Everyone Sells (Oh No!)

In a “blinding flash of the obvious” Tom Peters writes that everyone is in sales.

Think about it: To get a job you have to sell your skills and abilities. To get a project accepted you have to sell the budget to a committee or your boss. As a kid to get that sugary cereal you had to sell your mom on buying it. Married you have to sell your spouse on that awesome car you want to get. Is a group of friends coming into town? You might end up selling them on meeting up at your favorite restaurant.

I was speechless when this hit me.  All I could think was “Oh. No. I HATE selling!”

You can stop laughing; I realize that’s silly coming from a marketing designer.  Isn’t that like a tiger hating stripes?  Probably, but it’s true. I still fight today an overwhelming urge to hide under my desk and wait for the world to go away.  It took years of coaching and development to build up a resistance to rejection, awkward silences and sheer confusion that trying to sell to people can bring.

I still don’t like it, but I can do it.

It’s like any muscle you’ve never exercised. You might be one of those people who’ve been super social all your life. In which case, good on you, you’re probably already in a position that expects a lot of selling non-stop. If you’re like me, however, I’m writing to say there is light at the end of that dark tunnel known as “taking a deep breath and doing it.”

Start small. Usually if you’re introverted, you’ve got great listening skills so read up on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  Truth is you’re probably already practicing some amount of selling already.  Being conscious of it as times come around is great for practicing new approaches.

What does this mean for a company?  EVERY ONE of your employees is selling to your customer. The stock manager who decides to keep high demand products in stock at all times is selling convenience. The cashier who smiles as she gives change is selling kindness. The janitor that takes the time to point a lost customer to their desired aisle is selling attention.  The list goes on.

If everyone is in sales, train them accordingly.

I will give you a for instance. Chick-fil-a has some of the nicest drive through attendants I’ve ever dealt with.  They smile, they’re polite and I actually enjoy interacting with them.  Most drive-through restaurants I have to gear up for war to get an extra packet of salt, the employees are beaten down unhappy and frowning.  You are cattle to be dealt with, money taken, food given and go on.  So much better to be treated like a person than a cog.

Don’t try to force it or mandate it. (I’m thinking that stupid “Would you like to buy a hot apple pie?” requirement for cashiers… “Upselling” is BS) Try to create an environment where selling in everyone’s unique style (extra-mile service, a smile, extra salt without contention, insisting on stocking the bathroom with nice smelling soap, etc… little things really) encouraged and rewarded.


Marketing Challenge: Pick a short easy book like “The Question Behind the Question” and make it mandatory reading with a report from everyone about what they learned from the book.  Let it be known this is how the company is marketing: through them. Empower them and keep that learning going!

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