To sell is human

Staff Leadership Book Pick of the Month: To Sell is Human

Have you heard the phrase the “ABCs of sales”? If you have been in sales for the last half-century or seen the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” you definitely have. In the 1992 film, Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, popularized the phrase. The “ABCs” are “Always Be Closing.” This phrase actually goes back decades before the film ever hit. It is meant to remind salespeople to always be looking for new prospects, pitching products or services and ultimately closing the sale. Like Blake said, “Because only one thing counts in this life! Get them to sign on the line, which is dotted!”

But this approach is antiquated and Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human shows why this way of thinking is no longer valid.

The first myth Pink debunks is the idea that only certain people can do sales. Although there are only 15 million out of 327 million people that earn a paycheck at the end of the week by trying to convince someone to buy something. Pink states that we are all in, what he calls, “the people-moving business,” which is no different than selling something to someone else.

Pink shares a study he conducted with more than 9,000 respondents. He found that more than 40% of the time participants spent at work was engaged in “non-selling” practices such as persuading, influencing or convincing others to do something other than make a purchase. That’s 16 hours of your 40-hour work week. The same study also showed that the respondents felt these were crucial activities in order to be successful at their jobs.

The second concept that Pink addresses is the idea some people have that sales hasn’t changed. Pink suggests it has. With the waves of information at the reach of a fingertip, a buyer can become an expert of nearly any product they want to buy. There is no longer informational asymmetry where the seller holds advantage of having the knowledge of the product being sold. It is now a buyer’s market where the buyer comes into a sales transaction with just as much knowledge as the seller.

With that in mind, Pink suggests a new version of the “ABCs for sales”:

Attunement – Understanding the other person’s perspective. Pink suggests we do this by assuming the buyer has the power, focusing on that person’s thoughts rather than feelings and mimicking their gestures.

Buoyancy – “A quality that combines grittiness of spirit and sunniness of outlook.” Pink suggests that we all go through a lot of rejection when we try to move others. He suggests three ways to help stay “buoyant” in a flood of rejection:

  • Ask questions rather than pump yourself up with positive praise
  • Be positive – most of the time
  • Be optimistic

Clarity – Be a problem-finder, rather than a problem-solver, by:

  • Knowing what you offer and what problem the buyer is trying to solve
  • Giving the person you are trying to persuade clear actions to take

My takeaway from this book: In order to sell something to or persuade someone, we have to first serve and understand them — and then persuade later. We have to find the problem to be solved before trying to fix anything.

To Sell is Human not only shares the beliefs mentioned above, but does so in an evidence -based way with documentation of research, a plethora of examples and practical exercises to apply your understanding of the new “ABCs of sales.”













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