Selling: The Inside Job

Usually, when people think about selling, they think of something that goes on outside the company. Sales reps call on external customers in an attempt to sell the company’s products or services. But what people often forget is the importance of selling people inside the company.

Shaking Hands

The truth is that internal selling is far more important than external selling. If you can’t sell the people inside your company on your product or service, you don’t have a chance of selling those outside the company.

Why? Because sooner or later you are dependent on other people inside your organization to get the message out. Before you can do that you have to get the message in. If they are not convinced, they can’t be convincing.

Earlier this week, Jason Fried at 37 Signals reported on a recent visit to Apple’s campus in Cupertino. He said,

Getting the message out to consumers is something a lot of companies spend millions on, but getting the message in to employees isn’t something I see as often. At least not as seriously Apple seems to take it.

Apple sells Apple to its employees as strongly as it sells Apple to its customers.

In my own company, I often hear employees complain that no one internally seems to understand their department or division. No one knows how important and complex the work is. No one seems to appreciate all that is involved. No one will provide the resources they need. Blah, blah, blah.

What these people are missing is the fact that it’s up to them to tell their story. Like my daughter Megan often says, “No one thinks about you more than you think about you.” If you don’t tell your story internally—and tell it well—is it really someone else’s fault that they don’t “get it”? I don’t think so.

So, let me suggest the following ways to do a better job selling the people inside your company:

  1. Identify your internal customers. Just putting this label on people will shift your perspective. If you need a little help, start with your boss. (You know he’s the customer, because he pays you for a service you provide.) Next, who are you or your department in business to serve? And, finally, on whom are you dependent to get the word out? a sales force? customer service? acquisitions editors? PR people?
  2. Identify the natural opportunities you have to sell them. You probably already have regular meetings with these people. You may not need to create more meetings. You may just need to be more effective at using your existing opportunities. If the message is really important, you may want to create an internal sales strategy before you take the message outside the company and this may take a few extra meetings.
  3. Identify opportunities to beef up your presentation. What are you doing in these meetings to get your message across? Do you prepare for them as strenuously as you would if they were an external customer? Do you cobble together boring PowerPoint presentations at the last minute and then wonder why no one leaves the meeting motivated. If you want people inspired, you must be inspiring. And this takes preparation.

Everyone in your company is in sales whether they realize it or not. Every encounter with people outside your department or division is an opportunity to get your story out. Are you working as hard at getting the message in as you are in getting the message out? If not, maybe it’s time to put together a plan.

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  • Colleen Coble

    I’m hoping that works for us authors too, Mike! I try to sell myself to bookstores when I visit. But it sounds like maybe I need to think of some way to make myself and my books stand out of the crowd when I visit. I’ve been taking in chocolate but maybe I should do more.

    You’ve drilled this message well into the fiction team. Their creativity when presenting books at sales conference is amazing. I loved it when they redid the little WestBow archer so he was Hawaiian style during the presentation of the Aloha series. LOL

    This is the only blog I read every day. You always have something really timely and interesting to say!

  • L.L. Barkat

    So, on a practical level, what might this mean for an author working with his/her publishing company? (Sure, I have my ideas, but I’m much more interested in yours.)

  • Linda Adams

    This should be required reading for every company. There are some very good points. But sometimes the internal communications problems can come from the attitudes of management, too. Many years ago, I worked in a pizza restaurant. The restaurant was always struggling just to make ends meet–they never quite got why. The management’s attitude towards employees was something like “We pay you. What else do you want?” They did not sell that the employees were important, by their actions. So, when the employee was at the cash register taking the order, they just punched in the info and that was it–no “would you like to try our special?” or “would you like some desert?” The restaurant’s “sale” to the employees was that they were unimportant, and it came back to haunt them again and again in the sales.

  • Anonymous

    I understand selling to your boss and those around you, but how do you sell against corporate policy?

  • Michael Hyatt

    With regard to selling against corporate policy, I’d have to know more information to comment. Policies can be changed. We just need a good reason. Thanks.