People sell products.
People sell services.
People sell ideas.
People also buy products, services, and ideas.
When a sale occurs, there’s usually been some interaction between the buyer and the seller that took place beforehand. However, in practice there’s so much more behind this seemingly simple interaction.
It involves a lot of marketing, planning, adjusting, and analyzing on the side of the seller, and it includes a lot of research, considering options, budgeting, and asking questions on the side of the buyer.
To help you understand the different aspects of the sales process, the skills necessary to engage in them, as well as various sales strategies and methods you may use, we’ve prepared this detailed article.
Let’s dive straight into it, shall we?
What Are Sales?
A sale is a transaction between two or more parties in which the buyer receives tangible or intangible goods, services, or assets in exchange for money. In some cases, other assets are paid to a seller. In the financial markets, a sale can also refer to an agreement that a buyer and seller make regarding the price of a security.
Regardless of the context, a sale is essentially a contract between the buyer and the seller of the particular good or service in question.
In this section, we usually tend to include our own reasoning and interpretations regarding the theme we’re discussing. However, we find sales to be a pretty straightforward topic, and so we wouldn't like to theorize so much about something that’s so practical and simply highly pragmatic.
That said, we do like to provide some statistics about sales before we move on to the section which follows.
Whether you’re reading this article to gain a better understanding of sales as a process in general, or you need specific information to assist your sales - going through some useful sales statistics can’t do any harm:
- more than 40% of salespeople say that prospecting is the most difficult aspect of the whole sales process, followed by closing (36%), and then finally qualifying (22%);
- just 24% of sales emails end up being opened;
- email is said to be almost 40x more effective than Facebook or Twitter when it comes to new customer acquisition;
- 60% of customers say “No” up to 4 times before saying “Yes”; however, 48% of salespeople don’t make any follow-up attempts;
- almost 6 in 10 salespeople claim that once they understand what works for them, they don’t make any changes;
- 92% of all consumers are said to trust referrals from individuals they know;
- according to buyers, here’s how you can enjoy a positive sales experience:
- listen to their needs (69%);
- don't be pushy (61%);
- give relevant information (61%);
- respond in a timely manner (51%);
- here are some of the most serious challenges salespeople deal with:
- establishing urgency (42%);
- getting in touch with prospects (37%);
- overcoming price objections (35%).
Example of a sales conversation
There are many ways how a typical sales conversation may go. Some may be smooth, others more challenging; some sales have a positive outcome, others a negative one. Here’s an example of how a sales conversation may go:
Salesperson: "I wanted to follow up on the proposal we submitted and answer any questions or concerns you might have."
Buyer: (To herself) "Their proposal didn't address my needs and I am leaning towards another company. Should I share my real concerns or just tell her everything is fine? I am really not in the mood for another sales pitch right now."
Buyer: (To salesperson) "I don't have any questions. Everything looks fine. I have a call right now and I need to jump off."
Salesperson: (To herself) "Sounds like something is a bit off. Should I probe more and see what is going on?"
Salesperson: "Great to hear! I look forward to hearing your decision when you are ready."
This example not only shows how a sales conversation between a buyer and a seller looks like, but it shows the ongoing inner dialogue both parties have as well. They’re both trying to assess where the other person stands in regards to the sales, and are trying to find a way to navigate the conversation smoothly and politely while managing to keep their views.
Finally, the open conversation the two of them engage in doesn’t necessarily reflect their inner dialogue and truthful thoughts and concerns.
Definition of Sales
- a way of generating income;
- usually controlled by some regulations;
- a neat transaction between a person who buys and another one who sells;
- very important for each business;
- gross or net:
- gross sales - said to include all of the sales, which is before any deductions or refunds get removed from the amount on the whole;
- net sales - denote the revenue made after deductions and/or refunds, and are said to truly reflect the earnings one has made;
- equivalent with the market demand;
- always permanent (a lot of times you can exchange the thing you’ve bought, get a refund, and so on);
- calculated manually (there are tons of apps and softwares to help you stay on top of your finances).
The History of Sales
We’re probably not going to be wrong to claim that sales is one of the oldest occupations people have been exposed to and engaged in. And we’re talking about an important process, as sales have shaped the way we buy and sell stuff, which is pretty much how we acquire a lot of the things we use on a daily basis.
That said, there are different historical periods, hence different types and attitudes toward selling. For instance, some of the earliest mentions of “selling” are connected to the name “Snake Oil Selling” (around 1780). Snake oil selling denotes a fraudulent selling activity coming from the Chinese laborers who took part in building the First Continental Railroad.
Even nowadays the term “snake oil” refers to deceptive marketing, a scam, or some sort of a health care remedy fraud.
Now, if we focus on the act of selling, and if we go way back, it’s only logical that at first people simply bartered (they exchanged services or goods for other services and goods). And this happened without using any money.
When the Industrial Revolution, which started in 1720, took place, a lot of business-related changes occurred. It transformed the economy based on handcrafts and mostly agriculture into factories, larger scale industries, and machines. The new way of organizing work paved the way for new businesses to blossom.
The next big thing that happened a bit later on (in 1916) was the first World Salesmanship Congress in Detroit. One of the most important suggestions was that sales people had to work on gaining the customer’s trust. Here are the closing lines of the speech given by Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, during the congress meeting:
Lift your eyes to the horizons of business: do not look too close at the little processes with which you are concerned, but let your thoughts and your imaginations run abroad throughout the whole world, and with the. inspiration of the thought that you are Americans and are meant to carry liberty and justice and the principles of humanity wherever you go, go out and sell goods that will make the world more comfortable and more happy, and convert them to the principles of America.
