Harvard Business Review

How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson

Summary.   At some point in your career, even if you’re not in sales, you’re going to have to sell something — whether it’s your idea, your team, or yourself. Here are some strategies for improving your sales skills. Do your homework. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Ask: What business problem does he need solved? Plan and practice. Enlist a trusted colleague to role-play a sales call with you. Ask for feedback and advice on how can you improve your pitch. Listen more than you talk. And don’t let your ego get in the way. Focus on how you can help your prospective customer. Close the deal. At the end of the meeting, ask permission to move forward with the customer by saying: Are you ready to take the next step? Think long term. Sales is rarely a one and done deal. Stay in touch with prospective customers.

What the Experts Say

Selling has a bad rap, says Thomas Steenburgh, professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “Very few parents say they want their kids to grow up to be a salesperson,” he says. His MBA students are no different. “Many of them tell me that sales is something they never want to do in their careers.” And yet, he says, “Sales is the most fundamental skill.” Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group and the author of The Hidden Leader, says that the resistance to sales stems from an “antiquated idea that selling is pushing people to buy something they don’t want, don’t need, or can’t afford.” But that notion is outdated. “Selling is moving somebody else to action,” he says. And that is part and parcel of professional life. “If you look at things you do over the course of your day, from internal meetings with colleagues to clients calls, almost all of your interactions involve some form of selling.” Here’s how to get better at it.

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