One of my former professors invited me to speak briefly to this his Personal Selling class. There was no recording of it, but here is essentially what I told them.

Sales is not about earning commissions, targeting prospects, or meeting goals and quotas. When you think about it in the big picture; Sales is simply about relating to, and connecting with people honestly, authentically, and passionately.

The 1st key to successful selling is:
Knowing who you are and what you believe.
Successful salespeople need something to help protect them from the constant sound of “NO”. They need something to congratulate them when the boss accepts the glory for their hard work. They need something to push them through the inevitable slumps. They need something to tell them when it is time to find new employment. When properly crafted; their own belief system will do the job nicely.

I never made a sale by claiming something that didn’t excite me, or I didn’t believe to be true; nor did I buy from someone just regurgitating another’s presentation. Having a belief in myself and following my own moral compass helps me on a daily basis.

To develop your belief system, reserve some time every day to reflect (and write down) on answers to the following types of questions:
What you like/dislike?
What excites/revolts you?
How you want others to see you?
What limits do you place on your moral flexibility?

Your answers are your answers, and they are likely to evolve over the years. But as long as you work within them, you have a good foundation for success.

The 2nd key to successful selling is:
Identifying how/why/what people want to buy.
No matter what or how you sell; people buy for their own reasons. They will not purchase until the moment they decide it is right for them – for whatever reason. Some have bought my products to fit in; while others buy the same exact thing to stand out. Even though humans have the ability to reason, we are not completely rational beings; and, thanks to our emotions and social agendas, regularly do things that seem to defy any interpretation of logic whatsoever.

Ruling out logic as an ideal sales platform; it makes sense to put the focus on the buyer’s motives, and rely on our listening more than our speaking. Ask honest, straightforward, open-ended questions and listen carefully to what is said, how it is said, and what is not being said. Clarify all assumptions you gather, and most of all; be open and honest about the reason of your questions.

If you have invested significantly in defining yourself, it is easier to build trust and be genuinely concerned about building a mutually beneficial relationship. Thus your questions will not seem manipulative.

Years ago, as I waked into a business to gauge their potential for one of my product lines; I was nearly stopped in my tracks with a brutal question from the frustrated owner. “What the hell are you selling?”

Thanks to my self belief; I continued walking towards her and calmly replied that I was there to sell myself and ideas/methods to help grow her business. With a smile on her face, she shook my hand and we talked for nearly an hour. Within a week, she made her first of many purchases and told me that she did so simply because of the way I answered her first question.