In 1925 came the Great Depression which is when people truly struggled to make a living, so things were tough. A lot of people tried sales because it didn’t require a lot of qualifications or training, and they usually tried calling on prospects door to door.
In the 1970s, the so-called spin selling appeared (SPIN = Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need) which engaged customers a lot more in the sales process.
A lot of things changed with the appearance of the Internet, though. Even without going into many details, it’s not hard to imagine what that looks like. With the internet came tons of online shops, social media profiles that promote their products/services, influencer marketing, and buying a product/service with one click, to name a few. AI has a huge role, too. Just consider all the chatbots that appear on eCommerce websites when you’re trying to make a purchase, or the recommendations you get based on the keywords you research.
Now that we briefly went over the history of sales, we’ll continue with how sales have evolved. Is it simply the technology and the methods which have changed? In any case, one thing is certain - no matter how the sales appear to be, both buyers and sellers have to agree to the specific terms in order for the transaction to occur.
Why Are Sales Important?
Sales matter because they:
- provide overall business growth and expansion (this depends on how large the business already is, what efforts are put into growing it, how many people are working toward this goal, and so on);
- keep the wheels rolling;
- give customers/clients the solutions/services/products they seek;
- drive revenue (no sales means no revenue);
- enable sellers to develop adequate selling skills (such as negotiation, persuasion, determination, active listening, perseverance, understanding one’s body language, emotional intelligence, patience, and so on);
- keep the country’s economy strong and stable;
- show whether a company’s marketing strategies, salespeople, and other employees are doing their work properly (in essence, they’re a significant indicator);
- help you keep up or be ahead of your competition;
- show business owners if they’re on the right track with their companies/organizations (in other words, if their sales drop or they’re losing clients, it means something’s wrong, and they need to re-think their selling approach and strategies).
How To Increase Sales?
There are many ways to increase your current sales and secure more revenue for yourself and your employees. Here are some suggestions to assist you with it:
- Think about introducing a new service/product. What else can you offer to your clients/customers? You can even prepare a questionnaire and email it to them to see their suggestions.
- Be innovative even with your already existing products/services. For instance, what new color can you add to the most popular dress that everybody orders? What new feature can you add to the software you’re selling?
- Think about attracting more customers/clients (but don’t forget about your already existing ones by taking them for granted).
- Try to work on expanding your sales channels. For instance, you can use resellers if you haven’t so far, come up with a detailed e-business strategy, consider adding some retail outlets, and so on.
- Work on your marketing strategies. If you wish to take your business and sales to the next level, then you need to do the same with your current marketing strategies.
- Consider changing your prices. However, be careful not to exaggerate them in such a manner that your clients/customers “leave you” for a competitor.
- Don’t forget about the importance of customer service. Every buyer out there appreciates high-quality service and responsiveness. In essence, people value when they’re being helped.
- Check what hasn’t been working so far for your brand and eliminate it from your business. You can even consult experts, you don’t have to do everything on your own. It’s just the matter of finding the right people who can help you with any issues or concerns you might be having.
Examples of Sales in Everyday Life
There is no business without sales. It’s just how it is. Securing sales means you’ve secured customers, your salary, your employees’ salary (this is if you’re running your own business, of course), to name a few.
But is it easy to secure sales? Is it easy to keep customers? What about attracting new ones? How about when you wish to upgrade your pricing list, and you aren’t sure how that’s going to go?
Well, none of this is easy. Running a successful business isn’t always a walk in the park. That said, it also doesn’t have to be the most difficult thing that has ever happened to you. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience, after all.
But that can only happen if you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who should help you along the way.
Now, there are three perspectives we have to take into account: the buyer’s, the seller’s, and the owner’s. Let’s illustrate this with a very common example.
Let’s imagine the process of buying a car. You’re the buyer. You want a new car. You set a budget and are ready to go and explore some cars. You ask relevant questions, and you monitor the seller’s behavior. You form some impression based on your interaction with them. You might even take some cars for a test drive. You’re eager to find the perfect one, and the seller is eager to sell one to you. Will it be a win-win situation?
Now, imagine you’re the seller. You have a basic salary, but you get bonuses based on performance (usually depending on how many cars you’ve sold), or you work on commission. The point is - you have every motivation to sell a car once you spot a potential buyer. So, you ask a lot of questions: “What do you need the car for?” “Do you need a race car, a family car, and so on?”, “What’s your budget?”, “Do you have any color preferences?”, and so on. The more you learn about your potential buyer, the easier it will be for you to “find them” what they’re looking to buy.
Finally, if you’re the owner of the car dealership, it’s in your interest that both your employee and the buyer succeed in their endeavor. The sale that will take place (the buyer purchasing a car) benefits everybody - you and the salesperson have a financial benefit (along with a happy customer), and the buyer obviously goes home with a new car.
In such cases, it’s important to think about customer retention too. In other words, it’s not just about trying to sell one thing and sending the buyer home. It’s about making sure they come back in the future. Now, of course, when it comes to cars, you won’t expect to see this person buying another car anytime soon, however, it’s about leaving a good impression. They might recommend your car dealership to their friend, for instance. Or they might need car service.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that each sales scenario is unique. It all depends on what you're selling, how big of a company you’re running (if you’re the owner), what your approach is, and so on. However, the example we gave shows the sales process that goes on behind each purchase.
