No, you’re probably not a natural born salesman, but you can still be great at sales…
Yes, you can be great at sales. How do I know this, even though I’m new to sales and my background is in software development? It’s because selling is a skill, just like anything else, and skills can be learned. We, as people, are born to learn and grow. It’s what we do naturally from birth. Unfortunately, most of us gets the fun of learning, beaten out of us through school and perhaps parents or societal pressure. But with sales, it’s a skill and as such you can learn it to a great capacity.
When I started my journey on software development, I first took a class in high school, a computer science class. It was my first one in grade 11. I was good at math, so I thought, okay, I’ll try it, and I enjoyed computers. So I thought oh, I’ll try this out. And in the class there were about 10 or 12 geeks, I would say, and they seemed to all know each other. So I was pretty much the odd one out, and they were just so much better at programming than me.
At first, I did not get it at all. I didn’t know what I was doing. I would basically have to ask for help for every situation. The internet was hot at the time. And so for a university I thought I would go into computer science, and at university the dropout rate for computer science graduates is pretty high, for the first year. I think maybe probably about a third to half of our class dropped out and went on to another degree or to something else. I didn’t know what I was doing either.
Again, there would be assignments which to me now seem pretty simple, but at the time I would struggle with each part of it. I would have to see what other people were doing, try to figure out what was going on, and then put it into the program. So I didn’t have a great start. However, once I started my career, I read this article where the guy said, “If you spend 15 minutes a day reading about your craft or your industry, within a few years you will be in the top few percent. So I thought okay, I’ll try this out.
So every day I would read a book about software or the industry for about 15 or 20 minutes, and I found that as I did, I started to come across situations where i would be able to take what I learned in the book and apply it to my job. And so I started to notice that when I did these things people would be surprised. “Oh wow, you came up with the solution that I hadn’t thought about. And it was all because I had read it in a book that just happened to be good timing.
So a couple of years ago I applied to this agency called Toptal, which they say, they only accept the top 3% of developers who apply. So I applied and I got accepted. So now I know that their top 3% is based on who is applying to them and maybe not representative of the general industry. But I could fairly confidently say that I would consider myself to be in the the top few percent of software developers, based on that experience and also having worked with hundreds of developers in my career and noticing the differences.
If I can start from such a low place of a complete beginner, not knowing anything and get to the point where I would probably place myself in the top few percent of my craft, you can do the same with selling. Now will you be the best in the world at sales? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. I mean, there is seven billion people in the world, so it’s a one in seven billion chance that you will be the number one sales person. But thing about the world is that it isn’t set up like that. You don’t have to be the best.
In fact, the advice that you hear about your USP or unique selling proposition it is always, figure out what you are the best at. I have always hated this advice because I’m probably not the best at anything, most people aren’t. There is maybe some people that you can say, for example, Wayne Gretzky, or athletes like Tiger Woods. At a certain point in time they were the best, but for most people we are not going to be at that level, but the thing is it’s okay.
You just have to show up and try to be great, and you will see the results. In addition to reading a bit every day about selling to get better, one other thing I found that works is to also each time you have a sales interaction is to think about what did I do well and what can I get better at. Regardless of whether you made the sale or not. This way you’ll see constant improvement as you go along.
We all want to make the sale, and it’s really tough to, when things are not going well, it’s really tough to say, okay, this isn’t working at all. But the thing is we often don’t realize our little improvements along the way. And by taking the moment after each interaction to say, “Okay, what did I do well, what did I improve at, and what can I improve at it? It will go a long way to helping you improve and get better at sales. You can do it!