Shut Up and Sell!
In a conversation with a colleague today, I was reminded of a phrase I was taught by an old sales mentor of mine -- "Shut Up and Sell". I don't think that my friend invented this phrase, but it is great advice.
I was in sales for seven years, and it was great training. I learned sales at the tried and true Professional Selling Skills course -- highly recommended (at least in its 1985 incarnation!). The most important lesson in sales is that you sell by listening, not by talking. You obviously have to ask questions to get your prospect to talk, but then you should spend time listening to understand what their real needs are. This skill applies whether you are selling cars or negotiating with your spouse!
I always recommend sales experience for any person who wants to be in marketing, business development, or general management. You don't know what business is really like until you have to overcome rejection with just your own personal skills. If you have been skeptical of sales people and think that they don't do anything, I suggest you give it a try yourself. You'll see that it isn't as easy as it looks...
When I was coming out of college with my engineering degree, I interviewed for a couple of technical sales jobs. I didn't have a chance as I didn't know how to sell. I remember one interview where the only thing the interviewer said was "Sell me this pen." I can definitely do it now, but at the time I knew that I should stick with software engineering for a while.
I don't know where the Shut Up and Sell phrase came from originally, but here is a nice short article I found that has some practical tips for shutting up and selling more.