What’s the best way to learn to sell?

Selling lobsters. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Selling lobsters. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Today people will make wake up, get dressed and travel to their shop, a showroom floor or prospective customer’s premises to sell. They will be selling cars, homes, furniture, confectionery, insurance, clothes, meat, vegetables, smart phones, tablet computers and large industrial equipment – to name only a few products and services.

Selling is pervasive in our economy. With so many thousands of people making their daily living from the products and services that they sell one wonders how all these people were trained to sell.

Some are trained through company sales programmes, others tag along with experienced sales people on calls and learn the ropes in the field while yet others just bare-knuckle it and learn through trial and error.

Even though a high percentage of buyers select a product or supplier because of the sales person rather than the features, benefits, quality and price, university commerce faculties and business schools don’t offer sales courses. Sales management may be offered as a section of a marketing course but that’s about all.

Where and how do you learn to sell as the owner of a new start-up, someone who has come up with an idea for a product or service and now needs to sell to consumers, agents, distributors or supermarket chain stores?

To get yourself up and running quickly you could seek out someone among your family, friends or previous colleagues who have made a living from selling. I, for example, at one point needed to learn to sell in a hurry and asked a friend who was a photocopier salesperson to give me informal coaching. Later I was also informally trained by a veteran insurance salesperson.

Another way to skill yourself in selling your product or service is to find the best salesperson in your market niche and learn from him or her. You could, for instance, buy from the salesperson and record the salesperson on an inexpensive digital voice recorder. Listen to the sales arguments and how they persuade you to buy. You will learn a lot about presenting, persuasive arguments and closing techniques this way. Get someone to transcribe your recording and study the transcript. It may sound like a lot of work but it will be hugely valuable.

Thousands of people learn from books written by professional salespeople and their CD or MP3 recordings. Make sure you select a sales trainer whose selling methods are applicable to your market niche and are up-to-date. A lot of sales training material is peddled year after year and has not moved with the times.

Selling is not only about skill but also attitude and work ethics. You’ll need to increase self-confidence to handle the fear of selling, cold calling and coping with rejection.

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