If you look to the internet for information on how to boost your career, you will find no end of lists identifying essential skills. Some of them are obvious, such as communications, teamwork, and leadership. Others might be surprising, such as foreign languages, speed reading, and Photoshop. But one, which I have found to be among the most important skills for anyone who wants to experience growth in their career, is missing: sales.
No matter what you do, or how long you have been doing it, having excellent sales skills is critical to succeeding where you are and achieving what comes next. And the fact that it rarely makes the top lists means it could be the skill that sets you apart from the competition, getting you the job, the promotion, or the pay increase you have been after.
Why sales skills are your secret weapon
Regardless of the title you hold, your success relies on selling. For example, you might be a public relations publicist. By the time you start working with a client, they have already been sold by an account manager on a PR packet. Your job at that point is to get the client meaningful media coverage, which you do by selling media pitches. If you can’t get media outlets to buy your story ideas, you won’t succeed in your job. Your title is publicist, but your job is selling.
Perhaps you work in IT designing digital solutions. Whether your clients are internal or external, your job will involve selling the solutions that you design. You will need to sell the client on the viability of the design, sell your management on approving it, sell your team on implementing it, and sell the client on utilizing it.
If you are unemployed or looking to transition to a new career, you need to be able to sell yourself on your resume. If you don’t, you will not get an opportunity to interview for a new job. During the interview, your job is to get the hiring manager to buy the idea that you are the best person for the position.
The skills make you a great salesperson
If you are ready to include sales skills in your personal development plan, here are a few tips I have learned during my career in sales.
- Listen and learn — You already know about your product, especially if that product is you or your ideas. What you may not know about is your customer’s problem. Making the sale involves presenting a solid argument for how your product solves their problem. Take the time to listen and learn what problem the customer is trying to solve before you start pitching your solution.
- Own the product — The best way to convince a client, whether that is a customer, a coworker, or a manager, is to convince yourself first. If you do not believe in the product or service, you are not the best person to convince a customer. In addition, persistence, which is critical in sales, will flow from your belief that you are selling a great solution.
- Know people — Before I started working in sales, I worked in customer service. During that phase of my career, I learned to recognize people’s emotions and leverage them to guide the conversation. Regardless of what you are selling, the buyer will always be a person. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to meet their needs.
- Focus — Don’t start selling without a goal. What are you hoping to achieve? A promotion? An award? A raise? Once you identify the goal, you can map out the growth you will need to achieve and the gatekeepers you will need to convince. Big sales can take a while to set up; stay focused on the goal and proceed one step at a time.
Sales skills are important for every professional because every professional needs to inspire buy-in. From entry level to senior positions, your success requires getting those around you to buy into your vision, your proposals, and your value. Even CEOs must sell their boards. You will never stop needing sales skills.
Teejay Salazar is Vice President of Sales at Cyberbacker, the leading provider of world-class administrative support and virtual assistant services from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world. He used his sales skills to grow from an employee at a call center to his current VP position.