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Mark Richardson on selling: 'Embrace it, then master it'

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Marketing & Sales

Mark Richardson on selling: 'Embrace it, then master it'

Most successful business people are also masters at selling. Here are three proven approaches for becoming a sales pro.


By Mark Richardson, Contributing Editor November 2, 2012
Mark Richardson on selling: 'Embrace it, then master it'

Are you a masterful salesperson? Do you even think of yourself as a salesperson? Many cringe when they are called a salesperson or even think of themselves in a sales role.

A moment of truth in my career came about 30 years ago (after a very heavy design education in architecture) when I realized that I was a salesperson. While my passion was design, the vehicle for me to get to do what I loved to do was to sell it. And to get more design projects, I had to get better and more masterful at sales.

There are numerous metaphors that help us understand this simple notion. If you are a baseball player and you want to be on the field rather than on the bench, you need to be more masterful at your position. If you are a musician and you want to sit in the first chair, your techniques and skills must be better than others. If you want to get design or construction projects, you not only need to be competent, you also have to be masterful at convincing prospective clients that you and your company are the right ones to hire.

Think of the masterful business and world leaders that you admire. I’ll bet that most of them, if not all of them, are also great salespeople. Presidents Reagan, Kennedy, and Jefferson were not only great leaders, they also had tremendous sales skills. Think about how Gandhi sold his people on his beliefs. So why do I share these examples? Quite simply, if you ever want to get good at sales, you must first admit that you are a salesperson. Once you acknowledge this, you will give yourself the license to improve, to invest time, to study sales, and to become a student of success in sales. Now is the time to start mastering sales. Now is the time when you can become a pro and not just an amateur at selling. Here are some tips for getting started:

Find a sales mentor or coach. A good mentor can be found within the industry or outside of it. This can be a formal arrangement or just a regular lunch with someone you respect as a sales master. Once you develop the relationship, begin to ask questions and listen. Study his or her evolution and how it relates to your journey. Look for the subtleties, both at the level of their attitude and mindset and how they carry themselves. Don’t keep it a secret from them that you too want to become a better salesperson. They will share lessons learned and secrets.

Invest time. Just like an athlete that practices before the game, you must also invest an hour or two a week to become more masterful at selling. You might listen to CDs in your car or read a book on sales or attend a sales seminar or webinar. If you can have the discipline to invest the time, you will see your sales stock begin to rise. It only takes a couple of hours a week to see dramatic changes.

Experiment. Every day, you are in different situations that require you selling something. This can be selling your craft, selling a friend on an idea, or selling your child on eating vegetables. Try to be more conscious of these selling situations and experiment with different techniques, questions, and language. Anticipate what the objections might be prior to the close and see if you are right. Know how to handle objections and remain calm by being the voice of reason rather than shocked by an unanticipated response. As in sports, it is always better to practice on the practice field than in the game. So look at every lead as an opportunity to learn and practice your craft.

In closing, first admit that if you want to do what you love to do you will need to be masterful at sales. Second, create a written plan to become more masterful at sales. And third, have the discipline to execute and stick with your plan. Once you get above the clouds and become more masterful at sales, you will realize it is not only a noble place, but also a lot of fun.

Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/ Remodeling Inc. and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By.” He can be reached at mrichardson@casedesign.com.

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