Early in my career, I complained to my boss about salespeople, fully convinced that I was several notches above those in sales. He took it as an opportunity to hit me with some radical candor: "Don't kid yourself," he said. "We're all salespeople. And, if you can’t sell, your career is over"
At the time, I thought sales was a grubby, somewhat dishonorable thing. And, I liked to think of myself as smarter and more refined than salespeople. That success would come to me because my ideas and work were top-notch.
I wasn’t alone in thinking that. Many people still believe that sales is beneath them. That success is inevitable if you’re smart and have the best ideas, solutions, products, or services.
I call it the Field of Dreams philosophy: "Build it and they will come." But it’s a fallacy. Again and again, the best ideas, solutions, products, and services fail in the market. And the people who think they’re too good to sell, fail in their careers.
The ideas, products, solutions, and services that get adopted and become market leaders are the ones that are sold! And the people that become leaders and executives, are the ones that know how to sell their ideas, their vision, and themselves.
To be successful, you need to sell. You need to create awareness, desire, and knowledge; articulate value; and give people the ability and opportunity to buy. And you need to constantly reinforce that desire so they buy more.
So whether you’re promoting a product, a service, an idea, a strategy, a change, or yourself, the biggest critical success factor is your ability to sell it.
Don’t sit back, waiting for success to come to you. If your career feels like it's stuck in quicksand, maybe it's time to build some sales skills and start selling. And I'm not talking about cold calling or pressure sales games.
I’m talking about building and nurturing networks. Understanding what’s important to people and helping them. Paying it forward, and doing favors. Using change leadership to build support for your ideas, your vision, and yes, you!
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