Every year The Champman University does a survey on the things Americans fear most. Fear of rejection is always one of the top 10 things we fear in our personal lives, usually not far below the fear of heights and public speaking. Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the number one obstacle to success in sales is fear. None of us like rejection, but the hard truth is that if you want to do anything of meaning in life, you must be able to sell. No one else will sell you.
I’ve talked to thousands of business owners and decision makers in my career; the successful ones all have one thing in common – they embrace the act of selling. This may or not mean they have a lead role in selling what their company offers, but they do take a lead role in creating a compelling story that sells their offering.
If You Want to Lead, You Must Sell
If you want to lead, you must sell, in language and by your actions. Leading is by its nature the act of persuading and inspiring others to follow you. You can’t do that if you can’t sell your ideas to others.
If you want to change the world or your small corner of the world, you must sell. Whether you are in politics or the non-profit world working on a passion project, you can’t make an impact by yourself. You must persuade others to embrace your ideas.
Where People With Great Ideas Fall Down
I’ve been involved in enough start-ups and small businesses to recognize one of the key diseases that cause good people with good ideas to fail. When they aren’t successful at selling, instead of honing their selling skills and business acumen, they decide to hire someone else to sell for them – usually as an outside sales rep. They convince themselves that their offering is great, it’s simply not their forte to sell. They decide “if I bring in a sales professional they’ll open the floodgates and I’ll be on my way.” It never works.
Top level sales professionals have the world by the tail. A salesperson worth their salt is not going to work on a commission only basis – which is usually what the lean startup or small business is offering. Someone who already knows how to sell is most likely working for a company that provides them with a great base salary, plenty of perks, and administrative tools and personnel that allow them to focus on doing what they do best. Or they’re working for themselves selling their own ideas.
Even if you can afford to bring in a top level salesperson, how does that fix your long term problems? Are you going to turn to them to sell your ideas to your team? To clients? If you do, guess who owns the relationship with the person who buys in? And guess who can walk out the door with it? Smaller businesses can’t afford that risk – they need to own the relationship because they can’t afford to lose it.
The Good News Is That Sales Is a Skill
You can learn to sell. Anyone can learn to sell, that’s not the hard part. The hard part is pushing past your fear, or rather, learning to live with that fear. Yes, you will be rejected regularly when you ask for the sale. But you will never get the sale if you don’t ask for it. You can learn sales skills and business acumen. You can learn how to sell in a way that presents you as a trusted partner and not a slimy, self-centered sales person. All of this is doable if you’re willing to put the effort in and accept rejection as part of life. Otherwise, you might as well hang it up and go take a job where someone else is in charge of selling their ideas, and you just work for them.
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