They say that the most important skill that you can have in your [business] life is to be able to SELL.
And, why shouldn’t it?
– You want to buy a house? You need to shmooze the bank manager … SELL him on why he should give you the loan.
– You want to get married? You’d better woo the spouse-to-be and their parents … SELL them on letting you join their family.
– You want to get a job? You should brush up on your interview skills … SELL them on why you should get the job over all the others applying.
– You want a pay-rise? You had better impress the boss … SELL her on why you – above all others – deserve the promotion.
– You want your start-up to break-even, the maybe make a few bucks profit … who else is going to do the SELLING for you??!!
Unfortunately, I’m actually a terrible salesman, and am very uncomfortable in a one-on-one ‘convince the other guy to give me what I want’ situation.
Luckily, I actually think that the ability to sell is only the second most important [business] skill …
… the first – most important – one came back to me when I attended my daughter’s Speech Night tonight.
In case you’ve never been to one of those, it’s when a bunch of kids each select a random topic and write – then present to their classmates and parents – a 3 minute speech.
Now, I remember the first time that I spoke in public: it was while I was still at college and I was asked to be Best Man at my friend’s wedding; well, all I remember was:
a) I was so nervous that my knees were literally wobbling as I spoke, and
b) I had no idea what to say … I only remember that it was ridiculously schmaltzy like some cheap, drug-store gift card.
I also remember my first ‘real’ work-related speech: it was at a training course for selling, sponsored by the company that hired me straight out of college. I remember that my speech, my delivery, and my materials (overhead transparencies, hand-drawn/colored like some some 5th grader!) were terrible, and my instructors were more than happy to let me know 🙂
The turning point came when – at a later course, after I learned at least SOME presentation skills – I was video-taped giving a practice talk, and (naturally) felt very uncomfortable and unconfident … but, I soldiered on as best I could, resigned to be as embarrassed as usual when I saw the tape.
However, when I was finally shown the tape, the person I saw on the screen was somebody else entirely: he looked relaxed and confident … I couldn’t even see his leg shaking 😛
From that moment on, my career as a ‘public speaker’ was launched!
Realizing that it didn’t matter how I felt that counted, but how my audience perceived me, I rapidly went from strength to strength, actively seeking opportunities to stand up in front of a whiteboard, write-on-wipe-off felt-tip marker in hand.
This, more than any other single skill, accounts for my success in business, investing and Life:
– If I wanted to fund my businesses and investments, I presented my financial plans to my bank manager and his team, careful to fully explain the opportunity and address all of their potential concerns; the presentation format allowed me to be proactive, yet still leave room for additional questions. This allowed me to secure millions of dollars in funding, even when I had absolutely NO assets behind me!
– When I wanted to get married, my real job began at the first family dinner as I carefully presented myself in the best possible light with (sparingly applied!) carefully chosen anecdotes.
– When I wanted a promotion or pay-rise, I made sure that I had a an opportunity to have my boss see me doing something that most people (including him!) are afraid to do: being relaxed, confident, informative, and entertaining in front of an audience. This made me one of the most successful ‘experts’ in my field, within only a couple of years of taking up that particular specialty.
– When I wanted large companies to buy what my company had to sell (and, later, to buy my company), I always came up with a crackerjack presentation that addressed all of their buying considerations (which I had been careful to assess in prior “ask polite questions and listen to what they have to say” meetings); being the only person standing up really allowed me to control the flow of the meeting and helped me to sign multi-million dollar contracts all over the world.
In other words, I let the presentation do the selling, which really took the pressure off me having to perform as a Salesman …
… and, it became clear to me: everybody respects the person standing on the stage.
As for my daughter: she did an awesome, confident speech … as did many of her classmates.
In my opinion, if they keep it up, they will have a flying start in their later business life … and, so will you, if you take the time to learn – and, practice – speaking to an audience.