At Selling Stuff

Hello, my dears!

I know what you’re thinking. It’s been more weeks than I can count on one finger since my last post, and that is entirely too long. All I can say is that finals week kicked my butt. And then I had to pack. And then I moved home for the summer and started working and… well, in other words, I have no excuse for waiting this long between posts and I am sorry.



If you sell faulty used cars, you might get a hat superglued to your head. Still from Matilda. Image from

If you sell faulty used cars, you might get a hat superglued to your head. Still from Matilda. Image from

Anyway, now that college is over for four months, I’m back to my old job in retail. Some of my duties include setting up displays, cleaning bathrooms and babysitting (PSA: parents, please keep an eye on your children when you’re out in public together). However, most of what I do is sell stuff, and I enjoy that part of my job far more than I ever imagined I would. I always thought sales was about sleaze and trickery and schmoozing—convincing people, Mr. Wormwood-fashion, to give you money for something they don’t actually need. If you’re working for the wrong company, it can definitely be like that, I’m sure, but sales doesn’t always have to be about pushing a faulty product down someone’s throat. In today’s world, we all need sales skills, even if we don’t necessarily use them to make a profit. Sometimes, the thing we’re selling isn’t a product or service, but an idea that we’re trying to convince someone to believe in. Every now and then, especially during a job search, we’re selling ourselves—trying to convince someone else to believe in us enough to pay us to do stuff.

Maybe you don’t actually want to work in sales. Maybe you’re not great at selling stuff. That’s okay. However, regardless of your actual job title, you need to be decent at getting people to agree with you. That is basically all a sales pitch is: saying “You need this thing” and then giving a coherent list of reasons why until they think so, too. A job interview, in much the same way, is looking at a potential employer and telling them why they need you to work for them.

Hey, look. I think I just sold you on the idea that you need sales skills. Neat, right? Here’s some ways to be okay at doing what I just did:

What is not sucking? Not sucking, in the world of sales, is defined by being able to get people to buy your product, agree with your idea, or hire you on a reasonably regular basis while telling only the truth.

  1. Sell to the person in front of you. Maybe what you’re selling has the potential to benefit a really huge group of people. Maybe your product could end world hunger; maybe your idea could revolutionize scientific/political/culinary thought forever; maybe you’d be a fantastic addition to whatever company was lucky enough to hire you. If that’s the case, awesome, but if  you make your pitch too broad, your customer, whether they’re an HR rep or a tired mom who just wants to pay for her groceries and go home, will lose interest. Make whatever you’re selling sound useful to the specific person with whom you are speaking at the moment, and they’ll be more likely to buy it from you.
  2. Talk up the good points. This sounds obvious in a retail or sales context, but in the context of a job search it can be easy to forget. “What are your strengths?” is an important question, and one that can be asked in myriad different ways; you need to have an answer for it, and you should probably give part of that answer before your interviewer even asks the question. No matter what you’re selling, you need to introduce your product/idea/self with its three best qualities right off the bat. These should be things that, as mentioned in #1, will be the most helpful to your specific customer. Any less than three and the customer won’t be convinced;any more too soon and they’ll think you’re bluffing.
  3. Acknowledge the catch. By this time in the economic recession, everybody you attempt to convince to buy your
    This is not acknowledging the catch. Meme from

    This is not acknowledging the catch. Meme from

    product will be intimately familiar with the phrase “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Even if what you’re selling doesn’t cost money, your customer will probably pay with their time, their information, their frustration or in some other way. Acknowledge that your product will cost something or your customer will be rightfully skeptical. (This point goes along with another popular interview question: “What are your weaknesses?” Believe it or not, employers want an honest answer to this one, too. “I’m too perfect” does not count.)

  4. …and make it clear your product is worth it. Sandwich your product’s cost in between its major benefits and its redeeming qualities. Maybe a club membership that costs a little extra money now will save your customer money in the long run. Maybe you learned a valuable lesson after getting fired from your first job and now have wisdom that could make your next place of employment even better. Maybe your dragon’s blood has a terrible smell, but 12 spectacular uses (Dumbledore approved!). However, to make these redeeming qualities sound believable, you have to…
  5. Believe in your product. Good salespeople never lie. The only way to effectively sell something in a way that creates a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customer is to tell the truth, and that requires a little moral fortitude on your part. Only sell something if you believe it will benefit people. If you ever find yourself in a situation where this isn’t the case, either change your product or sell something else. You deserve better, and so does the world.

Go get ’em, tigers. If you want to hang out with some people who don’t suck at stuff, go like this blog on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @hownottosuckblg (no, no o in “blg”. Vowels are overrated). It’s good to be back–I love you guys!