Whether You Know It Or Not, You’re in Sales

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Sep 17, 2019

Author’s note: The Human Resources team spends a good part of each workweek recruiting and interviewing job candidates, teaching employees how to avoid sexual harassment and discrimination complaints, and mediating disputes between managers and their subordinates.

In short, the HR team sells all week long.

Recruiters and interviewers sell talented potential employees on the value of the organization. Trainers sell the staff on behaving professionally, courteously and within the law. Mediators sell feuding parties on getting along and getting back to work.

Any request, job offer or coaching session is no different from a sale. Once HR professionals embrace the notion that every job — no matter what the title or position description — is, on some level, a sales job, they will be more effective and successful if they employ the strategies of the sales professional as they make those everyday “sales.”

Following is an excerpt from Every Job Is a Sales Job.


Everyone who meets other people as part of his or her routine duties is in the perfect position to sell additional products and services to those people. They could be customers or clients. They could be visitors to the company headquarters. They could be the neighbors or friends you talk to about work after hours.

I can almost hear you saying, “But sales is not my job.”

Isn’t it though?

Whether you’re the president of the company or a member of the cleaning crew, if you come into contact with people — the public, your colleagues, or anyone, really — during your workday, you have a chance to sell.

If you’re well dressed, pleasant to be around, good at making small talk, and interested in hearing what people have to say, you can sell. If you’re quiet but you’re a good listener — even if you’re shy — you can sell. If you have a skill that you can use to solve problems for other people, you can sell. In fact, you already do. Every time you make a good impression on anybody you meet in conjunction with your job, that person becomes more likely to use your company again the next time he or she needs a product or a service like the one your company specializes in. That’s a potential sale.

Branding is selling

Chances are good that you have made plenty of sales — or that you could have if you had paid closer attention to what your customer was telling you. For example, whenever you run into a mom at your kid’s ball game who asks you where you work, she becomes more likely to call you if she needs something your company offers — if you’ve talked about work in a positive way. That’s a potential sale. Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you badmouth your company after hours, you could give people a bad impression of your workplace. That’s the opposite of a sale.

So whenever you meet an old school pal for lunch, talk enthusiastically about the project you’re working on or an opportunity your boss just offered you. That way you plant the seed that your employer is a good one. Your pal might someday recommend you or your company, or apply for a job there himself. That’s a sale. Whenever you work with a client or a customer and you get an inkling that the person isn’t too happy with another company she’s using for a service that your firm offers, too, you have the opportunity to bring that business on board. Do it, and you’ve made a sale.

What kinds of skills do you use when you want to convince the board of directors to approve a new education program for stakeholders? Or wow a client into choosing your creative idea for an ad campaign instead of someone else’s? Or get buy-in from your staff when you decide to add Saturday shifts to their traditional weekday-only schedules?

Sales skills.

None of those tasks is an add-on; none of them is something you would turn over to a sales professional instead of doing it yourself. Yet you’re using the skills of the sales pro every time you make a pitch, a request, or a change that involves other people. You sell, sell, sell all day. But you don’t call it sales. You just call it “doing your job.”

Shift the way you think

Now that you understand that you have the potential to sell in unexpected ways, it’s time to shift the way you think so you can easily identify sales opportunities going forward. Think about what you have sold at work today, and to whom. Did you get a colleague to cover your phone for you so you could take an extra half hour at lunchtime for a physical therapy appointment? Did you convince a caller to hold for an extended time so you could figure out how to fill her unusual request? Did you ask the coworker who sits in the next cubicle to turn the volume down on the music he streams on his computer all day? Did you collect a past-due payment from a client whose account has been delinquent for six months?

How did you do that? You used the skills of the sales professional. You sold them on it. You didn’t even realize you were selling, but you were.

But I’m a manager

A client of mine, Martin, was an insurance underwriter for years and years before his boss promoted him into the position of sales manager. Martin came to me for advice because my work involves helping non-salespeople excel at sales. “I’m not a salesperson,” Martin kept telling me. Even after he became the sales manager, he insisted that he was in management, not sales. It wasn’t too long before the sales team he managed outsold every competitor in his market. Martin still refused to call himself a salesperson.

I hoped to convince him to embrace his inner sales professional. I asked him why he thought his boss promoted him into this job. “I’ve been with the company a long time,” he replied. My response: “Nope, it’s because you sold him on it. You sold him on your ability to manage a sales force even though you’re not a trained sales professional.” I told him: “You can tell me all day that you’re not a salesperson. But you went from a middle manager to the hiring manager to the sales manager. You got there by selling yourself to the higher-ups.”

It took some doing, but I finally convinced Martin that he has been selling every day since he joined the company 10 years ago. He just never realized that’s what he was doing.

Imagine if he had. Imagine if he had been selling on purpose instead of doing it without realizing it. Imagine how much more successful he might be by now.

Martin’s passion is helping people. Now that he realizes that he excels as a salesperson, he can help so many more people.

Embrace sales

Embrace your inner salesperson. Know that your job is sales, even if it’s not your title on your business card. Consider every interaction a transaction, and every transaction a sale.

The fact is that every transaction that could result in a “yes” or a “no” will require you to sell something: yourself, your idea, a concept, your worthiness, your value, your competence, your company.

And you’ve done it countless times. You do it dozens of times every day, on and off the job. You’re good at it. You just didn’t realize it.