I really enjoyed the movie The Boiler Room. It could be because of my financial planning background where I started my career in sales as a certified financial planner. In truth it’s movies like these that add to the negative stigma that the sales profession has.
Drive around and take a good look at your surroundings. You would be hard pressed to find anything that was not procured through the services of a salesperson or sales support team. Nothing takes place without a sale being made. In any relationship whether personal or professional, we continuously have conversations where I either convince you of my ideas or you convince me of yours. Often times there is gentle persuasion and other times there are ultimatums laid down. In my family relationships, I get to convince them on a weekly basis about TV shows, time to leave the house, how to divide time between family outings and friend visits. It is a daily occurrence to negotiate the utilization of the smartphones and iPad screen time versus outside time, chores, and rules when at the dinner table. These are sales dialogues and negotiations that highlight the very importance of selling as a life skill.
Three Examples from my personal life that I am hoping you can relate to:
I have married my life partner and best friend who has blessed me with three beautiful daughters. If you have daughters, then perhaps you can relate to statements like: “oh, so do you have a shot gun?” “Now you have to worry about all the boys in the neighborhood” etcetera. Hmmm, so let’s put this selling into everyday practice:
Example 1: Research & Preparation
I make a point of getting to know the names of my daughters’ friends. These are friends who are girls and friends who are boys. When one name comes up more often than others (this is a prospect). A statement such as “what do you think of Dylan” is a dead give-away (this is now a sales enquiry – or a lead that has entered the sales pipeline). As a good father (and sales professional) the research begins – At times it is when the friends are around we engage in conversation like asking: what do you do, what grade are you in, what are your ambitions, sports affiliations and of course what basketball team do you support. Many of the answers come from my daughter who I would liken to a champion or client sponsor. Additional research is done by speaking to the friendship circle and of course the sisters are a great resource too. We make observations as you meet parents and teachers and start to mingle at functions and community events. Depending on the outcomes we would coach, encourage, mentor and or recommend our point of view. This point of view is a value proposition and often comes with criteria, risks and rewards. You see selling is life and we need to develop this skill.
Example 2: Value of Good Questions
At any given time, I am a Husband, Father, Business Owner or Facilitator / Coach. In all these roles I am effectively selling my ideas and positioning these along with my experiences and knowledge to the greater good of my family and clients. This will be true in your various “life roles” too. In selling, as in life, questions are the answers. As parents, managers and business owners uncovering what people want and why they want it is critical to our being effective in that role at that particular time. When our first born was 8yrs old, she wanted to know where she really came from. At the time Caryn and I committed to always being truthful, but we also wanted to be sure to give an age appropriate answer. We spoke through what that answer would be and we prepared a response along the following lines: So Teniel, you are an October baby, so in January mom and I went to the Drakensburg Sports resort for a long weekend getaway. As a mommy and daddy we spoke about wanting to have children and it is important that you understand our love only grows as parents when… Okay I will stop here and must confess that it took some effort to make a statement that we were both comfortable with.
Prepared and ready we ate dinner and after that we knew it was time for a teachable moment. The teachable moment that as parents we look forward to but could never prepare the actual timing of.
Dad: So Teniel, mommy tells me that you want to know something!
Teniel (8): Yes daddy, I want to know where do I really come from?
Dad: Teniel, why do you want to know all this?
Teniel (8): well daddy, Carlos comes from Portugal!!
DAD & MOM: Ooooohhh, that is easy my baby. Nono, daddy’s daddy Is from Italy and Nona is Afrikaans. Granny and papa, mommy’s parents are from Bloemfontein in the Free-State Provence where there are lots of farms and nice open places (shew wee…massive change in response here).
Selling like life requires us to ask questions and understand the Why behind What people want. If we do this we’re able to give the appropriate answer that allows the client to feel comfortable with our solution, and also more importantly, can realize that we can fulfill their requirements and this entices them to want to buy.
Example 3: Manage Conflict
The correlation between selling and managing conflicts within relationships is quite obvious. In sales and business, handling conflicts or client hesitations (objections) are simple, not easy to do. We have to acknowledge the objection using a cushion and then we clarify by asking questions so that we can identify if there are any other hidden concerns that may not quite be presenting themselves. An example in my life is when Caryn calls on my mobile as I’m heading home and says pleaeaeasse my Angel will you stop by the shop and buy some groceries. On the way home, to get a call like that, I really must improve my attitude. It is an effort but of course I say sure my gorgeous wifey, what do you need? And she will reply ‘Please get everything for the salad (in our home that is lettuce, tomato, feta cheese, cucumber), ham & cheese for the kids school lunches and milk. Whatever you do don’t forget the milk.’
I get home I greet my wife lovingly and as we’re unpacking the groceries she asks – where’s the milk! When I reply with oh I forgot, she goes from loving spouse to angry mama bear! “ALLL the things I asked you NOT to forget, you went ahead and FORGOT THE MILK!”
Selling is a life skills right – Cushion & Clarify: So my reply would be “Of course milk was important when you mentioned that to me sorry my babes, You never react like this please tell me what is actually wrong here?”
Caryn Is able to express – “you know Neville YOUR KIDS don’t respect me when I asked him to do stuff, I always feel like I’m fighting with them everything seems to be an effort and I’m so frustrated.” This brings me to the realization that the problem is not the milk the problem really is tension between parent and children. Now that we know it’s not a personal attack on me for forgetting the milk, it’s really the situation that she finds herself. Caryn is my life partner and business partner and because I identified the real concern, I don’t take the initial response personally. I am in a position to respond as follows – let’s talk to the children at dinner and I’ll make sure that we put some rules in place where we all respect one another. Just give me a little more information so that we can make sure the girls know where they stand and if they don’t tow-the-line, we can agree on what the punishment will be for them. Would that be OK for you?
We use these skills as sales professionals and business consultants. We apply these based on experiences and upbringing and many of us are successful despite how we communicate. When you are in a life situation or selling situation, remember to be your best self. Just so you know, I am a sales professional and proud of it. Selling is a life skill.