- 15 million Americans are said to be self-employed (refers to full-time employment);
- 62% of adults think that getting into entrepreneurship will result in a good career;
- there are 582 million entrepreneurs across the world;
- 55% of entrepreneurs believe that the most important motivation for having your own business is the chance to be your own boss;
- 30% of entrepreneurs are just with a high school diploma;
- 59% of the entrepreneurs who decide to apply for loans tend to use them to further develop their businesses;
- 97% of the self-employed individuals claim they can’t see themselves ever going back to the traditional form of employment.
How to approach this?
If you’re the seller:
- What made you get into sales? Is this something you’ve always wanted? Perhaps it was a more spontaneous decision?
- What type of client/customer do you feel the most comfortable to sell to? Why?
- How do you usually keep track of the latest target market trends?
- What skills, values, and qualities should every successful salesperson possess?
- How do you handle client/customer objections and complaints?
- Have you ever had to modify your already existing sales strategy in order to reach the expected targets?
- Does social media have any role in your selling process? If yes, how? Do you think you can make the same profit if it wasn’t for the various social media channels?
- How important is having an aggressive marketing strategy? Also, do you plan your marketing strategies or you have a separate marketing team that handles them? Do you think poor marketing can “harm” your potential sales? What would you do in that case?
- How much do you value customer/client feedback? And how do you react to negative feedback?
- What can your company/organization do better when it comes to its sales prospects?
- How do your products/services bring value to customers/clients?
- How do you know when it’s time to stop “pursuing” a client? In other words, when do you give up trying to persuade a specific client to buy your product/service?
- What’s your most successful sale so far? What makes it so special? Do you think you can repeat that same success in the future? Perhaps even do better?
- How do you usually deal with rejections? Do you take them personally?
- What’s your favorite part of any sales process? Why? What’s your least favorite part? Why?
- Think about a difficult sale. Why was this such a demanding experience - was the buyer picky or something else was the problem? What did this experience teach you? What would you do differently now if you were in the same situation? How would you react?
- Think about a time you didn’t close a sale. What was the reason? What did you learn from this experience? Have you had a lot of such experiences? Do they make you doubt yourself and your sales skills or on the contrary,do they motivate you to succeed even more?
- Explain all the steps of a sales process from the beginning to the end (of course, we’re asking for your personal experience and what your sales processes look like, not a general overview). Is there anything you wish to change at this point? What? What stops you from doing so?
- Have you ever sold something:
- over the phone?
- via e-mail?
- What was the most challenging experience? Is there one option you prefer? Why?
If you’re the buyer:
- How many times have you bought a product/service and you ended up not being satisfied with it?
- How convincing do you find salespeople to be? In other words, do you feel they’re only trying to sell you the thing they’re selling or do you feel they genuinely care about whether their customers/clients are happy with their purchases?
- Before you make any purchase, do you always plan a budget? And more importantly, if you do, do you manage to stick to it at all times?
- Have you ever returned something you’ve bought? What was it? Why weren’t you happy with your purchase? Did you get a full refund?
- What’s the most difficult thing when it comes to purchasing expensive things, such as a new laptop, furniture, ski equipment, and so on? How do you usually make such purchasing decisions?
- What are your buying criteria? For instance, is high-quality your top priority? Perhaps reasonably-priced products/services? What do you value the most? Have you ever compromised?
- On average, how long does it take you to make a purchasing decision?
- Do you struggle with spending money? In other words, are you a saver and you usually buy stuff unwillingly?
- How do you evaluate a company’s products and services? Do you read reviews? Look for recommendations? Ask friends whether they have any experience with this company’s products/services?
- Let’s say you have a favorite place you buy things from. However, one time you’re not happy with the quality of their products (for instance, you purchase something with an expired date). Would you give them another chance? In other words, would you continue going back to that shop? Or would you replace it with the next best shop?
- Have you ever bought something for someone else and they disapproved of it? What happened next? How did you react?
- How can buyers cut costs and manage to save money, yet end up with high-quality products/services?
- If you’ve ever purchased something online, were you asked any of the following:
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, and 10 the highest), how happy are you with our service/product?
- Why did you give us that score?
- What can we improve?
- Have you found any weaknesses in our service/product so far?
- Have you considered returning the service/product?
- Would you consider buying from us again in the future? If not, why?
- What’s the thing you like about our services/products?
- Would you consider recommending our services/products to your family members/friends/colleagues?
- How would you rate our customer service?
- Do you have any other comments, remarks, or requests to add?
Getting a University Degree
If someone tells you they want to get into sales, do you know what type of university degree they should get? In essence, we’re not talking just about one degree - as a matter of fact, there are several options.
The best degrees for a career in sales are the following ones:
- public relations
- liberty arts
- social science
1. Communications degree
Choosing a communications degree will not only make you a better communicator, but it will make you a better listener too (active listening is one of the key factors to securing sales!). You’ll know how to establish face-to-face interaction, talk on social media, deliver public speeches, and so on. It’s also about knowing how to receive information and be able to interpret people’s words and actions.
This is a great degree because if there’s any degree that can teach you how to “talk to people” properly, it’s this one. Plus, students who major in communications often have the chance to join their campuses’ newspapers, work in the university radio, and so on. This is very solid preparation for what’s to come after they graduate.
2. Business degree
Business is yet another area you may wish to consider if you’re planning to get into sales. Not only does such a degree show you how the business world works, but it allows you to specialize in specific areas, such as human resource management, accounting, and so on.
