How to Get People to Your Way of Thinking Every Time

Everybody knows a sales job when they see one. No one wants to be sold. For those of us in IT and accounting, we also abhor being the sales person. Somehow we think that sales is beneath us.. or that we can’t bring ourselves to sell something to anyone. Being married to a salesperson, I get sold on stuff every single day, sometimes obviously, sometimes completely unsuspectingly. So if there is anything that I know, it’s identifying when someone’s pulling a sales job on me.

 

Oh, I’m Not in Sales. I’m in IT

Back some years ago, I took a sabbatical from IT. I went to sell insurance alongside my husband, who at the time, was building his insurance practice. It was there that I got my first taste of sales training. If there was anything that put me completely out of my comfort zone, it was that. But after months of being immersed in the world where we ‘eat what we kill,’ and more importantly, if we don’t kill, we don’t eat,’ I managed to wrap my head around the whole sales thing. Let me clarify: I made every mistake in the book. Thankfully, I also learned to grow past those awkward sales mistakes.

 

 

When I returned to consulting, a year and a half later, my hard earned sales training stuck with me. It was suddenly like I had gained an edge over everybody else. I felt confident. Solid. Secure. With my new tool belt, I could defuse any stressful situation. I could much more easily convey my ideas in a manner that would others get on board. In short, it was…. awesome.

 

Here are some of the top lessons I learnt.

1. When You’ve Sold it, Stop Selling

Have you ever been in a stand-up* where a guy is asked a simple question? He answers the question in the first 10 seconds, but continues to drone on for the following 4 minutes illustrating in intimate detail the reasons why they did what they did and then what happens afterwards with all the possible outcomes in every alternate universe. Most people are lost. They don’t really show it, since they don’t care to manage the meeting. They’re just waiting their turn to go so they can get back to their desks and do what they said they’d do in their allotted 30 seconds.

The one cardinal rule that I learnt in sales is that when you’ve sold it, stop selling. The hottest sunbeams are the shortest. Say your piece. Be done with it. When you see that they got the point, shut up. Anything further creates more opportunity for you to put your foot in your mouth, or to create an opening for objection.

*stand-up is a meeting that should take no more than 15 – 20 minutes. Everyone in the team takes 30 seconds to regale the group on his daily accomplishments or activities. Then shuts up, so the next person can go.

 

2. Build the Relationship First

More importantly, build the relationship for the sake of the relationship, not for the sale.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been guilty of this on multiple occasions in my naiveté. I’ve be-friended people only to build them up so that I can sell something to them. Those weren’t my proudest moments. I was a rookie.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it is supremely annoying, and fake I might add, when someone starts befriending you only so that they can sell you something. The rookie worst is that they befriend you and right away they pitch you their product. When I think back to the times I did this to my poor victims, I cringe.

 

 

Build the relationship. Build your network. You never know from where the sale is going to come. The larger your network is, the better the probability it is for you get your sale. This can apply to products, ideas, leads, contract opportunities and more.

 

3. Know what Drives People

I once knew a person who claimed that she could sell snow to an Inuit. I get that it’s a claim on what a great salesperson she is. But really, the bottom line is that you can’t sell to someone without understanding what drives them. On the flip side, the good news is that you can’t truly be sold anything if it doesn’t really strike your chord. You might be thinking of all of the times that you have been sold something you really didn’t want. Let me clarify. While you can’t be sold something you truly don’t want, you can be bullied into a sale. I’ve seen many a salesperson, PM, teammate who can just barrel forward, cramming his vision down your throat. That’s not sales, ladies and gentlemen. That’s bullying. The difference is, of course, huge. You can easily tell when the idea or product was truly sold or bullied when the person steps away, and the idea is embodied by the remaining team. Bullying doesn’t have longevity.

If you truly want to strike a chord, know your people. Know what drives them. Just because you know what they need, you don’t necessarily know what drives them. What drives them could be completely different. When you can identify what is important to them, I mean their values – not just you think they need, you will truly speak to them.

 

4. Tell the Story

If there is one skill that kids learn in school that follows them for the rest of their lives, it’s story-telling. Humans are more emotional beings than logical beings. All the logic in the world can’t compare to a good story about a fellow human and their experience. If you want to convey your message effectively, and persuade someone into your way of thinking, tell them a story.

 

A Lesson from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs understood this. In the unveiling of each new product at Macworld, he would go to great lengths to tell a story. Remember when he unveiled the Mac? It wasn’t just the unveiling of a new computer. He created a theatrical experience.

 

 

The magic of sales isn’t in the elaborate question layering, the sparkly smile, or the slickness of the individual. The magic is in the story. The showmanship. This doesn’t have to just limit to the showing a product. The same thing can be applied to presenting an idea to a group of stakeholders. As with all good stories, there’s always the prelude, the conflict, then the big Hollywood ending. The big Hollywood ending is your bright idea.

 

The next time you find yourself preparing for a big presentation to your stakeholders, or steering committee, take these lessons to heart. Everyone needs to be a salesperson sometimes. The most effective consultants are the ones who embrace it.


Also published on Medium.

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