Is there anything more frustrating than trying to accomplish a big goal and not being able to get others to buy into your vision?
As a software developer, it might seem strange to dedicate time to improving sales skills. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that the most successful software developers are great at selling at least one thing. They’re great at selling ideas.
I’m going to be honest with you: I’m not great at sales. I assumed that sales meant trying to get someone to do something they didn’t want to do. Now I realize that the best sales people try to bring value to others. So I’m a little behind the ball, but learning more about it every day.
No matter where your software development career might lead, it’s typically a good move to learn how to sell. You might be able to build the greatest technology, but if you can’t sell the idea, you won’t attract anyone to use it.
A winning formula for sales isn’t difficult to find. You simply have to explain to the customer the value you’re providing them in return for something else. As software developers, our skillset is very valuable right now.
Here are a few benefits to learning how to sell that might win you over.
Selling Your Skills Will Help You Find More Opportunities
Finding a job always involves selling yourself and your skills. This is obviously true for entrepreneurs, technical founders, and freelancers. But it’s true for everyone else, too.
“Why should we hire you?” is a common interview question, especially during the non-technical part of the interview process. The interviewer is basically asking you to pitch yourself and your abilities. They’re wondering how you can apply the skills you have to help the company out with their problems.
Learning sales will make you better at pitching anything you’re going after. That could be a new job or a higher salary. Great salespeople understand the importance of leveraging things to get new opportunities.
Selling Helps You Stand Out
A mediocre performer who knows how to sell typically beats an exceptional performer who doesn’t. An exceptional performer who also knows how to sell beats everyone.
Meeting and talking to others for the first time can make you nervous. To sell, you have to put yourself out there. The practice needed to become a better salesperson has the side benefit of building confidence, not only through the experience of interacting with others, but also from the small wins sells can bring.
Standing out is a great way to help advance your career. I’ve heard a lot of good things about John Sonmez’s course on marketing yourself as a software developer. Though not directly related to sales, a course like this could help you learn sales tangentially.
Selling Helps You Ask Better Questions
To be good at sales, you need to be good at asking questions. Sometimes part of the sales process is customer development. During this time, you try to learn more about the customer’s needs, so that you can see if your solution will be beneficial to them.
It’s important to ask open-ended questions versus closed-ended ones. Open-ended questions help you gain more information which can be used later on.
Great developers can extract deep insights from others by asking a few simple questions. Use open-ended question when you want to know more about a subject and get wide insights. For example, “What do you think your leadership team is looking for in a product/service?”.
Closed-ended question are better when looking for precise answers. “Who else needs to be involved with making this decision?” is a good example of a closed-ended question.
Interviewing and asking great questions is a skill. Learning how to sell is a good way to acquire the habit of being inquisitive.
Selling Helps You Learn How to Listen
After asking great questions it’s important to listen.
I’ve heard that sales is 80 percent listening and 20 percent talking. Great salespeople spend a good amount of time listening to their customers so that they can deeply understand their pain points and problems. That’s because when you’re selling a product or service, you’re really trying to solve a problem for your potential customer.
According to a study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, 93% of our communication is nonverbal. So someone might be verbally saying one thing, and her facial expressions or body language might be saying something else.
As software developers we’ll also be solving problems for others. Learning how to listen can help us find the root of the issues that we face when talking to others. Even if we’re not talking directly to customers, listening can help us interact with others on our team.
The more sales conversations you have, the better you become at understanding what people are truly saying.
Selling Skills Are Key
You probably already sell yourself and your skills every day.
Whether you’re asking for a promotion or trying to get your team to adopt a new system, you’ll benefit from developing sales skills. Take some time to study and practice the art of selling.
It’s one of the best investments we can make.
How could learning more about sales help you? Let me know in the comments below.
FYI: this article originally appeared over at Simple Programmer.