In the software engineering field, in particular with engineers themselves, sales has a bad reputation. I think this is because engineers have seen some sales guys in the past over-commit on a project with a customer, that the engineers then had to somehow deliver upon.
This is a shame when someone feels this way, because the reality is sales is a necessary skill for all of us to have, in order to have some positive influence on those around us.
Whether we like it or not, we are all sales guys. We all have to convince someone to hire us, someone to love us, someone to trust us: but we cannot achieve any of this until we can sell our skill set as desirable. Sales skills have universal application. Since time began, that has remained a fundamental truth.
So if we agree that sales skills are useful, then we should get good at it. In the rest of this podcast, I will present my strongly-held believe that you cannot successfully sell anything, an idea, a product, or indeed your personal skills: until you fully believe in what you are selling.
So let’s begin.
When we believe in something completely, we no longer have doubt about that topic. Doubt in a sales engagement is fatal: if your audience feels that you are in some doubt about what you are presenting, their confidence in you will be diminished, and you will lose your credibility.
Suppose for example you are trying to convince your team mates to follow a certain process. You need to build a set of compelling arguments for that process, by showing the problems with the old process, and showing how your new process will address those issues.
As you are presenting your case, you team mates, who are smart and well versed in the old process, will start to challenge your arguments. So you must be ready for this, by having your answers ready, and having no doubts about your proposal.
If a colleague finds a gap in your new process and exposes it, you may find your confidence draining and doubts start to creep in: it is in this exact moment that you will win or lose your case:
To be a successful sales person, you need to be a zealot. According to the dictionary, a zealous person is:
marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal : filled with or characterized by zeal
To be truly convincing, you need blind belief in what you are selling.
If you look at any of the product launch videos by Steve Jobs of Apple on YouTube, you can see a real master at work. Did Steve worry about the competition when he got on stage? Did me worry that his laptop, phone, or tablet was not the greatest? Hell no!
Steve was completely convinced that his products were the best, and he was there to convince you the same. Steve was a zealot, a preacher, a master sales person: and with the power of his will and charisma, he built a multi-billion dollar company.
Seriously go and watch his product launch videos on YouTube, you can learn a lot as they are amazing.
Another misplaced emotion that can occur when we think about sales is shame. In particular with engineers I find they feel a lot of shame around selling something, as if they are being boastful when they feel they should be humble.
Let me be direct on this, and say that this is simple wrong: there should be zero shame about selling anything.
Engineers need to realize that without that sales guy that they may have looked down on in the past, their company would have no revenue to pay that engineer’s salary, and the product that engineer worked so hard to build would get used by nobody.
If you are a software engineer listening to this, remember that sales guy who is presently hassling you for estimates for their prospect is actually your friend, as they are out their selling your product against stiff resistance in the market place, and helping to feed you and your family in the process.
Cut them some slack, their job is a lot harder than you realize.
Under normal circumstances, I would normally advocate that you should simply present the facts during your presentations.
For sales presentations however, the facts are not enough. Sales are as much about feelings as they are about facts. You need to make your audience feel good about your product, or your message, and ideally send them away afterwards feeling excited. Simply turning up and reading a list of product features is not enough.
When you sell, you are selling the future vision as well as the present facts. Let me give you a real example.
When my wife and I bought our house, the present facts where that we were staring at a hole in the ground. Not a single piece of construction work on the house had begun.
However, the sales guy brought us to a nearby show house that was a close replica of ours, and showed us brochures of the final design we would receive, along with renderings of what the surrounding landscaped gardens would look like.
Put simply, he sold us on the future vision, got us excited about that, and built enough trust in us to get us to put down a deposit there and then. We could envision ourselves living in that house.
People can buy into a vision based upon an emotional response to a good pitch, and are even willing to delay their gratification until that promise is delivered upon.
The best sales people are story tellers. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have been gathered around fires, while telling each other stories. Often those stories lead to new information about where to find the best hunting grounds, or where is a good spot to fish.
Put simply, we are hard wired to tell stories, and hard wired to listen to the good ones in case we would otherwise miss an opportunity.
When you are selling something or some idea, it is best to place yourself in the mindset of a story teller.
You want your story, or pitch, to have a introduction that builds the drama: this is often referred to as the "hook", that you will use to draw in your audience. You can imagine around a camp fire in the past, audience members physically drawing closer so they can listen to the drama unfolding.
Next in the middle, you will want to present the main point you are trying to make. This is your central message, where your solution will solve the problem presented in the drama section before. Here you must make a compelling set of arguments.
Finally there is the conclusion: here you can summarize your message, by highlighting the key points that you want your audience to take away. Remember human beings have limited short-term memory, so in most cases they will only remember 4-6 key points from your presentation: you must ensure that these are the rights ones.
Not everyone is a natural story teller, and there are personal and cultural implications in your background that can affect this ability, but I am convinced that with practice, and with studying from the masters, you can learn and improve this skill.
I have met many professional sales people, and I have never met an effective one who had not mastered the art of story telling. Some of them are so charismatic and funny, they can entice any audience in any setting, often in such a natural way that the audience barely notices that they are being very effectively sold something, as they are too busy being entertained.
If someone can be both entertained and convinced at the same time, they will keep on coming back for more, you will will succeed in selling to them.
Lets recap what we have covered today:
I hope you enjoyed this episode, and I look forward to covering the next topic in this series with you! In the interim if you want to follow me online, you can find my blog at TechLeader.pro, or follow me on Twitter @TechLeaderPro.
Thanks for your time, take care and have a great week!
File details: 16.9 MB MP3, 11 mins 43 secs duration.
Title music is "Still Cold" by Crystal Shards, licensed via www.epidemicsound.com
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