Also, business degrees call for some level of math skills, which is highly important when it comes to sales. Throughout your business studies, you also get to learn how to potentially build a proper buyer-seller, employer-employee, and peer-peer relationship.
Finally, having a business degree allows you to also start your own business and drive sales for your own company and have others work for you.
3. Technology degree
Such degrees teach students to operate with various computing systems, develop databases and networks, and learn about computer support. This can help you feel comfortable using sales programs and various sales technologies.
You also get to learn a lot about both internet and software development, and that’s essential regardless of what profession you end up choosing.
4. Marketing degree
We don’t even have to explain why a marketing degree could be necessary for a successful career in sales. And it’s only logical - after all, marketing is all about “making” someone buy something.
Marketing courses are supposed to show you how people think and behave (consumer behavior is one of the top marketing areas students are expected to explore). It will help you unlock your creative side and sales potential too. You’ll feel comfortable implementing various marketing strategies and learn what needs to be done to secure sales. Students learn all about the latest marketing trends, product delivery and pricing, the challenges that come with sales, and how to establish proper communication with potential customers.
5. Finance degree
An undergraduate degree in finance provides students with accounting knowledge, risk management, taxes, statistics, and so on. In other words, these are all areas and information that prove to be highly useful in any sales context.
Finances teach you how to evaluate data you’re being presented with and come up with adequate solutions to various problems. Companies need finance graduates because they need employees to help them invest properly, spend their money more wisely, help them with sales, and manage their overall finances.
6. Public relations degree
Public relations students become some of the best communication strategists. They’re able to display small business, large corporations, non-profit organizations - basically any type of company/organization in the best way possible.
Such workers are asked to protect the interests of the company/organization they work for, stay up to date with current events, check the company’s/organization’s popularity on various social media channels, handle any negative publicity, and so on. In essence, public relations students learn how to shape the opinion of the public and why this matters so much.
You’ll learn how to prepare an effective campaign, respond to negative comments, and make people see things in a different light. Of course, you can also choose a specific area to specialize in, such as project management, advertising, digital media, corporate communication, and so on.
Those who major in public relationships often end up working as press secretaries, event coordinators, or even speech writers, and sales teams find their skills to be a huge asset.
7. Liberty arts degree
If you’re all about creating art and beautiful things to show to other people, then getting a degree in liberty arts might be the right choice for you. Liberty arts courses denote a wide range of options, such as digital photography, sculpting, drawing, ceramics, and so on.
However, students don’t just learn how to do a specific art. They engage in understanding how to develop an artistic brand and all the details that come with it, how to create their portfolio, and basically how “to sell” themselves as artists.
8. Psychology degree
If you really want to understand people, their behavior, their thoughts, anf true intentions, then you can’t go wrong with a psychology degree. In a sales context, this would mean that you know what motivates buyers, how they approach the purchasing process, and how to make them do those purchases. In essence, a physcology degree will make you a successful seller.
What’s more, a degree in psychology will help you handle potential mood swings better, as a job in sales can sometimes be quite emotionally demanding and overwhelming. Also, having such a degree can potentially assist you in achieving a neat work-life balance, which is important for every worker (and yet it’s one of the biggest challenges we all face on a daily basis).
9. Social science degree
Social science is quite a broad field, however, you’ll mostly learn about how societies tend to operate on all levels including families, cultural aspects, governments, communities, individual society members, and so on.
One of the most important things you can learn with this degree is to carry out research (both quantitative and qualitative). Of course, this is a skill which comes in handy within any sales context (think about market evaluation, for example), which is why it’s so valuable.
People working as social scientists explore ongoing global issues such as crime, hunger, social injustice, poverty, racism, and so on. They also try to discover why people decide to talk, dress, behave, shop, walk, and so on, the way they normally do. Such information and insights are helpful for working on your research skills, which, as we said, helps you become better at sales.
10. Economics degree
A degree in economics opens up the doors to various opportunities. You may go into business management, decide to work in a bank, or perhaps try out several different companies to see which will suit you best. Economics paves the way to becoming a great decision-maker, as economics has many areas worth analyzing and evaluating.
All in all, understanding economics as a field and comprehending the economy of a country will definitely enhance your sales prospects.
Finally, it’s worth noting you don’t need to have any formal degree in order to work in sales. And how successful you are at it doesn’t (always) depend on your diploma and formal qualifications. It has to do with your talents, devotion, and overall commitment to the work you do.
Types of sales jobs
You may have decided that you want to go into sales, and you might have already done something about it. For instance, you could have chosen one of the degrees we’ve just discussed, or you may have gotten a few internships here and there, but you want a formal commitment. Yet you have no idea where to start or what to do.
The first thing you need to do is think about the type of sales job you’re looking for. For instance, are you interested in being an inside sales representative or an outside sales representative? Perhaps a sales development representative (SDR)? Maybe you’re not that picky and you’ll simply go with the first option that comes your way?
Next, think about your salary expectations. What type of salary are you looking for? To help with both the sales jobs and some of the salary dilemmas you may be facing, here’s a comprehensive list of the types of sales jobs and their average base salaries:
- Sales development representative (SDR) / $44,680;
- Inside sales representative / $44,717;
- Outside sales representative / $49,985;
- Account executive (AE) / $54,898;
- Account manager / $55,247;
- Sales manager / $61,629;
- Customer success manager (CSM) / $68,812;
- Sales engineer / $73,567;
- Sales operations manager / $79,036;
- Regional sales manager / $$82,615;
- Director of sales / $100,774;
- Vice president (VP) of sales / $143,311;
- Chief sales officer (CSO) / $170,567.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that salespeople get a lot of bonuses and commissions, so that’s a nice addition to their average salaries, and definitely serves as motivation to be the best at what they do.
