I was recently reminded of Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human, and his central premise: We’re all in sales now. More than 10% of U.S. workers are directly engaged in some sort of sales. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you define sales as Pink does — the art of moving other people — then everyone sells at some point or another. (In fact, every time you get a paycheck, you’ve just made a repeat sale to your most important customer.)
That fact may be obvious, but it suggests that there may be a broader role for sales skills training in your organization. So why limit it to the sales force? Why not open it up to everyone?
Some topics, such as cold-calling, might be too narrow for a general audience (or maybe not — lots of people may have to initiate and cultivate a relationship with a stranger for the sake of the business). But there are many sales skills that will have broad applicability, such as:
- How to build consensus within a diverse team of decision makers
- How to influence people who don’t report to you
- How to facilitate effective decision making
- How to probe for unidentified needs and problems
- How to negotiate
- How to build credibility and trust
Salespeople face these challenges like these all day long. So do HR directors, CFOs, production managers and office managers. So, for that matter, do mailroom supervisors, shift managers and accounts receivable clerks. They all deal with internal and external customers, and they all need to move other people in order to succeed.
There’s another, more selfish reason to get non-sales staff into your sales training. It’s a great opportunity to build support for the sales function within your organization.
It’s not secret that there’s often a lot of friction between Sales and other departments. With salespeople mostly focused on customers, the interactions with other departments tend to be limited — and are often contentious. Operations people may see salespeople as narcissistic, demanding and unreasonable, willing to promise anything to customers and then expecting the organization to deliver. Salespeople, for their part, sometimes view their operational counterparts as slow-moving dimwits whose role in life is to screw up the deals they worked so hard to win. Having them all participate in joint sales training could go a long way toward mutual understanding.
Finally, of course, opening up sales training to everyone can only enhance its perceived value. You get a better ROI, since you’re spreading the costs across a larger audience. Perhaps more important, you’re showing more people what sales training is all about and why it’s valuable.
So if you’re involved in delivering sales training, it might be a good idea to poll your non-sales managers to see if they or their people might want to participate. If Daniel Pink is any guide, you may not have to sell them very hard on the idea. After all, he wrote a book about this very subject and it became a best seller.
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