Forget Your Job Title: No Matter What Your Role Is, You’re in Sales

A firefighter, a professor, a computer repair technician, and a lawyer are having dinner together. Which one is the salesperson?

None of them, right? One is in the business of saving lives, another teaches, one fixes stuff, and the last one keeps people out of jail.

They’re not in sales. Or are they?

The fact is that every job is a sales job. Even yours.

What do you think the firefighter is doing when he visits an elementary school classroom to talk about the dangers of playing with matches or setting off fireworks? He’s selling children on staying safe.

What skills does the professor use when she tries to convince her students to power down their phones and take notes during her lectures? Sales skills.

If a computer tech does a good job and treats his clients — who usually come to him in distress — with kindness and patience, will those customers choose him again next time they need service? If so, he’s made a sale.

And the lawyer spends all day selling juries on finding her clients “not guilty” and judges on ruling in their favor.

No matter what kind of job you can think of, it has a sales component, at least unofficially. That means your job is, in part, a sales job.

If you’re like most people who haven’t chosen sales as a career, your reaction is probably something like, “Ick.”

Sales does have a bad reputation, but the fact is that we are surrounded by salespeople who are ethical and honest. Most salespeople do not practice the dishonest, manipulative, pushy brand of sales that created that bad rap. You don’t have to sell that way when you make those unofficial sales at work that you inevitably make even though your job title doesn’t say anything about “sales.”

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

Most of today’s sales professionals practice consultative sales. That means they try to sell only what their clients need. They look for products and services that will solve a problem for the client or make the client happy. They don’t pressure or trick or lie to their clients. They figure out how they can get what they want — the sale — while giving the client what they want and need. They know that nobody likes to be sold, but they also know that everybody likes to buy. They figure out what each person they meet really wants to buy, and that’s what they sell.

The same strategy can work for people who aren’t sales professionals but have lots of opportunities to make unofficial sales at work. However, going from a mindset of “Ick!” to one that embraces selling as the most effective way to get a raise, a promotion, a thumbs-up for your business on social media, or another contract from someone you already work with might not be easy.

So ease into it. Here are four points to help you embrace your inner salesperson:

1. Realize That You Already Know How to Sell

In fact, you’ve known how since you were a kid. Children seem to innately understand how to get what they want from their parents. They figure out at a young age that being nice and helpful — not demanding and stomping their feet — will get them that special toy or a later bedtime. They also know that they need to ask for what they want, because Mom and Dad aren’t going to volunteer it. Those strategies can still work for you. Follow the Golden Rule when you ask for anything: Treat people as you would like them to treat you. Be kind. Don’t push. Ask nicely.

2. Not Only Do You Already Know How to Sell, but You Already Do It Every Day

Every time you encourage your child to pick up their toys, your partner to pick up the dry cleaning, or a coworker to pick up the slack, you’re selling. Every time they do what you asked, you’ve made a sale. It doesn’t matter that the transaction did not involve money.

3. Think of Selling as a Way to Help People

Everybody wants something. Once you identify the person who can help you get what you want, figure out not how you can sell that person, but what you have that can help that person. A professional who sells gutter shields, for example, has a product that can solve a huge problem for a homeowner with clogged gutters. A nonsalesperson who asks the boss for a big raise can offer to take on more responsibility in exchange for more money. A sale — official or unofficial — should create a win for the seller and a win for the buyer.

4. You Could Be a Superstar at Work If You Bring in Business, Even If That’s Not Your Official Job

Opportunities to bring in business are everywhere. Whenever you work with clients, find out what else they need. Ask what else you can do to help. Then, figure out if your company has a product or service that would fill that need, and offer it.

Before you say goodbye to a client after a satisfying work experience, ask that customer to refer your company to friends and colleagues and to write a positive social media review.

Be a walking commercial for your company, on and off the job. Employees who tell positive stories about their workplaces spread goodwill not only for their businesses but for themselves. The people who notice your pride in your company are more likely to contact you when they need its services.

Making a sale can and should be a positive experience for both you and the person you’re selling. There’s really nothing “icky” at all about trying to strike a deal that benefits everyone involved.

Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication, and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. For more information, please visit and connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.