I thought I was born to be a college professor. I went to grad school, got a Ph.D. in Communication and then taught courses in public speaking, interpersonal communication, leadership – you name it. Sounds like the path of a professor, right? Then how the heck did I end up being the First Lady of Sales? College professors aren’t salespeople…or are they?
Well, it isn’t as big of jump as it seems. When I decided to leave academia, I wanted to go into consulting. It seemed like a cool field and I could still help people and teach them to improve and elevate their skills. After interviewing for a number of positions, I landed at a company in a role titled Sales Management Consultant. How did that happen? Initially it seemed very far from my qualifications! But, my role as a consultant was to manage the process and the people.
Then, another turn of events: My boss asked me to start selling too. What?? No, no, no – I manage people! I’m not in sales! Oh my, I went kicking and screaming! My boss knew I could do it – and deep down, I knew I could figure it out – I just didn’t like the ick factor of it.
So, there I was, a salesperson and a consultant and had to figure out how to not get fired! I read sales books and talked to other salespeople…but I still really struggled with that ick factor. Until my colleague had a conversation with me. She told me how I knew all about communication and how I had sold my way into a job that I knew nothing about. She helped me to realize that I had been selling my whole life, I just didn’t call it sales. Lightbulb moment!
Sales is all about communicating.
Listening more than speaking, and understanding what your client really needs. I had “officially” been teaching communication for years. But I realized very quickly that I had already been selling in various ways all along. I had “unofficially” been selling my whole life!
A few months into the role, I started to feel more comfortable. I created a sales process that felt authentic to me. No pressure, no cheesy tactics. Just me, listening to a client and seeing how I could help. Kind of a help-a-holic sales approach that felt good to me. I like to help people. Fast forward from that job, to opening my own consulting firm, to now. I have literally spent the better part of my adult career helping people…by selling. So, that is how I ended up as the First Lady of Sales.
Why the big story? Because I want to help YOU.
You can sell yourself into anything you want too! Have the confidence to take that ability you use every day and channel it into selling your way into your next big step. Here’s what I learned:
Hone those communication skills.
I already had the degree and the training. I just had to realize how critical they were in the sales process. Think about it – just like me, you’re already selling. So now, it’s time to really put a finer point on your communication skills. Be you, but the best version of yourself. Be sure you are making the best impression you can! Make eye contact. Mirror the person you are speaking with. Watch your body language. Communicate confidence and empathy, not boredom or anxiety. And while face–to–face meetings are always ideal, sometimes you may find your first shot at new opportunity is over the phone. Put a smile on your face – the listener can hear it in your voice. Listen well and ask follow–up questions. Be sure you understand what they are saying and be sure you are understood as well.
Remember how my career took some unexpected turns? I’m a planner by nature, so I knew I needed to work on my new role in sales and learn everything I could before I began. I didn’t plan to be the First Lady of Sales! Part of planning is learning and doing research so you’re well informed and ready to hit the ground running! You need to know what you want and think about how you can get it. If you want to land a new job, you need to sell it to the person who is hiring. Do your research ahead of time. Find out as much as you can about the company you want to work for and the person conducing the interview. Know what is important to them and connect on a deeper level. Don’t just prepare to sell yourself, prepare to learn as much as you can in order to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
Embrace your inner salesperson.
Boy, this was a big one for me. I embraced who I was and the kind of sales I was going to do. Soon, I realized every person is a salesperson! Every job is a sales job. Any time you are convincing someone to give you what you want, you are selling. If you convince a toddler to eat green beans, or your teenager to do, well, anything really – then you’re already in sales! And you are good at it! If you are able to get people to volunteer at the school carnival, or your coworkers to jump on board with a new idea – guess, what? That’s right – you’re selling.
Remember, sell you!
At that interview for the consultant role I wasn’t necessarily the poster child for the job; I listened actively and made a great personal connection with the woman interviewing me. I convinced her by how I communicated with her that I could be trained for anything. Instead of selling my resume or my years of experience, I was selling something even better. Myself! Connect with others and show them you have the best potential to provide what they need.
Have confidence and take those steps you have been afraid to take. You can sell yourself into anything!