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How to master the 'art of selling'

Leaders understand the importance of word of mouth reference, which in turn is based on long term consistent and quality performance.

“Everyone lives by selling something.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

This quote by Robert Louis Stevenson could not be truer.

It very effectively sums up life’s journey. Life starts with hardcore selling and ends with hardcore selling. Whether you believe it or not, sales is the first skill that a child learns – he knows within a few days of his birth that it is his adorable smile and scrunchy face making that will earn him cuddles and chocolates from the grown-ups. And, if he is with a group of babies, then maybe a bawl will do the trick. The math, sales tactics and skills are perfected within the first few months, which are then polished throughout life.

These skills are then used at work, where it is of utmost importance. At the workplace, you not only sell yourself (the personal brand), but also the organisation that you work for and its products. So, everything that you have acquired in life till now, and will acquire in the future – all of it is a result of selling something – your skills, talent, organisation’s brand or products.

This brings us to the question – Why are sales so important and why does everyone need to sell?

1. It is the only way to let the world know what you have to offer - A silent but a highly skilful person will get no attention, but one who can talk and explain his skills (even limited) will capture the attention of his target and win the deal.

2. It helps build relationships – Yes, if done without being overly pushy, sales can and do help build relationships both personal and professional. It is the most effective method of telling your story to the world and to connect with others.

3. It helps build credibility – Sales to an extent is all about commitment and delivery. When you commit and deliver as per the commitment – you build credibility, which in turn gets you more business or contacts or friends.

These three reasons are the pillars of success - both individual and organisational. When, harnessed effectively, they lead you from success to success or more aptly - from one successful sale to the next. No one, absolutely no one, irrespective of their place in the hierarchy of the company, at home, or in the society, can get by without selling.

If you have something worth offering – you need to sell. If you want to know whether what you have is worth offering – then too, you need to sell. It is in a way, the ultimate feedback gaining mechanism for your personal brand and everything else that you associate yourself with.

Now, if it is such an important life skill and the first that everyone learns, then why is it that only some people - the leaders, are exceptionally good at it, that their skills, services, products are demanded without any selling on their part?

What qualities do leaders posses that make them master sellers?

1. Confidence – They are sure about their skill/product, know its value and are proud of being associated with it.

2. Commitment - Leaders are committed to their vision, mission or goal. They pursue it zealously, no shortcuts.

3. Integrity – Leaders posses strength of character and maintain honesty with all stakeholders – organization, employees, vendors and customers.

4. Above par soft skills – Leaders know how to treat people around them be it business associates, partners or customers – they treat everyone courteously with utmost respect. Good leaders concentrate on building a relationship first, then on closing the sale.

5. Continuous learners – Leaders are always on the lookout to update their knowledge and skill set and they share it openly with their associates.  Not only this, they also seek feedback and if genuine, they implement it.

6. Target oriented – Leaders are very target oriented – they plan and execute as per the plan.

7. Good listeners – They are very good listeners. They pick up on subtle cues and know without explicit communication when a deal can be pursued further or when they need to take a step back.

8. Good communicators – Along with being good listeners, leaders are well versed with the art of making small talk. A leader effectively uses the ‘you attitude’ to put people at ease and gets them to voluntarily listen to what he has to say.

9. Problem solvers – Leaders by nature are problem solvers. Instead of letting an issue foster, they deal with it on a priority to sort it out.

10. Product and market knowledge – last but not the least, they have in-depth product knowledge and they know how the market in which they operates performs and where it is headed – i.e. along with the present they also have an eye on the future.

This might make some of us might think – I also posses all the above mentioned qualities- at least to some extent – then why am I not considered a leader? What’s the difference?

There are two main differences –

• In a leader, all the above mentioned qualities are fully cultivated.

• It is not just the qualities, but also how they use the techniques make all the difference.

So, along with these qualities a leader also uses certain sales techniques that set him apart from the rest.

What are these techniques?

In all, there are four types of selling – transaction-based selling, relationship-based selling, diagnostic-selling and conviction-based selling. The first three types of selling are based on either data accompanied by certain tools and techniques, personal relationships based on trust (subtle manipulation of emotions), or time. By using all of these factors to our advantage, we try to ‘push’ the product in the market, which at times results in a forced sale. Leaders stay away from all of these.

Instead, they use the conviction-based selling method, which is borne of their passion towards their area of expertise and the ecosystem therein. This creates a ‘pull’ effect; ‘an attraction’ towards the leader, creating a demand for his expertise, skills, services and products that he is associated with.

This can be easily explained with the following e.g. – there are many high rise buildings in the Dubai, but when asked to recall their names, only one name – Burj Khalifa comes to mind. Why? Well, because it is the tallest, and the most memorable. Same is the case with leaders; we only remember the best – the ones who know how to use their qualities with the right technique.

Using these techniques, leaders create a need for what they have to offer, demonstrate its use, communicate its availability and provide a consistent quality service or product, to acquire credibility, which leads to word of mouth promotion and ultimately generates demand in the market. No overt selling.

Leaders understand the importance of word of mouth reference, which in turn is based on long term consistent and quality performance. They concentrate on performing, on getting the deliverables right and leave the selling to the consumers. Consumers sell their experience of associating with the person, the satisfaction of using a service or product, to others who then based on this feedback ‘demand’ for the person’s time/skill, service or product.

This is how great leaders sell – not by selling, but by persuading people to demand!

The writer of this article is PK Menon, Career Transitioning Specialist and Retail Supply Chain Expert. One of the world's most influential authorities on thought leadership, retail, supply chain and logistics. An acclaimed speaker, author, trainer and accredited Global Thought Leaders mentor, he specialises in the achievement of success through Thought Leadership and Failure Intelligence. The views expressed here are personal.

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