We may not be selling a product or service for exchange of money profit, yet we are always “selling” something in the more nuanced sense of persuading or causing to be accepted.
What are we selling? Selling in this sense can be selling a product, selling an idea, or selling yourself.
Unless they have drastically changed the curriculum, they don’t teach sales in engineering school. At least it wasn’t on the curriculum when I went to college. So I will share some tips on incorporating sales into your professional life when I guest lecture for graduating engineering students at Western University, near London, Ontario later this month.
So how did I learn about “sales” and how has it helped me?
Recently I was going through some school papers and other stacks of “Jimmy’s Memories” and I came across an “Autobiography” I wrote as a freshman in college. In it I describe experiences that, looking back, were influential in ways I could not have imagined as a young boy, scrappy teen or driven college student.
When I was 10 years old, I often sat at the front window of our apartment in Boston, watching the other kids play in the street. I was shy. So instead of playing, I read books. Lots and lots of books. Don’t get me wrong, I loved books. But what I wouldn’t have given to have been part of the group at play.
Then in the 6th grade I started playing the saxophone and it helped me come out of my shell. If I provided something of value by way of entertaining, people responded. By the time I was in the 9th grade I led a small dance band. We played parties here and there, and in high school we were performing regularly. In college, we played campus parties, clubs and weddings. How did we get so many gigs? I had to learn to sell both myself and my band.
I had to do my research, find out what clubs hired bands. I had to reach out to the manager or booker, make the appointment, be on time and bring my wares (we had recordings of our latest gigs). I found if I was polite, dressed appropriately, and had something of value to offer – we were a pretty good band if I do say so myself – people responded. To “close the deal” I had to ask for the job.
It’s one thing to book a band. It’s quite another to ask someone to spend thousands of dollars on upgrading HVAC equipment, implementing energy conservation measures or engaging expert consulting services. The principles are the same, however. Whether it’s an exchange of money, ideas or influence, there are some basic principles to doing business. Whether you’re interviewing for your first job, trying to get approval for new equipment, starting up a recycling program in your building, or applying for a promotion, here are my top tips to help you “close the deal.”
- Be prepared. Educate yourself on the pros and cons, the benefits and obstacles of the opportunity at hand. Provide documentation.
- Grow yourself. Attend industry seminars, webinars and professional association meetings. Get involved and get certified if certification(s) are available for your field.
- Be professional. Be polite and on time. Understand the culture of your organization.
- Remember to ask. You’re not likely to get the “yes” if you don’t ask for it. As Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky says, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
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