For instance, we said that chief sales officers may earn $170,567, however, they can also get bonuses up to $100,000, as well as commission up to $175,000. Needless to say, this is just an example - it all depends on the company/organization we’re talking about, the exact position, the number of years a person has worked for that specific company/organization, to name a few.
Finally, this is by no means an exhaustive list (but we do believe it’s a pretty detailed one), as there are many other job positions that can enhance your sales skills and allow you to take your education, experience, and expectations to the next level.
How to approach this?
If you’re the educator:
- What made you become an educator?
- How does your subject prepare your educatees to engage in sales?
- What’s the most challenging thing about teaching your subject?
- Do you think formal education is crucial for someone to succeed in sales?
- How much practical knowledge can educatees get from your lessons? In other words, is your subject more focused on the theoretical aspects of sales, or does it allow students to gain a more practical understanding too?
- Have you always taught or you’ve had other work experiences too? For instance, have you ever had the chance to work directly in sales (or any other area) instead of just teaching? Do you feel that working in a marketing sector or any other business area would have given you a better understanding of what needs to be taught at a university level?
- What kind of mental models should educatees adopt if they wish to be good at sales? Also, which mindset and what kinds of thoughts should they ignore?
- Above we’ve shared certain degrees which have proven to be useful for someone who wants to work in sales. Regardless of what you’re teaching, which degree do you find truthfully to be the most meaningful one when it comes to sales? Why?
- How do you engage your students throughout your classes? Are they expected to work in groups, do individual work, or perhaps something else?
- What makes you a successful educator? What qualities should a great educator possess?
- How much time do you spend on lesson planning? Or maybe you think your subject requires more improvising rather than detailed planning and sticking to certain points?
- Do you think getting a degree has become somewhat obsolete when it comes to working in sales? Why? Why not?
- How do you usually upgrade your knowledge and skills? How do you tend to follow the latest trends in your industry?
- Do you think your students are adequately prepared for various job positions available out there?
- What courses, subjects, and themes should educatees focus on if they’re interested in sales in particular? What proves to be the most useful?
- Do you encourage critical thinking as part of your lessons? If yes, how so?
- Do you find your profession to be creative? Why? Why not? What changes can you make in order to make your lectures even more enjoyable, informative, and innovative?
If you’re the educatee:
- How did you choose your major?
- Do you have aspirations to work in sales? If yes, what exactly are you interested in?
- What’s so interesting about your university program? Is it the professors, the lectures, or your peers? Perhaps it’s something entirely different?
- Do you feel your studies prepare you for “the real thing”? In other words, do you think your university program will make you a knowledgeable worker?
- Do you learn things on your own or do you rely on the materials you get during your lectures? In essence, do you engage in some sort of informal learning? If you do, what is it? What resources and methods do you use?
- How are you usually assessed? Are you comfortable with the current assessment methods? If not, what would you change? What type of methods would you prefer to see being used instead?
- If someone knows they definitely wish to work in sales, what type of degree should they opt for? Of course, we already gave several options in the previous paragraphs, however, which one do you personally consider to be the best?
- What are your expectations after graduating? Is it getting an internship (perhaps in sales), looking for a job, continuing with your education (getting a master’s degree, for example), and so on?
- What type of salary should people working in sales strive to obtain? What would be your own personal expectations?
- How can students learning about sales apply those skills in other areas in their lives?
- Are there any shortcomings when it comes to working in sales? List several disadvantages.
- How can prospective graduates recognize a high-quality university program? Also, how should they pick a university?
- Do you think getting a degree is necessary in order for one to be successful in sales (we know we already wrote that you don’t need a degree to work in sales, however, we’re interested in hearing your opinion :))?
- Based on your professors’ characters, behaviors, and overall teaching methods, would you say they’d be good at sales? How can you tell? Or do you think they should better stick to teaching?
- What kind of practical understanding and knowledge can students get when it comes to furthering their sales skills? Can they do it on their own?
- Do you feel mentoring plays a huge role when it comes to sales? In other words, do you think that having a personal mentor who can help you can be even more useful than attending classes, passing exams, and so on?
- What skills do you expect to obtain throughout your studies? Do you think they’ll assist you in your future job endeavours? In what way?
- What piece of advice would you give to someone who wishes to attend the same college as you and choose the same university program? Are you happy with your choice?
Selling “Yourself”, Your Views, Beliefs, and Ideas
In this part, we’ll talk about different types of sales - less “physical sales”, and more “metaphorical ones”. As Daniel H. Pink explains in his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others:
- People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling—persuad-ing, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of professions, we are devoting roughly twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others.
- People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success—even in excess of the consid- erable amount of time they devote to it.
Now, what could this mean? How can we be selling ourselves, our views, our beliefs, and our ideas? And why is it important to know how to sell yourself?
Also, here’s the thing: such stuff applies to non-work environments as well. All in all, we sell ourselves when:
- we’re on a date with someone and we’re trying to look, act, act, and simply be the best version of ourselves (this is truly an example of a moment when we wish to leave an amazing first impression);
- we’re on the lookout for the perfect job and finally land an interview with the company of our dreams, so we do our best to get the job position;
- we meet our significant other’s parents for the first time, and so naturally we want them to like us, approve of us, and see us as worthy of being with their child;
- we’re trying to influence someone’s decision by outlining our thoughts, concerns, and suggestions;
- we’re trying to get new clients and we aim at making our organization the best one out there;
- we’re in the process of applying for a scholarship, and we use our CV, cover letter, as well as the application itself in order to present ourselves in the best light possible;
- we’re trying to sell our car because we want to buy a new one, so each potential buyer hears the story of how this is basically the best car in the world :);
- we’re a substitute teacher replacing our sick colleague and we’re trying to win the class over;
- we’re trying to get a raise, a bonus or even change job positions within the company, and so we show our employer all of our amazing qualities, and so on.
