When you think of sales, like most people, you probably think of sales people who sell products or services to outside customers. However, there is more to sales than this. All employees should develop internal sales skills. Sales skills are just as important internally as they are externally because they help people sell ideas to their peers and management. Ideas for products, services, streamlining work processes, and cost-cutting measures are invaluable to the company. They often don’t gain momentum because employees don’t have the skills they need to build support for their ideas.
Imagine that you’ve figured out a way to consolidate customer shipping and billing information in a way that will save a great deal of time. It will eliminate overlapping processes and reduce errors. It’s a practical and feasible idea. To make it work, both the shipping and accounting department will have to sign off on the new process. Account managers could also be involved because they need to explain any noticeable changes to their customers. To make all these things happen, all the departments will have to see the advantages of the new process. You have to convince them. This is where internal sales skills come in.
Internal sales skills are all about the selling of ideas instead of products or services. You may be selling ideas about products or services, but it’s very different than normal, transactional sales. It’s more about getting buy-in and support from others in the organization to bring them to fruition. Even experienced outside sales people have to adjust their approach when it comes to internal sales.
It’s likely that you’ll have to sell your ideas to more than one person to get them implemented. If your company has a rigid chain of command or clear department divisions, make every effort to respect them. You could easily offend multiple people by skipping people in the chain of command or trying to make changes without including everyone that will be affected by the change. Before you do anything, you may need to talk with your boss first. This may be your hardest selling point, depending on your boss’ style. Your goal is for your manager to buy into your ideas and help you sell them to other people in the company. You need to show your boss how the idea will benefit him or her and your department.
To convince anyone, you need to carefully think out your idea and how it can be implemented. You won’t convince your boss, teammates or anyone else unless you’re clear and confident about your message. Answer some questions before you discuss your idea, including:
- How will the idea save the company time and money? How much money? How much time?
- Whose buy-in do we need?
- Could this plan affect anyone negatively? How?
- In what ways will the customer benefit?
- How does the idea tie to our business needs?
- What steps do we need to take to implement the idea? Are there any upfront costs involved?
- How long will it take for us to see a benefit?
- Who is likely to resist the idea? Why?
If you are proposing a change to the way things are done in the company, it’s critical to focus on the positive. Carefully avoid criticizing existing processes and procedures. You can easily alienate or offend people with this approach. They will take your criticism personally if they have been involved in creating these systems. Instead, propose new ideas with a constructive message such as “We have an opportunity to save money and time by….” or “We could shorten customer delivery time if we try…” You’ll be much more successful if you take this approach.
Developing your internal sales skills can be a great boost for your career. When you can make positive changes in the workplace that reduce frustration, save time and money and improve the customer experience, other people will notice. They’ll see that you are someone that can get things done and that you’ve made tangible, positive changes that have improved the business. Companies value people who are able to do this and even if you move on in your career, you’ll be able to explain your accomplishments and make yourself attractive to new employers.