This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Co-authored with Agata Antonow
In February 2018, a Girl Scout sold 300 boxes of cookies in just a few hours. Her secret? She set up shop outside of San Diego marijuana shop Urbn Leaf. Her story earned many chuckles and grabbed national headlines. Surely, this girl had her finger on the pulse of customers. More importantly, she likely had a sales mindset, one that took her from what Girl Scout sellers “usually” do to what her customers wanted.
Everybody is in sales. Maybe you’re not selling cookies — or any products or services — but you are selling something. Whether you own a business and are trying to bring in more customers, are a consultant or are ringing up sales at a local store and determining whether customers will come back, you’re in sales. If you’re looking for a job, raising money for a cause or trying to start a business, you’re especially in sales, because you’re selling your own brand.
We’re all persuaders and influencers in our roles, whether we’re parents trying to convince a 10-year-old of the benefits of going to school on a Monday morning or trying to persuade our investors to become ambassadors of our brand. We’re all that Girl Scout troop member, and we need to tap into that brilliant mindset that got her to sell 300 boxes in one day.
Shifting your mindset from “non-sales” to “sales” begins by getting curious about any internal dialogues you have about selling. Do you fear “asking” for something? Do you think you need to bow and scrape to sell? Or do you get excited about the possibilities of making a difference through sales?
What if you started seeing selling as connecting or working together with clients and customers? If you try to avoid seeing yourself in a “sales” role because you think it means being pushy or putting money first, start by shifting the conversation you are having with yourself. Consider how your internal dialogue could be impacting your approach. Review where some of these ideas came from. Are they still relevant? What if you could set them down for a bit and try a new approach?
Shifting your mindset from “non-sales” to “sales” begins by getting curious about any internal dialogues you have about selling.
In reality, the selling mindset means being curious. It is about learning about all stakeholders and their needs and taking care of them. This mindset is about listening and connecting. It is about authentic interactions. Does shifting the focus in this way change how you approach your role? Try it on for size.
Sellers of all types influence and create new ideas. They also share. They help others understand what they can do to make life better, and at their core, they can shift how people live and how our society functions — for the better. Relational salespeople, those who forge authentic relationships and make a difference, are the highest level of sales in the industry. They offer new value that did not exist before.
Consider, for example, the Post-it note. The ubiquitous sticky notes were created by accident when 3M employee Spencer Silver was looking for a super-adhesive. He knew his idea, which stemmed from his apparent “failure” to create a permanent adhesive, was promising, but there was a problem: Post-it notes were so new that no one knew how to use them. 3M had to become a brand ambassador by offering samples and teaching people how to use the product in offices with real-world examples. By understanding what office clients were looking for and by being an influencer, 3M gave away free product and shifted to a relationship-building and teaching role. In doing so, they changed how people take temporary notes. That influence has lasted until today, when many offices feel they absolutely need Post-it notes.
Sales is a contribution mindset. Rather than seeing sales as pushing against the resistance of the prospect, we can choose to lean in to perceived resistance with curiosity. By leaning in, we explore what else may be possible. We move toward listening so we might not sell or influence, but we trust that there may be a greater outcome at some point. Maybe we are telling ourselves a prospect is resisting. We lean in to that perceived resistance with curiosity, and maybe we learn something to improve a product or service or even our own approach or ideas.
Every interaction offers us feedback, and by learning and listening, we can use that feedback to make big changes in our business and our lives. We learn what others need and want, and we can meet them where they are. We can learn something from every interaction and become stronger in our role.
One reason why many “non-sales” people resist the “sales” label is because they approach the journey from a space of lack. Being in a scarcity mindset means only one person can be right: you or a prospect. Feeling there is not enough can stilt the ability to influence. In reality, sales is an expression of abundance. Whether you are seeking investors or new customers, you are saying there is plenty out there, and you want to draw that prosperity to you while offering something of yourself: your expertise, your product, your influence, your brand, or something else. There is richness on both your side and the prospect’s, and by sharing, you are both richer by the association.
Do you have the innovative ideas and fresh sales approach of a Girl Scout record-breaker? Are you ready to step into a sharing and contributing mindset? No matter what you have to offer to the world, leaning in with curiosity can help you not only sell but also make a tangible, positive contribution to every role you inhabit.