Born to Sell: “Everyone lives by selling something.”

“Everyone lives by selling something.”  — Robert L. Stevenson

I have been in “sales” for as long as I can remember. Whether it be product sales, or entrepreneurship, selling has been an integral component of the success I have achieved. As a sales consultant and speaker, I am continually amazed by the percentage of people who fear and/or avoid the sales process at all costs. The other interesting revelation is that some of the most natural sales professionals I have met, aren’t acting in any sort of sales capacity. These observations have become the foundation of my consulting practice as well as my decision to publish The Laws of Influence. But for purposes of this article, the message is simple: Regardless of role or responsibility, we are all in sales!

For most of us, our initial sales instincts were developed during infancy. Consider the new-born who learns to cry for a bottle. Is that not a form of selling? On a very instinctual level, a child understands that hunger equals discomfort. From that same instinct, a child will cry as persistently as required to satisfy that hunger. So now, think of how many times that process of want-cry-receive occurs in the developing years of a child’s life. Think back to your own childhood to some of your favorite toys, birthday gifts, or special treats. How did you convince your parents to buy them for you? If you have children of your own, you don’t even have to go back that far to recall how persuasive children can be. It becomes easier to recognize the deep-rooted salesmanship we all possess.

Let’s consider sales to be an exchange of value: the exchange can involve products, services, ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. The exchange is not limited to money. Adjusting our focus to the exchange of value broadens the scope of those involved in the selling process. Instead of a thinking of sales in terms of a salesperson hired to sell vacuum cleaners, let’s broaden the view. Now we can include an employee who interviews for a new job. We include a mother who calms a persistent child, an executive who presents a new strategy to his coworkers, or a young man who tries to capture the attention of the girl across the room. Selling is in everything we do, and it often occurs beyond our level of awareness. Every profession, interest, title, and role requires sales. Ultimately, a compelling speaker sells us his or her ideas. A doctor sells us his opinion of the best way to improved health. Educators sell the topics they teach, as well as the value of education. The media sells us their spin on current news events, flavored by their own agenda. A job interview is a sales pitch that requires the applicant to demonstrate his or her ability to meet the requirements of the position. A date is also a sales call that requires us to sell our ability to meet our date’s needs and capture their affection.

Ironically, a teacher who has no passion for her job still sells something to her students. She sells the idea that education does not matter. Similarly, a sales rep that does not believe in his product is more likely to sell people against the very product he’s presenting. Most of us view sales as an actual sales call where someone has a product to exchange for some sort of commission or remuneration. And while that is true, demanding a candy bar as a child or teaching 3rd grade history as an adult are also powerful forms of selling. Selling is a process we have adopted to exchange value. Entrepreneurs are in sales, teachers are in sales, business managers are in sales, mothers and fathers are in sales, everyone is in sales!

For those of you reading who believe you have zero sales ability, this should be comforting news. It means all of us have sales experience and all of us can tap into that experience to become more influential. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a few fumbles along the way. Every worthy goal requires learning and adaptation. Communicating with another person can be intimidating and those first attempts can be pressure-filled, with the potential to spiral out of control quickly. Anyone who can recall an embarrassing experience that occurred in front of another person or group of people knows what I am talking about. The good news is that there are a number of simple strategies to help you break through that initial barrier. Once you have seen the other side, you will quickly surpass the awkward stages, and discover the fruits of powerful influence.

The other good news is that tapping into your inner sales leader doesn’t require following a rigid set of rules or regulations. A mother does not have to assume the persistent and fearless persona of a door-to-door sales person to parent her children (well, maybe sometimes). Instead, she can utilize her individual strengths, amplified by proven principles of influence.

We are all unique, and we are most effective when we follow the predispositions that make us so unique. An ability to influence does not require a passing grade in Sales 101. Nor does it require us to adopt habits or actions that compromise our integrity. Instead, it requires us to identify, develop, and amplify unique attributes already within us. In this manner, we develop our influential capacity through the enhancement of our innate strengths and dispositions.

BRAD HARKER is a professional speaker, sales consultant, and author of The Laws of Influence ( Through the creation of several companies and more than a quarter-billion dollars in sales, Brad has developed an ideology that anyone, regardless of profession, can leverage to discover their potential, align with their purpose, and realize their goals. Learn more at

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