After I’d been at Fleishman-Hillard for a couple of years, I had three promotions under my belt and was already eyeing the corner office (some things never change).
Because I was so steadily climbing the corporate ladder, I was soon invited into new business meetings where my presentation skills were honed, I was taught to think on my feet, and I was forced to stop biting my fingernails.
But all of those meetings? They were put on by one of the partners and you had to be invited in. No one at my level ever hosted a prospect.
And then. My then mentor and now good friend, Ron Arp, came back from an executive team meeting and told a group of us we had to learn how to sell.
Learn to Sell
Of course, he didn’t use that word because he’s much better at consensus than that, but that’s what it was…we had to learn to sell.
What the heck did I know about selling? I am an English major. I wrote the obituary and wedding announcements at the Omaha World-Herald during college. I was a communicator and on my way to being a client service pro. Not only did I not know how to sell, all of my contacts were also in their mid-20s. They didn’t have decision-making power. Who was I going to sell?
But, being the double type A, highly-competitive person I am, I convinced my supervisor to let me join PRSA and IABC and I started attending meetings and getting involved. I began to network. By golly, I was going to find a way to bring in some new business!
Ron did everything he could to bring us along. He bought us all copies of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He brought in speakers who gave us roadmaps on how to build relationships with people in order to get them to buy.
But it was all so foreign. It still didn’t make sense…this selling thing.
Is it Just Networking?
Over dinner one night, I was talking to my dear, dear friend Henry Gantz about this conundrum. I was doing so well at almost every part of my job, but failing at this new business thing.
A few days later he called me.
He said, “We’re going to hire a PR firm and we want it to be FH.”
At the time, he was the president of The Catfish Institute and they ended up spending more than $1 million a year with us.
I was a freaking hero and all I had to do was talk to a friend, without even realizing they were looking. All I did was put a germ of an idea in his head and he made it happen.
This selling thing is easy! It’s not suckering poor souls into buying. It’s not putting on a lot of pressure. It’s just doing business with friends.
Fast forward to today where a majority of my job is business development. I love the chase. I love bouncing around new ideas with prospects. I love introducing a new client to my team. I love watching my team gain the results we proposed in the beginning.
It’s fun and it’s extremely rewarding.
To Sell is Human
In it, he argues selling has become an essential part of nearly everyone’s job in today’s world.
Everyone is in sales.
Many of us spend time on the social networks and represent both us and our organizations while we’re out there. Many of us go to industry events and talk to old friends and new about what we do. Many of us attend trade shows and Chamber of Commerce meetings and networking events and meet new people.
That, my friends, is selling, and it’s up to all of us to help our organizations grow.
Think about it this way: Wouldn’t you rather work with your friends than try to go out and find some stranger looking to buy what you do?
To sell is human…and it’s up to all of us.