Why is this important?
Interestingly enough, at times, such experiences help us learn a lot about ourselves. For instance, you get to see how much you value yourself and how much you’re aware of your qualities and skills (or not aware, for that matter).
So, let's take the scholarship example to illustrate this. If you wish to apply for a specific scholarship, you need to think about all your qualities, volunteering work, past work experiences (or the lack of them), grades, academic performance, leadership qualities, and so on.
If you decide you’re not quite “happy” with these aspects of your life (for instance, you didn’t study a lot and you have low grades, hence a low GPA), you may end up feeling disappointed about yourself and not even try to apply. Or even if you apply you may get rejected (if there are other very high-quality applications).
Let us give yet another example. If you haven’t been dating for a while now, and your last relationship ended quite badly and left you with poor mental health and feeling awful about yourself (and dating in general too), you may find it intimidating to go out with someone. And if/when that moment comes, all of your insecurities could come up. For instance, you might think “I’m not good enough”, “What will (s)he think of me?”, “I’m not sure I know how to get back into the dating game”, “What if I say something stupid?”, “What if (s)he doesn’t want to see me again?”, and so on.
That said, there’s a positive side to having such thoughts. As we said - these experiences help us learn and uncover a lot about ourselves. And although it’s never comfortable to face your self-sabotaging fears and beliefs, it’s necessary in order to grow and get what you wish for.
Things to remind yourself…
So, when such thoughts pop up, it’s never advisable to neglect them. On the contrary - analyze them, see why they’re there and what they’re showing you. And don’t forget that:
- all of us are valuable - we just have to understand what we want, why we want it, whether we’re doing the right things to get it or not;
- we’re worthy of pursuing our goals and having big ambitions and dreams - when we feel otherwise it’s often as a result of our insecurities, low self-esteem, not-good-enough beliefs, and so on;
- you shouldn’t feel forced to make decisions in the spur of the moment - allow things to sink in;
- you can “sell yourself” without feeling like you’re manipulating others or doing something unethical;
- you need to remain positive as much as you can;
- your emotional intelligence matters much more than you think (apart from looking good “on paper”)
- selling yourself should accentuate your strengths and good qualities, not make you highlight all your flaws (and yes, we said you should become aware of your insecurities and shortcomings, however, not in order to stay overly focused on them, but to transcend them);
- you should be confident - in yourself, your wishes, your decisions, and the people who support you in your endeavors;
- you need to stay persistent, as learning how to sell yourself isn’t always an overnight task - you may not get the first job you apply for (you might not even get an interview invitation), you may have a bad date although you had high expectations, and you may not quite leave the first impression you were hoping for.
Finally, it’s important not to forget other people’s perspectives too. What does this mean? Well, in essence, when we sell ourselves we depend more or less on the other side too. In other words, it’s not just about us. It’s about how the other person (or sometimes people) at the receiving end react(s), behave(s), and make(s) decisions.
For instance, we might be absolutely secure in our qualifications, skills, and education - yet the employer might offer the job position we’re pursuing to another candidate. They might think they’re a better fit or there could be other factors at play. What we’re trying to say is that sometimes there’s always so much that we can do, and we can’t influence other people’s decisions and thoughts. We can choose how to react to them though.
How to approach this?
- How would you sell yourself in a job interview? What strengths would you talk about? What work experiences have made you a better employee? What behaviors, decisions, and successes are you most proud of so far? Would you openly talk about some of your weaknesses? If yes, what are they? Are you working on them?
- How can someone sell their ideas? What does it take to make an idea successful? Even more, what does it take for someone to get truly hooked on an idea?
- Do actions truly speak louder than words? Can you think about some specific experiences you had? What happened? Who did what? How did you react/respond?
- Do you agree that a lot of times it’s about how we say things, and not about what we say? In other words, a lot of times people monitor how well you carry yourself, how you speak in general and respond to their questions and comments, as well as the overall impression you leave. Can people take advantage of this? How so?
- How good are you at persuading others? Mind you, we don’t mean to manipulate others, force them to agree with you, or make them do something, but simply try to get them to understand something through offering arguments and facts. Also, how easy is it for you to get persuaded into doing something?
- What do you think about negotiation as a concept? Do you think it’s an important part of each sales process? How so? For instance, do people negotiate when buying a new house, a car, and so on? Can you even negotiate your salary?
- Let’s say you want to go to the movies this weekend, however, your friend seems reluctant. How would you convince them to join you?
- You’re planning your summer holiday, and you’ve always wanted to go to Bali. You found accommodation, you’ve checked various flight options, you found nice places to eat and visit, and you’re way beyond excited. However, your partner decides they prefer going to the Maldives instead. Would you agree with them right away or you’ll try to sell them your plan once again? If yes, how would you approach this?
- Is it difficult to sell “something” to a person who definitely doesn’t see eye to eye with you? How would you behave with such a person? How can you arrive at a mutual decision regarding different matters?
