Do you consider yourself a good salesman?
If you are like most programmers, you probably don’t.
But have you ever stopped to consider what “selling” and “sales” really are?
Have you ever taken the time to dissect the process of marketing and making a sale and tried to see how it applies to your own life and career?
It’s OK if you haven’t—most people haven’t.
I’m selling you right now
If you’ve made it this far, it is going well for me. You probably decided to read this article because of the headline I created for it, “The One Thing You Don't Know How To Do That You Do Every Day.” Then, the questions I asked in the paragraphs above must have held your interest long enough for you to get to my sub-heading telling you that I am selling you right now.
You see, unless I am actively selling you with my words, you aren’t going to be reading this blog. And, if you aren’t reading this blog, there really isn’t a point in me writing it.
This may not seem important, but the effects of a good sale are profound; especially when you magnify them by a huge number.
Imagine for a moment that this article lands in mainstream media and is featured on national media outlets—yes, a pipedream, I know, but bear with me for a moment.
What would happen to those ads over there on the right or at the bottom of this article? How valuable would they suddenly become?
How many people would subscribe to this blog? How many people would follow me on Twitter or check out the other things I am doing?
The difference between a thousand page views and a million page views is huge!
If I had the ability to “sell” these free words to millions of people each day, even my $0 priced product would have immense value.
When I am writing this blog post, it doesn’t “feel” like I am selling anything, but it is a mistake to think I am not.
I am selling you my ideas, my brand, my name and more. You are paying me with the single most valuable asset you have… your time. CHA-CHING!
You’re selling too
You may not think so, but everything you do in your life, every interaction, every word you speak, and even the clothes you wear are all part of one big sale.
It doesn’t even matter what your profession is, even if you are a programmer, you are selling something each and every day.
Take for instance the last conversation you had with your boss or your coworkers about what technology to use or what direction you should take to solve a certain problem. If you had an opinion at all on what to do, you were in the process of negotiating a sale. In this case you were selling your ideas.
Even the code you write is selling something. The code you write should be conveying something about what it does and how it works. If you can write the code elegantly, the reader of the code might not even be aware of the “selling” taking place. Great code sells itself, it seems apparent, like there was no other way to write it. Just like certain tech companies sell their products in a way that seems like they are obvious and your life wouldn’t be complete without them.
(If you lack the elegance of selling your code naturally, you may have to resort to hard sale tactics and add some comments to the code to describe in detail to the user what the code is doing and what its intent is.)
Your sale might not even be successful at all, as your reader may simply delete your code and replace it or ignore it completely.
Your code is also selling something besides meaning and understanding, it is selling your programming skills. When someone reads code they know you have written, they are making certain judgments about you as a programmer, and even you as a person, believe it or not.
Now, you may not think this amounts to much or is very important—and it may not be—but most sales calls aren’t. Professional salesman face a lot more “no”s than “yes”es, but for some salesman it only takes a couple of “yes”es to pay their whole years salary.
But it goes far beyond this as well. Even the subtle things like the clothes you put on in the morning and how you sit in your chair, are influencing people around you and shaping their acceptance of everything you are selling.
What you post on Twitter, even what you like on Facebook, are all either working for or against the image you are trying to sell.
Why selling matters
So, you may be thinking, “ok that’s nice and all, and I kind of agree, but seriously, why should I even care? So what if I am selling my “ideas” or my “personality” or something else, it doesn’t make a difference to my daily life.”
And that would be where you are wrong.
Do you know those kinds of people which seem to have everything go right for them?
Those people in which opportunity just seems to open its floodgates and rain on them pelting their heads with hailstones of success?
Guess what, most of those kinds of people happen to be excellent salesmen.
You see all those hundreds of sales calls that happen unconsciously every day of your life add up big over time.
If you are consistently “knocking it out of the park,” you are going to make a big impact and have huge amounts of influence.
This “influence,” which is really what sales is all about, will permeate all areas of your life.
If you have a large amount of influence, people will tend to like your ideas and agree with what you say. They will want to follow you and they’ll be buying into your personal brand and your message, whether it be “save the whales” or “give me a promotion.” (Which is exactly why so many companies hire celebrities to represent their brand or product.)
If you lack influence, you can actually have the opposite effect and create a repulsion. Think about the worst salesman you ever met. Did he make you want to buy the products he was selling or did he actually turn you off from them and make you never want to buy those products?
It is the same with us, we can actually become repulsive to the point that we are working completely against ourselves. We can get in situations where the more we try to promote our ideas or our vision of reality, the further away we actually push others from it.
Even if you are not trying to sell, you have to be good at it
So the bottom line is that we all need to learn how to sell and be better salesman, because even if we aren’t actively trying to sell something, we are still participating in the process of hundreds of sales transactions or more each day.
If we aren’t doing something to help make those sales transactions a positive influence for our interests, we may be inadvertently making them a negative influence.
You can be doing everything else right, but if you are selling wrong, you could be spinning your wheels or even going in reverse.
Now obviously, I’m not the best salesman I could possibly be, otherwise you’d probably be reading this post on the New York Times or CNN.com and not on simpleprogrammer.com, so you shouldn’t turn to me for sales advice. (I’m just telling you that you need to develop the skill.)
But, I do have a few suggestions of where to get started.
First of all, a book that I always recommend over and over again that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with sales, but in actuality has a lot to do with sales is “How To Win Friends And Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
And second, the place that makes sense to me to look next is Amazon’s Best Sellers in the Sales and Selling category. (If you can’t figure out why to check this list, you may need more help than I can provide.)
By the way, I am working on a top secret specifically to help programmers and IT people learn to promote and sell themselves to help them increase their opportunities.
YouTube video for the week
And before I let you go, let me sell you on my YouTube video for the week about getting “punched in the stomach.”
Get Up and CODE: Episode 5, How to get 6-pack abs
And I’ve got one more free thing to sell, my latest podcast episode here: