I’m often asked for the secret to becoming great at sales. How do you close deals? How do you win people over and what’s the trick to getting them to say, “yes?”
At the very core, selling is an act of service. Salespeople are offering customers a solution to their problems. Sales mean helping someone fulfill a need. Entrepreneurs are all about solutions. Remember: solving a problem is an act of service.
How many of us think sales is service? Most of us think sales are the opposite. We imagine the cliché of the Glengarry Glen Ross salesman: the guy who’s “always closing,” who’s chasing leads, who’s ruthless in getting the deal.
But to truly become great at sales, you’re required to become the antithesis of the “used car dealer” stereotype. Truly great salespeople know that to win people over, you need to spend less time convincing and more time discovering. Spend less time talking, more time listening. Less time swaying and more time engaging.
When I think of sales and service, it calls to mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
You don’t need to hold an MBA to become a great salesperson. Industry training and knowledge aside, to be really great at sales, what you need is to build up high emotional intelligence.
But if you step back and really consider it, you’re giving your customers a gift as well. You’re giving them a solution to their problem. You’re helping them resolve an issue they’re facing.
The best salespeople realize it’s their role to serve. Their prospects and clients are real people to them – not simply a potential closed deal. They take the time to get to know who they are. They understand their hearts, they empathize and recognize their intentions.
Truly exceptional sales leaders help people solve problems or achieve goals – whether that means recommending a good dentist or selling a service. It’s that love of humanity and desire to better the lives of others that exists in the heart of every great salesperson.
I speak to many entrepreneurs who seem to forget sales are an integral and vital part of their business model. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean simply being inventive and forward-thinking. You might be a genius at product development and business logistics, but if you can’t sell your concepts to the right people, success is nearly impossible.
Being an entrepreneur means learning to sell. Whether your company can afford to hire a sales team or you are a one-person operation, the buck stops with you. When you’re the leader, you must learn to share ideas and get people on board.
Yet, many entrepreneurs balk at the very idea of sales. They avoid selling and even actively rally against it. Why? Perhaps they feel their ideas and products should sell themselves (in truth, even the greatest ideas and solutions need to be enthusiastically shared), or perhaps they cringe at becoming the cliché “typical salesperson.”
Entrepreneurs may fear rejection of their ideas. After all, for entrepreneurs, business is personal—this is your concept, your product, your invention. Your blood, sweat, tears, and hours of hard work went into your company, and requesting buy-in puts you in a position of vulnerability. You could be rejected.
You may find yourself falling into a scarcity mentality, where you believe there’s not enough success to go around. You may doubt the merit of your ideas or fear what you’re offering isn’t good enough. This is called a fixed mindset, as opposed to a growth mindset.
Yet, growth is often part of the entrepreneurial spirit. An entrepreneur embraces challenges, seeks and learns from feedback, looks at other’s success as inspiration, and persists even in the face of setbacks. A growth mindset is a core part of innovation and entrepreneurship. These same traits are also at the heart of great salespersonship.
If you’re ready to test the idea that sales is service, conduct an experiment. Imagine you’re taking on the role of Director of Sales for your company or organization. In this role, everyone you meet is someone you are meant to help in some way.
Perhaps the way you’re meant to help them is by selling your product or service. You could also be meant to help in another manner as well. Every time you meet a new person over the next week, think: How can I help them? How can I be of service to them?
This sales as service approach will change the way you interact with prospects. You’ll notice your questions become more pointed and personal. Your engagement becomes deeper, more genuine, and more heartfelt.
You may also find you’re listening more intently. If you know you’re meant to help every person you meet, you immediately begin listening with your heart. You’ll start to embrace a greater purpose and meaning behind your interactions. After all, it’s no longer just to make a sale or close the deal. It’s to help better a life. Perhaps there’s a product or service involved, or maybe helping them involves something else. The point is to embrace the larger vision of serving others.
If you want to improve your sales skills, shifting your mindset is the first place to start. Look for new opportunities to practice and grow your salespersonship. Learn to engage with others, listen, and embrace the idea that sales is service!
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.