You Should Learn How to Sell. Here's The First Lesson.

June 28, 2017

Sales is an essential skill for every person, whether we like it or not. Here's how to sell in an ethical way.

Here’s a reality of life – regardless of what you want to be in this world, at some point in time, you are going to have to sell.

Maybe it’s selling yourself to get a new job. Or selling something, like a used car or an old possession. Or actually selling a product, perhaps for a business you own. Whatever it is, being a salesperson is a role we all play in life.

And yet, to many non-salespeople, the idea of selling can feel icky. We think we have to act fake, to be sleazy, to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do.

The reality is quite the opposite, LinkedIn Learning Instructor and Sales Coach Jeff Bloomfield said in his LinkedIn Learning course, Sales Foundations. The best salespeople actively work to solve a customer’s problem, and build lasting relationships through mutual trust and mutual benefit.

“Being a great salesperson isn't about control and manipulation,” Bloomfield said. “It's about having a genuine desire to help other people solve problems.”

So what’s the key to being a good salesperson who builds those lasting relationships? Well, that requires more than one blog post to teach; a full Learning Path is more like it. But, the first step to becoming a great salesperson is having the right mindset.

The mindset needed to sell

Think of the stereotypical bad salesperson. What’s their defining quality?

They don’t listen, they don’t care about helping you. Instead, the only thing they are focused on is how great their product is and they are pushing it as hard as they can, so they can get their commission.

“The number-one job of any sales profession is ultimately to solve the customer's problem,” Bloomfield said. And yet, many salespeople forget that lesson and become the “pushy, over-aggressive, self-focused sales person that perpetuates the stereotype,” he said.

Instead, to sell anything, you need to approach the conversation the exact opposite way, Bloomfield said.

“The most successful salespeople are individuals who have a mindset of what I call the Three Ss,” Bloomfield said.

What are those three Ss? They are, in order (and the order really matters):

  • A servant’s mindset

The first part of any sales conversation should be all about the customer. You should ask questions to understand their perspective and the problem they face.

“It may be cliché, but how can you attempt to metaphorically walk a mile in their shoes?” Bloomfield said. “The more you do this the more empathetic you will become and the servant mentality will come across to the customer loud and clear.”

  • Share your experience and knowledge.

After hearing the person’s problem, here is where you can relate to the client and share whatever knowledge you have on the subject. Have you heard similar problems before, or perhaps even gone through them yourself?

This holds true whether you are selling a piece of software or yourself, for a job opportunity. Do people think you know the industry? Can you yourself add value by adding relevant knowledge to the conversation?

  • Solve your customer’s problem.

At this point, you’ve earned the right to explain how your solution solves the client's problem. Maybe they are in desperate need of automation and your piece of software can handle that. Maybe their car broke down and they need a car ASAP. Or maybe they need a graphic designer to design their logo and you’ve designed award-winning logos in the past.

A caveat – after going through the first two steps, you might find that your solution won’t fix their problem. First, try to think of a creative way to deploy your solution that’ll fix their problem. But, if it’s absolutely not a fit, it’s better to tell them that – otherwise, it’s only going to end in a poor relationship and a strain on your conscience.

The takeaway

What’s a true sales professional’s biggest joy?

“Successfully solving a customer’s problem,” Bloomfield said.

Now, I know that might generate some eye rolls. But salespeople who adopt that mantra are ultimately the most successful, as they build lasting relationships with mutual benefit. 

Because the reality is sales is something every human has to do throughout our lives. By following the lesson described above, you take the “icky-ness” out of selling and instead become a true partner to your client.

Selling is an essential skill for all professionals. Learn the basics in Bloomfield’s course, Sales Foundations