I recently read some articles in a popular Indian newspaper describing how the growing market for Artificial Intelligence will increase the demand for data scientists. On multiple occasions, I have noticed how much importance is given to technical skills rather than soft skills these days. Take for example the soft skills that form a part of sales-based professions. It is surprising that many job-seekers today are not fascinated by sales, and the demand for such jobs seems to be declining. In my case too, I did not realise the importance of sales ‘skills’ until I started my first business. I now wish I had honed my selling skills when I was younger.
In this piece, I would like to highlight some important skills one develops while working in sales, and how they are vital to the business and to you.
1. Become a business driver: Any business must generate revenue to succeed. The sales team grows revenue by bringing in new clients for the business. A good business cannot survive without a good sales team backing them. In addition, salespeople earn commission from every sale they make. Therefore, there is no ceiling to their potential earning.
2. Learn to ask the right questions and provide value: In sales, you are the face of the business. How people perceive you in the first few seconds of meeting you determines the course of the meeting. You have to look and sound confident. Initially at least, style is more important than substance. But you also have to understand what the customer needs. Why would they buy something from you? If you have not heard of the ‘Briefcase Technique’, I strongly urge you to learn it. Simply put, it is a theatrical way to pull out an already prepared, well-documented set of papers that lists down the business problems of your prospective client, and how you (or your products or services) will solve those problems. In this way, you are providing value to the other person without requiring them to commit to anything.
3. Learn to deal with rejection: When you get rejected by a potential client in a sales meeting, what do you do? You review what might have gone wrong, refine your sales pitch, and move on to the next client meeting. Similarly, in life, rejections come in all forms and shapes—in job interviews, in romantic relationships or anything else. I consistently get rejected from clients I reach out to. I have seen multi-million-dollar deals go sideways just when I was hoping for a positive outcome. Although rejection can be a downer, it is a part of growth. Experience in sales teaches one not to take rejections personally; and to expect rejection, learn from it and move forward. In a nutshell, you realise rejection is not regression; it is progression.
4. Gain confidence by pushing your boundaries: Whether we realise it or not, everyone is ‘selling’ all the time. Your entire life is about communicating, persuading and influencing other people. It may be as simple as selling someone your idea for a startup or an opinion on something. Selling yourself is a universal need. But before you sell yourself or your product/services to others, you will have to sell ‘yourself’ to you. If you are not confident about yourself, how can others be confident about you? You have to believe 100% in yourself and your abilities. Additionally, in sales, you will meet a lot of people from different socio-economic, cultural, ethnic and professional backgrounds. In the process, you will push your boundaries to learn more and achieve more.
Having the best education or certification is not enough. One must know how and when to use that knowledge. You may have the best hammer, the best screwdriver, or the best wrench, but if you don’t know how to use them, you will still lose. It all comes down to the users of the tools.
For anything you want to learn, achieve or master, there is someone out there in this world with the resources to make you successful. There are people around the world who have experience to share, a network of influential people, capital to run your business, or anything else you need to achieve success. And they will not give you what you want unless they get what they want. And you won’t know what they need unless you get in a relationship with them and build trust and rapport. Having the skills listed above will help you develop a rapport with people, who in turn will help you succeed.
I would like to leave you with one last (seemingly) conflicting thought. I have explained above how sales experience is good in one’s life, and why younger generations should concentrate on building their selling skills. But have you noticed how the greatest companies in the world don’t sell? They ‘brand’! For example, Apple doesn’t ask its customers to buy its products in their advertisements. They focus on making the customers realise what they are missing out on if they don’t have an Apple product in their lives. It is the experience that Apple users get when using a Mac or an iPhone. And it’s the same for every big, successful company out there—that’s branding for you. Similarly, you need to create a brand for yourself. Selling is just a part of it. What do you think?