Whenever talking to high school students as part of my volunteer work, I often ask them what they plan on doing after they graduate. If college is not on their horizon, I obviously try to sway their thinking so that they can see the amazing opportunities that a college education offers. However, even beyond formal schooling, it is important to convey to these students that learning does not stop once you step out of the classroom.
Throughout history, great minds have echoed the same statement in many forms: Life itself is a classroom and it is the best learning environment we will ever have at our fingertips. We are within this classroom all the time, surrounded by the greatest teachers in the world, even though we often don’t see them as such.
Our job, whatever that may be, has taught us things that could not be learned from books or from sitting in a traditional classroom. We have learned from mistakes things that simply cannot be taught any other way. This is why work is such a vital part of human existence. It serves not only to allow us the physical fruits of our labor, such as food, water and shelter, but it leaves an imprint upon our mind that we have come to refer to as “experience.” This is nothing more than the acquisition of knowledge in the purest and most direct form and as trivial as our work experience may sometimes be, it can always be transferred to universal principles.
As an example of this, I want to refer back to my first job. When I was 17, there was nothing I wanted more than to work as a salesman. I saw people selling things all around me and in my mind this was the ultimate profession; it was the art of persuasion. Little did I know that the skills I would learn in sales could be applied to life and these skills have guided me on a continual basis ever since.
A few days after turning 18, I was hired at a major national health club chain as a “membership counselor” or basically a salesperson. To me, I sold the perfect product; the gift of fitness. I believed in my product with all my heart and mind and this leads us to my first universal principle of sales.
1. Passion is at the core of everything we do.
Find it, focus it and funnel it towards whatever you want to accomplish. You cannot believe in something without passion and you can’t sell something you don’t believe in, or at least you shouldn’t Don’t cheat your prospects and don’t cheat yourself. Whatever you’re selling, whether it is a product, service or even your own set of skills in a job interview, be enthusiastic, energetic and passionately engaged in what you’re doing.
2. You’re always selling an emotion.
Think about it; why do people want the bright red sports cars? Why would someone ever buy a gym membership? Behind every sale lies an emotional trigger. For the car buyer, the trigger is the feeling that is conjured up when driving the bright red sports car. For the gym enthusiast, you could care less about having access to weights and treadmills if it doesn’t get you the results you’re looking for. The way you feel when you workout and the way you look when you get in shape is what really counts. This is why people buy. This is what triggers every sale. Remember, this applies to life too. Think about everything you’ve ever been persuaded to do or have persuaded others to do. Underneath every action there is an emotional trigger that sparked the exchange.
3. Build a relationship first and the sales will follow.
Ever met a salesperson who could care less about you personally and is only motivated by closing the deal? Yes, we all have. To these people, you’re just a number or a commission. Even though you know very well that you’re different from every other person who has ever bought from this salesperson, they don’t seem to care. Well this, my friend, is not sales. This is greed motivated by the almighty dollar and indifference to everything else.
True sales is not to be thought of as something negative. Selling is bargaining, it is negotiating. We do it all the time and it is a part of life. No wonder they say that sales is the world’s oldest profession. Without sales we couldn’t survive, because we cannot all simultaneously have access to all the resources we need on earth. That’s why we make exchanges with one another.
Therefore, sales is a natural human interaction, with emphasis on the human part. We need to acknowledge this with every prospect we meet. Everyone has a story they want to share and we should want to listen. We should want to customize whatever it is we are selling to this particular individual’s needs to the best of our ability. We should want to build a friendly relationship with every person we meet before we even think about getting them to buy something from us.
If you do this, the sale will come naturally, because you’ve built trust and made a new friend along the way. But whatever you do, make sure it’s for the right reason. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling and you don’t really care about each prospect as an individual, then get out of this business. We have enough sharks in the water. It’s time to get back to the true intent of sales. Make it the noble profession it once was and you’ll not only be helping yourself, but you’ll be transforming lives along the way.