Famous Quotes About Sales
“Think about it: if someone had found a way to manipulate human choice and free will – if someone actually had that kind of power – wouldn’t it be a tad surprising if they then decided to share their secret with the masses in a book for $20? Not to mention how it would be just very slightly unethical.”
“Sales can never be done with 'good' skills or 'good' communication or with 'thorough' product knowledge.. It can only be done with PASSION and You gotta be a People Loving Person, to be Alive in Sales.”
“Nothing requires a higher level of emotional control than asking for something and subsequently dealing with objections. This leads us again to the single most important lesson in this book: In every sales conversation, the person who exerts the greatest amount of emotional control has the highest probability of getting the outcome they desire. You must first gain control of your emotions before you can influence the emotions of other people. Getting past no in all its various forms, begins and ends with emotional control.”
“A Need represents the most significant part of sales process. A buyer or a seller – Both must have a Need for buying or selling. But the Need isn’t forever,
Time is absolutely crucial. Every need becomes dispensable once one starts spending more time living without it. A need is like fire, won’t burn constantly unless we keep adding more wood to it. Keep the need alive for both parties – by adding reminders, follow-ups, discussion and constant motivation.”
“Selling people things is a matter of determining their desires and figuring out how the product matches those desires.”
“Sales and selling, does not have to mimic an episode from the latest MMA event. It is not a wrestling match that we are engaged in. It is a soft but firm persuasion match based on people learning to like us and to feel comfortable with us not just with the product we have. And remember this, our clients want to buy but they do not want to be sold. But they need to be sold on us, that is for certain.”
“The three acts of the sales conversation are: I: Earning the Right to Ask II: Exploration III: Demonstrating Usefulness. In Act I, you work to earn the credibility to ask probing questions. In Act II, you explore your client’s needs by asking a series of carefully designed questions that help both you and your client better understand the issues and challenges that need to be resolved. In Act III, you demonstrate usefulness to your client by offering resources and insights, matching your client’s needs to your products or services, and establishing the basis for a continuing relationship.”
“Salesman: Oh God! Bless me with dumb customers today, so they will buy whatever I wish to sell.
God: What if they are so dumb that they fail to understand that you are trying to sell them something.
Salesman: In that case, please make them a little bit smart.
God: How smart exactly? If I grant them smartness, they might go to the next shop which is offering similar items at a lower rate.
Salesman: I didn’t think of that, in that case make the other shop disappear.
God: I can’t do that?
God: The owner of the other shop requested the same, now I am confused who to grant their wish.
Salesman: But I spent all my time praying for better sales?
God: Yes, you did, but I wish you would have asked for a little bit of smartness, so you would have understood that, it’s not the fulfilment of the wish which matters, it’s what you do once the wish is fulfilled. The wish is granted once you prove yourself worthy of the grant. My job is to help the weak and make them self-sufficient, and your job is to learn from the guidance and improve your vision, thinking & skills. Work towards your dream and with a little guidance you can do it on your own.
Salesman: Oh, lord, thank you for opening my eyes, now I understand, please grant it this time, next time I will pray with new vision, thinking & better praying skills...”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How can one be a good salesman?
How do we know if someone is a good salesman? What qualities should they possess? What behaviors should they exhibit? In essence, what makes a good salesman?
1. Thinking long term
First and foremost, a good salesman always thinks long term. They always try to be several steps ahead of their competitors, but also potential buyers too. This doesn’t mean they’re supposed to manipulate the buyers - they’re just better prepared, and have a neat plan as to what buyers may look for and what they should offer them.
This also means that successful salespeople aren’t solely focused on profit - they want to form long-lasting connections with buyers too. We talked about customer retention in the Business section above, so we pretty much covered this aspect.
3.Showing true care
Next, good salespeople truly care for their customers/clients. They want them to go home happy with their purchase. They want to truly see a genuine smile on their faces while thinking: “Well, this was a good investment”. This means you’re devoted to your own business practice too. By helping your clients find what they need, you help your business bloom too (and even if you're an employee and not an employer, you can surely reap the benefits too!).
4. Believing in your products/services
It’s also worth mentioning that a good salesman always believes in their service/product - no exception. And it’s only logical, right? After all, if you don’t believe in your own products or services, why would others believe in them and even buy them? How would you persuade others to see their value if you don’t see it yourself?
5. Learn the industry and the market
You can never learn all there is to learn about the industry and the market one works in. There are always changes, innovations, and upgrades. So our recommendation is to always be aware of them. That said, you may not wish to implement all of them in your own professional practice, however, you need to know they’re there.
This includes your competitors too. You need to get information about what they sell, how they’re selling, certain challenges they may be facing, their revenue, the type of client/customers that tend to gravitate toward them, and so on.
Of course, we’re not suggesting spying on your competitors, but nowadays with the intensive marketing strategies, the social media platforms, and the recommendations people leave, it’s not difficult to form an opinion about a specific company.
With that said, one needs to be discerning too. There’s a lot of false information spread out, and you can easily get misinformed.
6. Coping with failure
Good sales people know how to cope with failure. In essence, they see each failure as an opportunity to grow and see what went wrong, and how they can do things better next time.
So, whenever things go wrong (you lose a client, receive negative feedback, or can’t strike a deal with someone), think about what you can learn from this experience instead of being frustrated and worried.
7. Awareness of…
Their behavior, words, body language, and the overall situation. Indeed, a great salesman knows when to be professional, and when to behave in a much friendlier manner. A great salesman knows when to ask questions, and when to stop talking. They’re able to follow the situation they’re in. They understand the buyer’s body language, so even if the buyer says they’re integrated in the product/service, however, their body language and facial expressions suggest otherwise - an experienced salesperson will know.
