Sales best practices for non-sales people

Everyone should work in sales at some point in his or her career. It doesn't matter what you sell. Knives, office supplies, paint, phones, software, whatever - it really doesn't matter. Sales jobs teach you valuable lessons. 

Everyone in a company, regardless of role, is a sales person in one form or another. Sure, sales people actually sell the product, but CEOs sell investors on the vision, CTOs sell the CEO and board on technical direction, engineers sell their managers on realistic milestones and expectations, HR sells the CEO on new perks they want to provide to attract better talent, etc. 

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I have worked in both sales and marketing roles for a number of years, first at Silver Spring Networks, and then at Integrate. I learned many valuable lessons both in direct selling as well as managing a sales team. 

But because not everyone gets the opportunity to work in sales, here are three best practices I learned that I think can benefit anyone in an organization:

1. Know your customer. Since everyone is really in some form of sales, then everyone has a customer. Know your customer. Personality, likes, dislikes, what motivates them, what problems they have, etc. The most effective sales people sell to people, they don't just talk about the product. They sell to the customers' wants, problems, and aspirations. For example, if you are a developer looking for more responsibility, don't sell your VP of Engineering on the fact you have free time to work on more stuff; instead, know exactly what makes your VP of Engineering nervous about the next build and sell him on why you are the best person to work on that. Know your customer. 

2. Business people are people, too. Sometimes we forget that behind that business title, there is a person who has interests, worries, a family, stresses, insecurities, etc. It's always important to build a personal and human relationship with people before you ever try to get something from them, sell them something, or work with them. It doesn't mean you have to get to know them for a year, but trying to connect with people on a human level never hurts. Also, just like our significant others and moms, business people like knowing you care and think about them. Send them an article you think they might like, a card, etc. 

3. Sell them oxygen, not aspirin. Oxygen is something you can't live without; aspirin just masks the pain, but doesn't fix the core problem. For example, if you are selling enterprise CRM software, it would ineffective to pitch it as 'this software will make sure you build stronger relationships'. Perhaps a more effective way to pitch it would be 'this software will increase revenue, help you grow faster than your competition, and become profitable/hit your earnings targets'. Said another way, sell why you do what you do, not what you do. What you do might be relationship management software, but why you do it is to help businesses utilize the tools to grow revenue and become more efficient. 

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