Working in sales can be lonely. Find your people.

Working in sales can be lonely. Find your people.

One thing we discovered in the shutdown days of the pandemic is that every job has value, dignity and purpose. We know this intuitively, but when access to many services became so limited, our appreciation soared.

As a mid-career leader, I’ve also come to appreciate past jobs I had for imparting lessons I use to this day. They sculpted my skills, in sales, service and business development — skills I draw on daily as director of LC Extension, Lethbridge College’s business unit for learning and development, upskilling and reskilling, for individuals, businesses and organizations.

Life lessons with a side of fries

Like many, my first job was in a fast-food joint. I learned the value of upselling (“Would you like fries with that?”) and speed (I could increase revenue by being fast on the till).

From there, I moved to a big box electronics retailer. I spent a full month learning how to approach customers before setting foot on the sales floor. I learned the value of practice, and this was my first exposure to approaching a customer and building rapport.

My next stop was the invaluable decade I spent learning and working at Manulife, directly with clients, referring to other services or advisors, and in business development. This sealed my appreciation for sales as a service of others. It requires the art of “full body listening,” using all your senses to understand the client, their needs and their feelings – especially around something as sensitive as personal finances.

I learned the power of emotional intelligence when coupled with open-ended questions. People want to be heard, and listening to their words, their body language and other cues can help you identify how you be of service to them. Through these relationships, business partnerships can grow.

Done right, sales is a service

I know sales sometimes gets a bad rap as something swarmy. It’s not. Done right, sales is service. By listening to a potential client’s story, by empathizing with their frustrations, I could offer solutions that genuinely helped. It’s a privilege that’s made for a truly fulfilling career.

It can also be incredibly challenging. Hearing no is tough. But there’s much you can do to improve your odds of hearing yes while building trust and creating great relationships along the way.

I’m going to draw on all these experiences when I teach the Business Development: Foundational and Advanced Sales Training course through LC Extension in March. The course is 12 weeks, with all sessions delivered virtually to work into your busy schedule, and three special real-time sessions to connect with experts and each other. We’ll practise prospecting and planning, use powerful questions and emotional intelligence to boost meeting effectiveness, and hone proposals and negotiations to truly meet client’s goals. And in all things I do, I’ll be looking to build relationships with the class cohort. Business development can be a lonely occupation, and we can all benefit from connection with others in the field. I’m looking forward to connecting with sales professionals in the course and with guest experts who will join us to share their expertise.

I’d love to hear your story of when you realized sales was a service to others. Reach out to me at

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