Sell. Sale. Sold. Four letter words. And as Dan Pink points out in his excellent book ‘To Sell Is Human’ for most of us, the whole notion of sales is still imbued with all of the worst aspects of bad business, the desperate pressure and aggression so famously portrayed by Alec Baldwin’s Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross. Sales is something seen as quite vulgar, even selfish. Yet – persuasion and relationship building, no matter how you look at it, is still the most essential ingredient of personal and organisational success. Leadership, innovation, change: it is all important and it all comes down to persuading and influencing others. And that, when it comes down to it, is about selling.
Dan Pink focuses on the psychology of persuasion, the economics of negotiation, nudge theories and the changing nature of work itself and ‘The surprising truth about persuading, convincing and influencing others’
Firstly – We are all selling something, even if we do not know it. We are all in the persuasion and influencing business. According to Gallup, nearly 40% of ‘non-sales’ executive time, is spent in activity that is still broadly defined as – sales. Whether we are closing deals, running a project or managing a start-up, persuading, solving, presenting, servicing – and managing relationships is what most of us do. This is sales. As Pink puts it ‘1 in 9 American’s makes their living in sales, but when you look at those involved in ‘non-sales-selling, so do the other 8 too. It is just that many do not realise it. ‘
Secondly – our definition of ‘sales’ – has completely altered. This is due to the traditional balance of buyer and seller power shifting because of technology. Access to information has changed and in the age of smart-phones and search, simply bombarding prospects with calls, emails, data and closing messages does not cut it. Today, the knowledge of buyers and sellers is either balanced or skewed towards the buyer, not the seller. The traditional ABC sales mantra ‘ALWAYS-BE-CLOSING’ (ABC) has been replaced with a new one, ATTUNEMENT–BUOYANCY–CLARITY :Tuning in to the other person as a human, maintaining a positive balance and having a clear and simple message.
Thirdly, the purpose of pitching and presentation has changed too. Building on to the first two points, the whole notion of what a sales conversation is really about has shifted. As Pink says; “The purpose of the pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you. In a world where buyers have ample information and an array of choices – the pitch is often the first word but it is rarely the last”.
When someone helps us to achieve more, to secure something valuable or to make things easier, we do not see it as something that is manipulative or cunning. We gain something from it and there is a relationship formed. We see what is essentially a persuasive process, as something that is really, very human.
“Always be closing! A-I-D-A. Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. Attention — do I have your attention? Interest — are you interested? I know you are. You close! Or you hit the bricks!” – Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross