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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Overcome self-marketing fears to achieve goals

Ellen Goldhar Just like orange juice "isn't just for breakfast anymore," sales courses aren't just for professional sales people anymore. Everyone's a salesperson. No matter what job or profession you' re in, understanding the sales process and developing selling skills are things everyone should know.

Whether you are a consultant, an employee of an organization, a professional (i.e. lawyer, accountant), or a therapist, at some point you will have to sell something. It might be an idea, a new corporate initiative, your services, or yourself into a new role or job.

But there's a reason people don't choose sales as a career -- they don't enjoy it.

Many associate selling with being loud, pushy, arrogant and self-serving.

"It's the "S" word. (People) are uncomfortable with sales because they believe selling is about having to sit there and talk about how great they are and promote themselves, which makes them uncomfortable," says Tanja Parsley, a performance consultant and leadership coach in Toronto, Ontario.

But selling is really about persuasion and influence skills. It's also about building mutually beneficial relationships. It doesn't have to be about selling someone something they really don't need. And it should never be about bullying or trickery - not if you want lasting success and a clear conscience when you go to bed at night.
Leadership coach Tanja Parsley

"People have gifts, talents, ideas and services that get left untapped because they aren't able to fully express themselves and influence others," says Parsley, a sales veteran herself.

How many people do you know who are brilliant, but are unemployed or lack clients because they can't communicate their qualities?

"It's not the best person who gets chosen for the job, it's the person who's better prepared and skilled at delivering and communicating what it is they have to offer," says Bob Lank, managing principle of Wright Axmith, a national career development and transition consulting firm.

Leadership is a perfect example. Ten to 20 years ago, workplace standards allowed leaders to simply tell employees what to do. The current workplace paradigm doesn't allow for that. The more effective leaders sell their ideas.

Furthermore, it's the employees who can take an idea and pass it up or down the chain effectively who get promoted to management, and not necessarily those who work the hardest or have the highest IQ.

Whether you are employed or unemployed, it's your ability to sell yourself that will land you the job of your dreams.

"You need to have good persuasion skills to get into an organization. Then, once in an organization, you need to be able to sell your ideas to your peers, your team, your boss and/or senior management," Lank says. "Should you be asked to leave the organization, then having good persuasion skills can help negotiate you a better exit package.

Taking time to develop your sales skills will payoff.

Parsley says it best: "Sales is merely exploring the fit between what you have to offer, and what someone else needs. Instead of seeing selling as an obstacle, see it as a learning opportunity that will get you more of what you want."

(Ellen Goldhar is manager, people development at Sun Media Corporation, Canada's second largest newspaper publishing company. Send questions and comments to

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