How to Be an Effective Seller #1: Sell Something you Believe in

About My Selling Credentials

I’ve been in sales and business development my entire professional life. 

I never had the desire, academic chops, or patience to become anything else.  I took the LSAT and my score was so miserable I’m embarrassed to even share it. 

Truth is, I am an introverted person. I shouldn’t be attracted to the selling profession.  But according to my parents and grandparents, I have a good personality – and good manners – which are helpful in selling.

There were other factors that led me into sales: I had bad grades, I was the class clown, I have the attention span of a gnat, I’m not unpleasant to look at, I have some hair, I’m a snappy dresser, I like to golf, and I’m competitive. 

And most importantly, without a graduate degree, professional aspirations, or entrepreneurial ambitions, selling was the best path for me to earn good money.

Here are the sales positions I’ve worked in:

  1. Account Executive for The Ball State Daily News (newspaper advertising sales)
  2. Account Executive for The Indianapolis Star and News (newspaper advertising sales)
  3. Account Executive for Time Inc. (magazine advertising sales)
  4. Account Executive for 3 radio stations (radio advertising)
  5. Account Executive for a CBS Local TV station (TV advertising sales)
  6. Account Executive for Ivie & Associates (selling marketing services to businesses)
  7. VP of Accounts for Ivie & Associates (same as above)
  8. Account Executive for an NBC Local TV station (TV advertising sales)
  9. General Manager for Ball State Sports Properties (corporate sponsorship sales for collegiate sports)

So, I’ve been around the block, and learned a few things over the years.  Not to brag – but everywhere I’ve sold I’ve been successful.  In some cases, I’ve been the top seller among many, and even won some awards.   

In the coming weeks, I will share what I believe to be the 10 most important ingredients in becoming a successful salesperson.

#1:  Sell Something You Love or Believe In

In college, needing to make beer money, my interest in advertising and newspapers led me to a student job selling ads for our school newspaper – The Ball State Daily News.  And it may have been the worst way to start my sales career.

Why?  Because newspapers (this was the late 1990’s) were still the dominant advertising media for local business.  Before Google, Craigslist, Facebook, Snap Chat, and other digital media companies devastated print advertising.

It was so easy. 

Selling ads in a college newspaper – to a business in a college town – wasn’t rocket science.  We had a monopoly on the campus audience.  And I exploited our dominance.

The key here, I also loved the product

The key here, I also loved the product.  I devoured newspapers every morning since I was a kid eating bowls of Captain Crunch cereal.  There were no smart phones, laptops, or tablets. 

Secretly, I wanted to be a journalist.  But there were too many smart people vying for those positions, and I knew a job as a reporter didn’t pay much. 

So, I sold ads, and discovered it was the highest paying student job on campus.  I not only loved the money, I loved that I was supporting journalism, and I was also supporting students learning how to be journalists!

This made selling more of a mission, and it didn’t feel like a job, it felt like service.   

It’s About Service

First, I was serving advertisers by introducing them to new customers. Second, I was serving our journalists because the advertising revenue paid for their expenses. And third, I was serving our readers by funding the gathering of the news they wanted to read. 

Contrast this with selling something I wasn’t interested in, like pharmaceuticals, or industrial widgets, or medical devices – selling something I didn’t have a passion for would have made it more difficult to overcome my shyness and call on strangers.

In order to be successful in sales, you have to call on strangers

In order to be successful in sales, you have to call on strangers.  Strangers who don’t necessarily want to talk to you. 

And you may have to repeatedly call until these strangers are convinced you won’t go away.  And if they agree to talk to you, finally recognizing your dogged persistence, they’ll often discover you have a solution to their pain and buy something.

This is so much easier to do when you believe in what you are selling.  Not just a fake belief, but a true interest and passion for the product or service you represent.  

I have always had a passion for journalism, advertising, and marketing, so I have stayed where my passion was fueling my sales efforts. 

In my next post on becoming an effective seller, I’ll dive into “Embracing The Art of The Hustle”.