How To Sell Your Ideas Without Being “Salesy”

As organizations change, as they inevitably will, especially after the pandemic, some people are getting revised job descriptions that include some sales responsibilities. And some of the people are fighting back, saying, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

But the fact is, everyone is a salesperson and that includes YOU. As the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, put it, “Everyone lives by selling something.” The only difference between people is that a few people are very good at selling, but most people suck at it.

It’s time that you learned how to sell your ideas without being “salesy” because the benefits for you, your workplace, and your relationships are enormous. Here are a few things I suggest.

► 1. Ask with confidence.

Before you try to sell others on your ideas, you’ve got to be sold yourself. You’ve got to believe in your ideas and believe that you can win the cooperation of others or you’ll ask with less confidence and determination. And that will cause the other person to take you and your points less seriously.

If you lack a confident self-demeanor, then practice. Practice what you’re going to say to the other person or what you’re going to ask before you open your mouth. You might practice your request in front of a mirror, or you might ask someone else how you sound when you ask. You want to come across with sincerity and enthusiasm.

When you ask from the heart, when you’re perceived as firm, polite, passionate, and friendly, you increase your odds of getting the other person to go along with you. So make sure your voice sounds confident. And make sure you maintain steady eye contact to show that you are serious.

All these things will make you be much more effective than you would ever be if you simply “winged it”.

► 2. Organize your thoughts.

You can’t expect to sell your ideas if the other person doesn’t understand your request. So you might write out exactly what you want. And rewrite your points until your reasoning is clear and can be easily communicated.

► 3. Understand the person you are trying to sell.

You’ve heard the old expression, “Different strokes for different folks.” It’s true. That’s why I teach the five love languages and the five work languages at my Journey-to-the Extraordinary. When you learn the preferred “language” of your customer, coworker, or spouse, and when you speak their “language,” connections and cooperation are almost instantaneous. You become an effective “salesperson.”

Kristin Clayton said her son learned that lesson very quickly when he went away to college. When she called him and got his answering machine, she heard, “Hi, this is Rick. If you are someone from the phone company, I’ve already sent the money. If this is one of my parents, please send money. If it’s my financial institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you’re a friend, you owe me money. If you’re a female, I have plenty of money.”

In a somewhat sexist kind of way, Rick was right in line with some of the research. According to Dr. Willard Harley, men and women each have five key needs and their lists are completely different. He says one of the top five needs for women is financial security and when a man can offer that feelings of love and respect are easier to develop. Perhaps Rick had peeked at that research before he set up his voice mail message.

Effective salespeople understand the people they are trying to sell — what makes them tick and what ticks them off. It’s like the salesperson who told his customer, “I’d like you to accept this fine hunting knife as a gift for carrying my product in your store.”

The merchant said, “Ah, my conscience wouldn’t let me take a gift.”

“Okay,” the salesman said. “What if I sell it to you for a dime?”

“In that case,” the merchant replied. “I’ll take two.”

Quite simply you can’t sell everyone the same way. You’ve got to understand the person you are trying to sell and adapt your message to a style that fits for them.

It was a key take-away for Clay Anderson, the owner of the Cool Beans! Coffee Company. After attending my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience, Clay said, “My greatest ‘ah-ha’ came when I learned about the power of positive and negative thoughts. I never realized that my thoughts about another person could become a literal force in that person’s life. I went back to work and taught your techniques to my employees and now they realize that the thoughts they have of their customers are critical. Their positive thoughts turn into positive behaviors and that turns into a more pleasant buying experience for the customer. BUT GET THIS: It’s also creating a lot more generosity in the customers — which is showing up in the tips we receive.”

► 4. Understand the person you are trying to sell.

Finally, for today’s Tuesday Tip, to become better at selling anything to anyone, you’ve got to master the art of asking. You can’t expect people to magically read your mind and just give you what you want without you asking them for what you want. That’s pure craziness.

It’s like the patient who said, “Doctor, every time I eat fruit I get this strange urge to give people all my money.” To which the doctor replied, “Would you like an apple or a banana?”

And it’s just as crazy to tell someone, “If you really loved me, you’d know what I needed. I shouldn’t have to tell you.” In essence you’re telling the other person that they can prove their love and loyalty by having some kind of supernatural ESP. That’s a very unfair thing to do to anyone.

To improve your asking skills, make up an asking ladder. Write down ten things you would like to ask people to do. Your list might include asking for a discount on an item you want to purchase, asking your partner for some help on a project, asking your coworker to help you figure out a certain situation, asking your kids to clean up their rooms, and asking your Senator to vote “no” on a certain piece of legislation.

Then rank order your ten items from 1 to 10, with “1” being the situation where it would be the easiest for you to ask for what you want to “10” being the situation you would find most difficult. Practice your asking skills by starting with your “1” and work your way up, stopping after each “ask” to think about what worked and what didn’t work. You will get better and better at “selling” by simply “asking” for what you need.