What comes to mind when you hear the word, “sell?”

In a recent conversation with some business owners and entrepreneurs, many of them said that they felt the word, “sell” is synonymous with being “manipulative,” “dishonest,” “unethical,” and “sleazy.”

So, I looked up the word “sell” in the dictionary. This is what it said:

“To persuade (another) to recognize the worth or desirability of something.”

This definition assumes value. The concept of worth or desirability is inherent in the definition of the word.

I also looked up “salesperson,” “saleswoman,” “salesman,” “sales clerk,” and my favorite, “sales talk.” The definition for “sales talk” was, “a line of reasoning or argument intended to persuade someone to buy something.”

When I looked up all of the above sales words, none of the definitions referenced “manipulative,” “dishonest,” “unethical,” “sleazy,” or anything particularly negative. The language in these definitions was actually quite neutral and several of them spoke of value.

Unfortunately, the words “sales” or “sell” no longer simply mean to persuade someone of the value of your offering. Instead, these words carry the baggage of untrustworthiness and deviousness. This is a misconception that does an enormous disservice.

Far too often, business owners believe this stereotypical image of sales and see the activity of selling as negative. They feel that if they are selling (or being perceived to be selling), they are doing something that is not quite right. This puts them, in their own minds, at a disadvantage and on a lower level than their prospects and customers. This is a difficult place to be. And it stops many from taking action.

Since the definition of the word “sell” used the word “persuade,” I looked up that word in the dictionary. It said:

“1. To prevail on a person to do something, 2. To induce to believe; convince”

Again, nowhere in that definition do we find the words, “manipulative,” “dishonest,” “unethical,” “sleazy,” or anything particularly negative. As with the word, “sell,” the language is quite neutral.

The bottom line: Selling is persuading and convincing people to buy your offering. That persuasion is based on value. If you cannot persuade and convince people to buy then you do not have a business.

If you believe that selling is “manipulative,” “dishonest,” “unethical,” and “sleazy,” this belief will not support your ability to sell successfully. It is very difficult to sell (persuade and convince) while believing that selling (persuading and convincing) is wrong. It is time for business owners to change their beliefs about the words “selling” and “sales.”

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you believe in the value of your offering?
  2. Does your offering provide a value to your customers?
  3. Are you doing the best you know how to ensure that your customers receive that value?

If you have answered “yes” to the above questions, then you are proceeding with integrity. If you are proceeding with integrity, then obviously you are not being “manipulative,” “dishonest,” “unethical,” and “sleazy.” You can persuade, convince and sell with your head held high.

If you answered “no” to the questions above, then get out of the business. It’s not a fit for you. Find something else to do in which you can believe.

Let’s reclaim the words “sell” and “sales.” Let’s redefine the words to mean, “To persuade and convince with integrity.” Let’s remember that value is inherent in the definitions of those words. Then hold your head high and go out and sell.

 

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