Businesses are spending more than $1 trillion annually on their sales forces. No matter what sector they’re working in, salespeople play a key role in the building of loyalty and trust between customers and organizations – and their impact on the success of a company should not be underestimated. It’s not just about revenue – they affect brand reputation, long-term customer retention and business growth.

Fantastic relationships with clients are not exclusive to sales teams. Many other professionals have genuine long-term relationships with clients built on trust and respect. They wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves as salespeople. But they find themselves in positions where they need to contribute to the growth of their organizations by uncovering opportunities for themselves and others, managing client relationships and even winning new clients.

Because they are not considered part of the sales force, these “unnatural salespeople” don’t always receive the same training as their business development colleagues. In fact, unnatural salespeople may even be wary of their sales colleagues, and of selling in general. But companies are missing out by not investing in their selling skills. By nurturing these colleagues – without turning them into salespeople – business leaders can unleash a potent weapon to uncover more opportunities and drive client loyalty.

When it comes to selling, the untrained tend to fall into one of four categories:

    1. Those who do it well: People who have found, through experience, a way that works for them.
    2. Those who do it badly: They have the confidence, but may come across as far too “salesy” because that’s how they think good salespeople act.
    3. Those who think they can’t sell: They see how their colleagues operate and decide they’re not like that.
    4. Those who simply don’t try.

Whatever category they’re in, the key to success is not to try to turn these people into stereotypical salespeople. If you do this, you are unlikely to motivate them to learn new skills – and you risk putting them off even more. After all, they didn’t start out wanting to be salespeople.

Unlocking Hidden Potential

To unlock the hidden potential of unnatural salespeople, the first step is to get their buy-in to what professional, ethical selling looks like. Move them beyond the stereotypical pushy salesperson persona to recognize that everyone who is in contact with clients is, in fact, selling. By changing the narrative from “we need you to sell our services” to “we need you to motivate clients to buy our services,” you change the emphasis from push to pull.

Once you have developed the right mindset and removed any barriers, you can teach relevant skills and behaviors. These will differ along the client’s buying journey, but ultimately clients will buy when they know, like and trust you. So, you must teach patience and the art of moving the client along at just the right pace – never pushy, but continuously motivating them to take the next step toward buying. With practice – both in the classroom (virtual or physical) and in the real world – the reluctant seller builds confidence and, in time, becomes both willing and able.

If your organization develops all its client-facing people, it will unlock a hidden salesforce. By asking a few more questions and listening a bit harder, these unnatural salespeople have the potential to be your secret weapon when it comes to winning valuable new work.