouldn’t HAVE to, however how much better is my relationship because I choose to make that effort?
How strong would your relationship be if you sought to actively demonstrate your value every single day?
Engaging Men and Boys in Violence Prevention
If you have followed me for awhile you know that I am an advocate for the prevention of violence against women. For those who I work with in the violence prevention space the question often arises “Why should we have to ‘sell’ what we do? Doesn’t it just make sense? Doesn’t everyone want a world with less violence?”
Obviously the answer is an emphatic “Hell Yeah” The reality is that for those who are not living with the direct impacts of domestic violence the message is pretty easy to tune out.
We live in a noisy world. If we want our message to be heard we have to constantly demonstrate the value of listening to what we have to say.
My Sales Pitch
When Colleen was murdered, I started looking hard at how I could best make an impact in the world. How I might somehow make a dent in the problem of violence against women. I reflected on her experience with the justice system and where things could have been done differently to prevent such a tragic outcome. There were certainly a lot of areas where how the ‘system’ handled her case could be improved.
However, it became clear to me that the best way to prevent violence against women was not by improving the justice system. It wasn’t about building a better restraining order. These were simply symptoms to a bigger problem. The real question for me became
“How do we prevent men from getting to this point in the first place?”
I know that if you asked men about violence against women the vast majority of them would tell you that it is not OK. Ever. Period. End of story. However we know the reality is that violence still happens and that the majority of violence in any domain is perpetrated by men. So how do we engage men in the conversation when most of them are not directly part of the problem or at least do not believe that they are part of the problem?
For me the answer is pretty obvious. The solution ties back to a field that I have studied for 25 years in the context of sales and leadership. For decades I have studied the impact emotion has on human behavior.
When violence occurs It is not often an overt desire to be violent. More often than not it is a burst of unmanaged emotion that drives an undesirable behavior. I talk about the science behind this a lot in my Keynotes as well as my TEDx talk.
We make decisions based on emotion, if we do not understand the underlying emotion that drives the decisions we make then we have little hope of living a purposeful life.
I come back to the statement that emotionally connected men do not abuse their partners.
Emotionally connected men do not kill people.
- Emotionally connected men do not kill themselves.
- Emotionally connected men make better fathers.
- Emotionally connected men make better leaders.
- Emotionally connected men live richer lives and do less harm.
The man that killed Colleen was a man that made a decision with very permanent consequences based on a very temporary emotion.
Teaching men to become more self aware when it comes to emotions is not necessarily a compelling sales pitch to someone who does not believe that he currently does not, nor will ever be in an abusive relationship.
A more identifiable problem however is the truth that men everywhere are hurting. Suicide rates, depression, anxiety are at all time highs. Men are seeking solutions to these challenges and I can assure you that there is overlap in the solution.
So the sales pitch, if you will, is for men to become more emotionally connected for their own benefit. For them to become more emotionally vulnerable and to take stock of their feelings and how those feelings impact how they show up in the world.
If you were to ask men if they would like a “product” that will alleviate violence against women most will shrug their shoulders and say “meh, maybe. As long as it doesn’t cost too much”.
However if you ask those same men if they would like a “product” that will fill that gaping hole in their soul, a ‘product’ that will lift the crushing weight of the world off their shoulders, I can assure you that the answer will be a resounding “Hell yes!”
For me it becomes very clear that preventing violence against women is only part of the sales pitch. The more compelling sales pitch for most men is about helping them deal with their own shit. Many men are feeling lost, alone, stuck and unsure how to navigate the world. Many men would be loath to admit that for fear of repercussions from the rest of our kind.
Bell Hooks, an american feminst author says it well.
“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”Bell Hooks
You see if we can help men to deal with their own shit, teach them to heal their past traumas, insecurities and get comfortable with who they are, then much of the violence in this world goes away. Period. End of story.
Sales Tools to take with you
The bottom line is that I am here to sell you on the fact that everything in life is sales. That whatever you want to achieve or whoever you want to be in this world likely relies on your ability to convince (aka sell) another human being on a thought, an idea, a service or a product.
So rather than resist “selling” because you are “not that person”, perhaps it is in your (and the world’s) best interest for you to start to learn to be more effective in the art of persuasion regardless of your formal role or title.
There are thousands of books written on how to be a better salesperson. Hopefully I have convinced you that sales is a skill you need to have in your arsenal. Today let me leave you with a few of the most powerful sales insights that I have come across over the years.
Sales is a listening proposition
This one is important. Especially if we are talking about selling something you are passionate about. It is very, very easy for us to get caught up in promoting our message. In espousing the virtues of the service that we offer. The problem is that when we get wrapped up in vehemently sharing our message, regardless of how powerful it may be to you, we can easily miss what is important to the person you are talking to. The mantra below is one of my favorites when it comes to sales. When I am at my best I use this as a reminder to do more listening and less talking.
Mantra: If you are telling you aren’t selling
The more complex the idea the more difficult it is to get communal buy in. The less complicated you can make your idea, request or product the easier it becomes to demonstrate the value that it holds. This means that it makes a lot of sense to spend some time breaking down your message into simple, bite-sized, digestible pieces. Get intentional about this so that you have your sound bites ready when an opportunity arises. Sit down and write out a simple version of the message that you want to convey. Then experiment. Watch how people react and respond to your message and refine it based on what you notice.
We buy on emotion, justified by logic
We discussed this earlier. There is a ton of scientific evidence that supports the fact that as human beings we make decisions based on emotion. Find ways to make an emotional connection between the person you are persuading and the idea you want them to embrace. When I am on stage I will often tell the story of how, at the age of 26 years old, I bought my first Porsche. The sales person at the dealership knew this insight well.
It didn’t take him long to help make a powerful connection between me and that car. He illustrated how I would feel as a young, up and coming businessman driving around in this fancy car. We buy on emotion. I can assure you that there was nothing logical about buying a Porsche at 26 years old.
I still remember the first time I shared that purchase with my Dad. “What do you think?” I said. He looked at me and said “Yes, it is very nice. Only slightly more expensive than our first house.”
Stories are the most powerful sales tool
Stories are an important part of our culture. It is how ideas are passed from one generation to the next. When it comes to creating a meaningful connection with another human being it turns out that stories are a powerful way of doing that.
People are more likely to remember a story than a fact, or even an idea. I remember when I used to teach an affordable housing workshop. At one point I would share some ideas on how to pay off your mortgage faster. These tips included increasing payment frequency and making lump sum payments.
I demonstrated the ideas by sharing the story of how I removed a single expense from our household. I would tell them about how we used to have a water cooler in the house that we paid a monthly fee to have refilled and maintained. I got rid of the water cooler and immediately applied the monthly savings to our mortgage payments thus carving a few years off of our mortgage.
One day I had a woman come up to me in the grocery store. She had taken the workshop five years earlier. She approached me and said “Hey, you’re that water cooler guy aren’t you?” You see, all those years later, she remembered the story. I wrote another piece about this a few years ago. You can read that here…
Mantra: Sell it with a story
I’ve spent 25 years practicing the art of persuasion. There is always more to learn. Let me know what has been valuable to you in this article. Consider sharing it with someone you know that would find it valuable. Most importantly please share with me some of your favorite insights when it comes to sales and the art of persuasion.