We’re All In Sales

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Most professional communicators would agree they must sell ideas. They probably won’t say they’re in sales. But Daniel Pink believes we’re all salespeople.

He’s challenging people to pause and review the number of daily interactions they have where they’re trying to influence or move people. That’s selling. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit you’re in sales.

Pink discussed the concept of his latest book, “To Sell Is Human; The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” at Maryville University earlier this month. He explained that most people don’t like the idea that they’re in sales. Why? Because sales has a negative connotation. His research showed a 4-to-1 ratio of negative to positive comments regarding sales.
Before writing the book, he reviewed books on sales and found them unsatisfactory. Most business schools and MBA programs do not teach sales. Therefore, he wrote a book about sales for people who wouldn’t buy a book about sales.

His research found that more than 15 million people–about one in nine in the American workforce–are in sales. His research also found that 41 percent of people’s time at work is non-sales selling–getting people to do something.

The sales landscape has changed. In the past, the seller always had more information than the buyer. Now, the internet provides buyers with the potential to have more information than the seller. We’ve moved from, “Buyer Beware” to “Seller Beware.”

He referenced the 1992 movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, and the famous scene where Blake, played by Alec Baldwin, is sent to motivate four salesmen. After verbally abusing the four, he preaches a mantra for sales, “A–always. B–be. C–Closing.”

Pink kept the ABC concept, but his foundational qualities for moving people: A–attunement, B–buoyancy and C–clarity.

Attunement: See the world from the other person’s point of view.

Buoyancy: Every day you face an ocean of rejection when you’re attempting to sell to or move people. Buoyancy is focusing on staying afloat in that ocean.

Clarity: With so much data available to people, you can help others by interpreting and explaining what it all means.

How does this help communications and nonprofit professionals?

  • Writers, editors and producers must always place themselves in the shoes of their audience. (Attunement)
  • Communicators who assist development efforts must be resilient in the face of increased competition for donations. (Buoyancy)
  • Tell a good story that shows your stakeholders how your organization is making a difference. (Clarity)

Pink also challenged the common rally cry from today’s business community: We’re here to solve your problems!

“We’re spending too much attention on problem solving,” he said. “Problem solving still matters, but if your customer knows what the problem is, they can find a solution and they don’t need you. They need you when they don’t know what their problem is, or if they’re wrong about their problem. We need to move from problem solving to problem finding.”

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