Of course, this isn’t something one’s comfortable with after having one client or working as a salesperson for just a few months. It’s something that comes with proper experience and (un)comfortable situations.
Finally, as Chris J. Gregas put it, don’t forget that
“the best salespeople on the planet are those who regularly provide an answer to a need that someone has. Listen more and talk less. Remember, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Don’t spend precious extended time with those who you will have to spoon feed for a very long time. That will not get you where you want to go.”
What type of role does advertising have when it comes to sales?
Advertising has several roles when it comes to its connection with the sales process. First of all, the purpose of advertising is to raise awareness - of a specific product/service, of the brand on the whole, and of the pricing.
Then it should inform people. Now, what do buyers need to be informed about? Well, they need to learn about the product’s/service’s features, uses, specifications, potential, and so on. Accurate product/service information is highly important, as it helps buyers make better purchasing decisions. This also gives advertising more or less an educational nature.
Next, let us mention advertising’s persuasive powers. Indeed, one of advertising’s top powers is the ability to persuade and entice buyers into checking out a product/service and then potentially buying. The better your advertising strategies are, the higher the chances for successful sales.
Advertising also serves as a potent reminder. It’s almost as if it screams at people ”Hey look at me! Yes, I’m the product/service you’re looking for, and the ad you’re seeing should remind you of that. Don’t go looking for competitors - I’m right here. Pick me.”
Also, it’s important to understand that when we talk about the link between advertising and sales, it’s not just about securing sales. It’s about going beyond the sales we usually secure. In other words, it’s about increasing them, hence, increasing our revenue.
Finally, don’t think that good advertising can compensate for a bad product/service. A good ad can only get you so far. You may attract a customer here and there, and get some sales, however, if you lack quality, then don’t expect to see any business progress. As Zachariah Renfro explains, “Good advertisements are key, because people need good advice and good products in their lives; but if the good products are hidden behind bad ads then all is lost.”
What are some useful sales tips and strategies?
There are many ways to sell and to earn money, however, it’s worth knowing which strategies actually work. Plus, it’s not just about knowing what works - it’s about properly implementing it, but also enjoying the process of selling. In essence, it’s not about always focusing on the end goal - it’s about learning how to enjoy the whole journey.
That said, there are still many useful tips and strategies that can help you in your sales practice:
- Be clear from the very beginning of the conversation about your intentions.
- Be open about both the positive and negative aspects - don’t try to lie, which brings us to the next point.
- Honestly truly is your best policy - always articulate things clearly and accurately.
- Stay flexible as much as you can - for instance, if you don’t really offer installment plans, but you see a very interested potential client who can’t quite afford to pay the full amount, consider offering them an installment plan.
- Be exciting throughout the sales process - become a storyteller regardless of whether you’re using email to attract clients and you open it with a story or you have a prospect sitting in front of you.
- Understand the importance of sales calls - we may live in the era of top-notch technology, however, nothing compares to personal communication.
- Don’t forget to follow up. Always. Do you know that 80% of sales tend to occur only after multiple follow-up attempts have been made?
- Stay positive and develop the right mindset. Don’t lose sight of the points you’re trying to make. Also, don’t neglect the customer’s/client’s needs and wishes.
- Give freebies every now and then (such as short product demos and free trials). Of course, this will ultimately depend on what you’re selling.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Sales is a very practical process, however, reading about how others approach it, getting acquainted with phrases you can potentially use, as well as gathering information about what works and what doesn’t can be a huge asset.
There are many books about sales out there, however, we’ve prepared a list of 12 books we believe are among the best.
So, without any further ado, here are our reading suggestions:
- The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher & William Ury
- Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text and Cold Calling, by Jeb Blount
- The Art of Closing the Sale: The Key to Making More Money Faster in the World of Professional Selling, by Brian Tracy
- Sales Management. Simplified.: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team, by Mike Weinberg
- Gap Selling: Getting the Customer to Yes: How Problem-Centric Selling Increases Sales by Changing Everything You Know About Relationships, Overcoming Objections, Closing and Price, by Keenan
- Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition, by Harvey Mackay
- Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal, by Jeb Blount
- Secrets of a Master Closer: A Simpler, Easier, and Faster Way to Sell Anything to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: (Sales Book, Sales Training, Telemarketing, ... Techniques, Sales Tips, Sales Management), by Mike Kaplan
- Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling, by Jeb Blount
- Sales Management. Simplified.: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team, by Mike Weinberg
- Seven Figure Social Selling: Over 400 Pages of Proven Social Selling Scripts, Strategies, and Secrets to Increase Sales and Make More Money Today!, by Brandon Bornancin
Do let us know if you’ve already read some of those books!
All in all, sales refer to an activity which includes both a buyer and a seller. So, it’s an interaction that’s ultimately supposed to benefit both parties. And how successful we will be at engaging with a buyer/seller determines the outcome of a sale.
If you need help to be an even better seller, or you simply wish to be more prepared when you’re being sold something, we invite you to join our online course about sales. We cover:
- what it means to be a salesperson;
- SWOT analysis and the importance of learning your business;
- identifying customers, market validation, and pricing strategies;
- understanding the sales processes: prospecting, qualifying, presenting, handling objections, and closing;
- sales management, and so much more!
We promise to not only boost your confidence levels when it comes to sales and all the useful strategies that come with them, but to help you understand the complex processes behind them too!
See you then!
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