What is Selling, Really?

I had a conversation with a friend and colleague recently—a very smart, successful guy in the health-care field. We were looking at the idea of joining forces in a venture, and I asked this seemingly innocuous question: “Are you good at selling?” 

The question hung like a cloud for a moment. Then he gave the noncommittal, rambling, hesitant sort of reply that usually follows:

"Well, if I really believe in something . . . ,” or “If I think something is really going to help someone . . .”

Have you been through that? It happens a lot. And I believe that the reason it happens a lot is that most people in other professions (and, surprisingly often, even within the profession of selling) simply don’t understand what selling is! 

People who have trouble answering this question have a feeling deep inside that selling is manipulating or tricking someone into buying something they don’t want or don’t need. There’s an unspoken feeling that it’s a lower-class occupation, conjuring up images of a snake-oil peddler in a bad plaid suit, too-wide tie, and two-tone shoes. Selling still gets viewed as “common,” or a bit base, in much the same way as being in business (or having to work in any way) was seen by the English aristocracy not so many decades ago.

Again, it’s my observation that this feeling stems from the simple fact that most people simply don’t know what selling is! And this despite the reality that we are raised with selling. Think about it: almost every worthwhile material possession we own—a great car, a nice suit, a fine musical instrument, a quality piece of cookware—we bought! And that means that someone sold it to us!

I’ve been around the sales game for quite a while now. I’ve sold, and I’ve managed salespeople. I’ve created training programs and delivered them to salespeople all over the world.  And after all that time, here is the most accurate, simplest description of selling I have ever heard:

Selling is the transference of belief!

That’s it! It’s really that simple. You believe in something. You communicate with another person about it, and after that communication, they believe the same way you do. 

My wife has recruited people for her chiropractor while standing in line at the supermarket! She believes in him, talks about her experience and the results she’s had with him, and perfect strangers end up going to him.  It doesn’t even have to be positive belief. Say you’ve had a less than stellar experience at a restaurant. You tell a friend about it, and after you finish, they don’t like the place, either!

In both instances, someone has transferred their belief to someone else. They have sold a belief, a concept, a feeling about something.  So if you have a salesperson who is smart enough, talented enough, and well enough trained, but is producing below where they should be, check this out. It may be that their concept of the profession of selling is inaccurate. And if so, it could well be that a little correction of that concept, by you, could dramatically ramp up their production.

By the way, it’s just possible that the problem is not with someone you manage. It could be that the problem lies with you. (Sorry, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be completely candid, even when it hurts a little.)