A New Take on Selling — And Why It’s So Important

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Many small business owners hate selling, because it brings to mind visions of folks selling fake remedies, “lemon” used cars, conning Grandma out of her last $500, etc.

Some people I’ve met, myself included, have even wondered if it’s worth it to be in business at all because so much selling is required. 

However, we’re always selling something — in our personal lives, even in those traditional 9-5 jobs. 

Related: Want to Sell Your Product or Service More Effectively? Stop Being So Optimistic.

Not convinced? Allow me to illustrate.

I was a newspaper reporter for 17 years and I never thought of myself as a salesperson. Sales, marketing and advertising were other departments.

So I thought.

Reflecting back on my career, I realize I was selling constantly. I just didn’t call it that.

How many times did I call someone trying to get an interview? Too many to count.

How many times did I reassure a reticent interview subject that I would treat them fairly in my article, which led to them agreeing to talk to me “on the record”?

How many times did I ask a lawyer or other person involved in a case to make a comment, knowing that 9 times out of 10 the answer was “no”?

How many times did my editors and I strive to get a story out there before the competition?

Especially near the end of my full-time newspaper journalism career, reporters also had to go on social media to interact with the readers aka customers. This was in hopes that they wouldn’t run away when we put paywalls up on our websites.

All of that is selling.

Even in other jobs I had outside of journalism, I was selling and just didn’t know it.

When I worked as a freelance TV and movie producer, I constantly had to “sell” people into joining our crew — sometimes for low or no pay.

When I worked as an assistant or a transcriptionist across multiple industries, it felt like I was constantly trying to prove I was worthy of a promotion.

Not to mention all the selling that goes into getting an interview or a job in the first place.

Every career involves selling. Academia. Education. Retail. Customer service. Medicine. Law. Even being a religious leader.

Related: The Anatomy of a Sales Pipeline: The Key to Growth

And in our personal lives, aren’t we also selling?

We’re constantly negotiating prices, but we’re also constantly negotiating relationships.

Romantic relationships, especially the beginning stages, require some degree of selling our best selves and convincing the other person to give us a chance.

Even after years or decades of marriage, sometimes you have to compromise on vacation destinations or even simple things like what TV show to watch or what to eat for dinner.

If you’re a parent, you’re selling in a sense when you try to get your child to behave.

When a friend crosses your boundaries and you have to have that uncomfortable conversation, that’s also a type of sales.

The only thing I can think of that wouldn’t involve selling is living in a monastery or convent — but you have to make a pretty solid case to be admitted.

Which, of course, is selling.

Sales fills so many of us with dread because it feels foreign, slimy, sleazy, inauthentic; you choose the word.

But it’s something we already do in our everyday lives.

Related: The 10 Biggest Mistakes in Sales

The key is to sell in a way that serves others and ourselves. Don’t pressure people into buying; if it’s not acceptable to pressure a woman who already said “no” into a date, then why is it any better to hound someone to death who is clearly not interested in what we have to offer?

If you wouldn’t do it in your personal life, then don’t do it in your business.

If you would feel ashamed if your mother, grandmother, minister, mentor or other respected person caught you doing it, then don’t do it.

No one learns to speak a foreign language in a day, so we shouldn’t expect ourselves to become master salespeople overnight. Repetition, mentoring, study, patience and consistency are the keys to learning a foreign language (I’ve learned five at a very good or fluent level and parts of about a dozen others) and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Sales is the same concept, especially since it’s not a solo — it’s a duet and sometimes a trio or quartet depending on your business model. You can do everything perfectly and wind up out of sync through no fault of your own.

Embrace sales as an opportunity. It’s a type of dance. Sometimes you’ll flow together nicely. Other times, it’s awkward or outright messed up. Sometimes it takes time to build trust. Other times, it’s an instant connection.

The key is to take a firm “no” as a “no” and a “maybe” or “I need to think about it” as an invitation to continue the dance…or at least asking for permission to continue.