Selling is not a four letter word

Selling is not a four letter word
How a manager learns to sell

Selling is often a dirty word, it brings to mind shucksters and snake oil salesmen who can over promise and have no hope of delivering. My perceived inability to sell is exactly why I got into IT in the first place. The problem is I sell something every day.

You do too

Why I needed to Learn
Every time I have to convince others as to why a certain item should be persued or why it isn’t worth it. This is where I sell two products myself and my ideas. Thankfully its a product i believe in and can control. Unfortunatly if I miss the sale, then the next one might be even harder. If I miss too many sales, then people won’t believe me anymore. However when I start getting poeple to believe in me and my ideas well then life is grand.

Through years of failing to gain traction on my plans, I have learned a few keys to selling a good idea.

It’s not about you
People don’t care if it makes your life more difficult, they care what is in it for them. All to often I hear complaints about how someone else’s not thought out idea is going to cause extra work, but if they went with this easier better solution it will work for everyone. Sadly most of the time this is rejected. The reasons giver are “that VP is cheap”, “they hate me”, or  just general complaining about the situation. Not one of these things actually helps the situation, like trying to figure out why they said no.
People say no, especially when it doesn’t matter for a few key reasons. The biggest one is they weren’t persuaded to do so. How many meetings have you been in when the reason the business shouldn’t do something is it will cause more work for you? They don’t care how much time effort and energy things take you, they want results for themselves, and how things will be easier for them. 

Do you workout to loose weight or feel great? Defining a side benefit
I workout to feel better, the fact that I loose weight by doing so is a side benefit but not my primary reason to do so. Many of my coworkers workout to loose weight and feeling better is side benefit to them. I even know people who don’t care about either thing and want bigger biceps or to people watch. The point here is this, its hard to know what motivates someone to make a decision but the faster you can narrow down what is important to them the better your chances are. 

An example
Recently, I made the switch to a more expensive all in one computer. There were some great pros to this.
  • Only 1 box to ship (computer vs. computer and monitor)
  • onsite warranty covers the screen and PC
  • fewer cables needed to be run through the desk
  • reduced setup time
  • staff gains valuable desk space back
  • screen is larger

Of this list items the first 4 were of great interest to me and my team. What did I tell the business about? for most everyone it was the bigger screen and the desk space. Everything else to them was a side benefit. To me, those few “nice to have” items were paramount to success.

Getting Better at selling
ironically the key to selling an idea is a bunch of clichés. If you are able to answer these points then you are ready to make the sale. The best part is, generally as an IT Manager its an easier sell to an internal resource then if you were cold calling. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared, it means getting to yes is generally much quicker.

  • What about this idea is good for them?
    • Put yourself in their shoes, why should they go with your plans?
  • Make them come up with the idea
    • This is the trickiest way to get someone to use your idea, and requires great skill to do so. Having someone come up with your idea, is almost a guarantee for success. 
  • Think about other alternatives and why they won’t work (for them, not you)

    • If you are thinking about the situation form their point of view, come up with all the alternatives and why they won’t work for them. Now keep in mind the one that works best for them, might not be best for you.
  • Be ready for anything

    • Just because you thought of all possible solutions doesn’t mean you didn’t miss one or two, so be ready and be able to speak to anything that comes up. You didn’t think your homework ended when you left school did you?
  • Don’t always be selling, or selling the same idea
    • The easiest way to invalidate your self is to always be saying the exact same thing. As a kid, I can’t tell you how much I never wanted to clean my room when I was continually nagged about it.
  • Give them the final decision but watch the phrasing.
    • The ultimate decision is theirs, so respect it. However, a well phrased question will lead them to the answer that you require.
Do you want me to order the computer where you get the desk space back or just stick with the standard machine we order?


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