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Advice on how to sell more than just an inanimate product or service -- and the personality traits required to do it.

How many of you have thought of sales as a career and then shied away from it because you felt you didn't have the right temperament. When it comes to getting a job (or a career) one of the most critical skills is being able to sell -- yourself! So it would behoove you to shake the attitude that you can't sell.

There are sales jobs in all forms. Some are soft sales which are actually persuading someone to take a survey either in person or by phone. And then there are hard sales. Some of these jobs are obvious: department stores, autos, records and books. Some of these jobs are not so obvious: donations, contributions, sponsorships.

I recently ran into an acquaintance who is now doing the latter. She complained that her personality is so mild, her drive so focused on courtesy and soft-sell, and her self confidence level is extremely low -- she's nearly ready to cut her throat. She's never even 90% certain of how well she's doing.

The supervisor is no help. One day the feedback is that she's done a great job. Another day, she needs to do things just a little better. With these mixed messages, it's difficult to know with certainty what is true and where she needs to improve -- if at all. To top things off, there are times when she sees the performance record of a fellow employee and realizes she's doing as well or a little better.

We practiced at some of the stumbling blocks and had fun with some of the off-putting conversations. We also explored ways to overcome the objections and potential hang-ups. She got into the spirit and started developing her own. She was really good.

Then we looked at those supervisorial mixed signals. Sometimes long-term sales people work on the more aggressive wave length and forget that not all people are made of the same stuff. For some, telling them they need a little more improvement is not sufficient bait to spur more initiative. In fact, if the feedback is too nebulous, it can turn a person off and lead to their quitting when in fact they truly were doing a great job. For others, that sort of feedback is just the grease to get the wheel turning a little faster. For still others, hold out a tangible reward and stand back! You'll be standing in the dust they left two seconds after the words left your mouth.

It's important to recognize that in hard sales one must develop a thick skin. Another important step is recognizing rhetoric for its own sake so that you don't get discouraged.

So it goes with selling yourself to a potential employer and selling yourself for a promotion. The first step is knowing the personality of your supervisor. The next step is knowing your sales style. And then it's a matter of developing a strategy for bridging those two so that you're able to make the sale and get the bonus.

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