If I were to suggest to you that everyone’s role is tied to sales, how would you react?
Does the idea of your role being associated with sales make you uneasy? Would you push back on my statement, considering that your role has nothing to do with selling?
Many years ago, I led a small team of people at a nonprofit. One of my main goals was to grow the membership. However, we didn’t have anyone dedicated specifically to selling memberships. I considered hiring someone but decided before I did it was important to ensure everyone was aware of the connection between their role and helping us find and add more members.
While I was speaking with one of our project managers, she turned to me and said, “Shawn, I’m not in sales, my role has nothing to do with selling memberships, and I really don’t feel comfortable doing so.”
It became clear at that moment that there was a disconnect that I needed to address.
Her role had significant influence over our existing members, our potential members, various government partners, vendors, and even other employees. Fortunately, she was excellent at her job, and everyone loved working with her, but helping her realize the importance of influence as a key tool in her role became my mission, as it did for others across the organization.
The reason I suggest that everyone is in sales is because, simply put, sales is about influence.
Whether you’re in accounting, project management, operations, or IT, you are advertently (or inadvertently) influencing people every day. These range from customers, peers, your boss, other departments, and vendors.
Want someone to respond to your email? You’ll need to influence them with a catchy title to be sure they open it, and a closing sentence that gets them to act. Trying to get your coworkers to support you on a project, then you’ll need to influence them to take interest in the project as a priority.
Career success requires we “sell” or influence others. The key, then, is to recognize who our “customers” are (internally or externally) and what influence we have with them.
A recent study conducted by McKinsey identified that decision-making within organizations today is increasingly complex. Essentially, with more people involved in decisions, and more data to sort through, it’s becoming harder and harder to make decisions.
If you want your voice to be heard, your ideas adopted, and your feedback acted on, then you’ll need to wield your influence. Strategies like those used by sales professionals with their increasingly complex and demanding customers will engage others in the decisions we need them to make.
Tech tools make work simpler but we often sacrifice personalized experiences to achieve higher levels of productivity. It happens when we respond to emails without being cordial or send a text when we could pick up the phone. When you put people first and seek to personalize your interactions, you win, because you stand out from what everyone else is doing.
Everyone wants to feel special, particularly in today’s hectic world where technology has amplified our communications. When it comes to influencing others and gaining their attention and appreciation, rapid response is key. Consider the last time someone responded to your email or a request for a meeting within minutes. You likely held that person in high regard. I commit to a 90-minute response time for all my coaching clients, and it’s one of the reasons I have so many repeat clients.
Would you rather help someone who is grumpy or someone who is happy? If it’s the latter, maybe you should consider smiling more often. A study conducted at Berkley found that laughter works as a social glue and concluded that people who laugh together like each other more. If you want to influence others, put on your best smile and have some fun.
Use examples and stories to show your expertise
Influencing others requires that we demonstrate some level of expertise. If my wife, a registered early childhood educator, disagrees with my ideas around how we help our boys, I listen. Her degree and experience provide her credibility. Fortunately, you don’t need a degree to be credible. Instead, you can use examples and stories to demonstrate your expertise. Share wins and examples as ways to demonstrate your authority and gain influence over your co-workers.
We need to recognize that everything we want to achieve requires that we practice influence. So, although you might not believe you’re in sales, I’d argue otherwise.
Shawn Casemore is a speaker and facilitator who works with entrepreneurs and business leaders to align their teams, “wow” their customers, and grow their businesses.