Sales, as an occupation has a terrible reputation – most likely a result of the dubious characters we’ve all encountered at some point, particularly when buying homes, cars or insurance.
However, the art of selling is one of the most valuable skills we can learn—in business and in life.
Those of us who know how to sell have a distinct advantage over those who don’t (or won’t). We’re able to find and secure opportunities, make connections, earn whatever income we choose and basically create whatever life we want. That’s an advantage I definitely want my kids to have when they go out into the world.
The success I achieved in my music career, that led to me working with artists like Elton John and Eric Clapton was not because I was the greatest guitar player or singer in the world. It was because I was an experienced salesperson. I knew how to pick up the phone, make the calls and ask for the opportunities that many people are either too scared or don’t have the skills to ask for.
Selling is underrated. These days we don’t even like using the word ‘sales.’ Instead we choose to wrap it up in fancier terms like ‘business development,’ ‘account management’ or ‘marketing’ because saying we work in ‘sales’ makes us somehow feel dirty or sleazy, like we’re ‘after’ something. It takes us back to memories of the shiny-suited guy on the doorstep, flogging his vacuum cleaners or encyclopedias, with his briefcase strategically placed in the doorway so Mum or Dad couldn’t close it in his face.
Today there’s still a part of us that perceives selling as the pushing of products, negotiating of deals and the use of charm and manipulation to persuade people to buy things they don’t really want or need.
But sales in its simplest form (and done well), is actually about solving problems and helping people. Someone has a problem and you offer a helpful solution in the form of a product or service to fix it. Like helping someone find the perfect new car that’s small, convenient to park but offers enough boot space to throw the golf clubs in the back. Now what’s so sleazy about that?
Once we realise that sales is about solving problems, it becomes easier to put ourselves out there, because instead of ‘forcing ourselves upon someone’, we’re merely offering to help. It’s a small but significant mindset shift that marks the difference between success and failure for many business owners.
I’ve been a sales person for 25 years and I’ve never ‘sold’ anything in my life. But I have listened to people, learnt as much as I can about their business challenges and worked hard to develop solutions that help them overcome problems. I’ve never forced anyone into buying something they don’t need. Instead, I present an opportunity to solve a problem and my customer decides whether they want it or not. Perhaps this makes me not the best sales person in the world, but I seem to have done okay as a problem solver.
Around the dinner table I often ask my kids ‘what problems did you solve today?’ I’ll sometimes get a blank look, but occasionally they’ll offer a story about an obstacle that was overcome during the day. Regardless of the answer, by asking the question I’m planting a seed that much of life is about identifying and solving problems.
I want my kids to learn how to make the phone calls, clearly articulate their thoughts and ideas and identify opportunities where they can offer their unique skills and talents to add value in the world. This is the art of selling – not a dirty word or something to be ashamed of, but a life changing valuable skill.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Is selling a skill you’d like kids to learn? Do you think they learn it at school? If not, would you like them to? Please leave a comment below or hit ‘reply’ and share your thoughts with me.
Until next time,
Lisa Nimmo is an author, speaker and proud salesperson based in Wellington New Zealand. If you’d like to know more visit lisanimmo.com
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Lisa Nimmo is an author, poet and mum of two teenagers, based in Wellington New Zealand. To receive more poems like these direct to your inbox, enter your details here: