There used to be a fine dividing line between "sales" and other professional disciplines — there were "salespeople," and then there were the rest of us. Salespeople were the ones who had to actively build relationships and make phone calls and make things happen and get deals done, and the rest of us did our jobs and helped support the other goals of the organization, but we never really had to “sell” and we didn’t think of ourselves as being “salespeople.” It used to be easier to separate people’s everyday work and roles from that of the sales team — sales was thought of as being a separate skill that only sales specialists needed to have.
This is no longer true. In the digital age, in the era of social media and LinkedIn and an economy that depends more than ever before on relationships, connections, and trust, no matter what profession or industry you're in, we are all effectively "salespeople" now.
Even if you don't get paid on commission or even if you're not expected to reach sales quotas, your job security depends more than ever on your ability to do what salespeople do — build relationships, think on your feet, adapt to changing conditions, and learn how to "make the ask" to get what you want at work and in life.
Here are some professional development tips that any young professionals or mid-career professionals can use to recognize the new rules of the game:
Salespeople are in the business of building relationships — but so are the rest of us! No matter what your job title might be, your best long-term job security will come from your ability to win people’s trust, build confidence, and be the sort of person that people want to work with. Just like salespeople need to have a long list of contacts and prospects to keep calling on to keep making sales, we all have to rely on our own network of colleagues, past and future business contacts, friends-of-friends, social media followers, and anyone else who might be able to help connect us with opportunities.
In the old days, climbing the career ladder was a matter of getting more authority — you would gradually get promoted and have people working under you, and get more prestige and status and money as you went along. But today, the old-style corporate hierarchy has in many organizations been replaced with a flatter organization structure. Instead of a career ladder, we now have a “career lattice,” where your success is more about making good decisions and adding value and showing inspired efforts on specific projects and short-term roles along the way. People who have great careers today are not necessarily the ones with big job titles — they’re the people who have a salesperson’s scrappy knack for carving out opportunities anywhere, and making things happen. Are you a driver of productivity, a catalyst for change, a creative sparkplug, an energetic project manager? Then you’re in the “sales business” now.
Sure, maybe your job is not to “sell” a product — but your job is to “sell” yourself and your skills and your vision and talents. You have to constantly be prepared to make your case for why your project matters, why people should listen to you, why your ideas deserve to be heard, why your organization is worthy of support. There is no benefit anymore to being silent. Every time you make your voice heard at work or in life outside of work, you are “selling.”
Whether or not "sales" is part of our formal job description, we all would do well to emulate some basic sales skills to help build relationships, discover opportunities, and get things done faster at work. The future belongs to people who know how to create change, win trust, build support, and energize the people around them to do great things. Does that sound like “sales” to you? It’s the new definition of sales skills for the new rules of career success.
Gregg Schwartz is the Director of Sales for Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies servicing the B2B marketplace. Gregg has developed and implemented hundreds of lead generation programs resulting in millions of dollars in revenue for his clients.