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Great Salesmanship Is a Way of Life

Make sales a seamless extension of every aspect of your life, and you'll see opportunities everywhere.

Investment guru Peter Lynch--the man who put the Magellan mutual fund on the map--was a passionate advocate for investing in what you know; from the stores you like to shop in to the products you can't live without.

In effect, Lynch was saying that wise investing is a way of life. I'm here to tell you the same is true of salesmanship--great salesmanship, that is.

What do I mean by this? It's that you don't wear two hats: the civilian and the salesperson. Instead, great salespeople are always looking and thinking about sales opportunities in everything they do.

Case in point: A few years ago, I regularly dined at a world-class, famous restaurant where the chef liked to make the rounds, greeting diners at every table. I had made small talk with the celebrity owner on numerous occasions. But then one night I asked myself; "Why make small talk when I could do business with a culinary giant?" There was no reason I couldn't weave a sales potential into the mix.

The next time the chef stopped at our table, I moved past the usual greetings and asked him how business was. Seamlessly I added that my interest was piqued by the fact that I am the CEO of a marketing firm.

Even though I'd been a regular for sometime, this was the first time the chef took a seat. He asked questions about my firm and volunteered that he was having difficulty with a new, more casual-style restaurant chain he had christened a few years before.

A week later I was touring the new chain, and quickly thereafter we were hired to provide the marketing firepower to give the new chain lift as a viable enterprise. Weaving salesmanship into a splendid dinner resulted in a wonderful new client.

How else can you make selling a way of life?

  1. When you engage in off-the-job activities that interest you, ask yourself questions about their business potential.
    For example, one of my clients is an active member of his church, and he recognized that his parish's youth activities (while highly rewarding for the kids) were poorly managed by the administrators. A software salesperson, he approached the leadership, suggesting that his product could help the church raise money by introducing families to the wide range of youth programs offered and, equally important, enable the church to manage its programs with 21st century technology as opposed to 1950s index cards and No. 2 pencils.

    Of course, he got the account. Making sales a way of life produced a win-win for the salesperson and the church.
  2. Tap into the network of people you trust and relationships you already have in place.
    For example, have you thought about the financial advisor who manages your personal assets? Behind that advisor lies one or more major firms that actually invest the money, provide the insurance or deliver trust services.

    Whatever it is you sell--from food to footwear--chances are good those major firms are in the market for it. So why not use your leverage with the financial advisor to seek an appointment? Your relationships are door openers, providing opportunities to generate sales.

Sales opportunities are literally everywhere. The key to cultivating these opportunities is in viewing salesmanship not as what you do from 9 to 5, but instead as a seamless extension of virtually every aspect of your life.

That is the true definition of a heat-seeking sales machine.

Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a management and marketing firm based in New York, and the author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He's a regular media commentator on business matters including marketing, management and sales. He's also the author of the marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.

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