Discover the intrinsic human skill of selling and learn how to utilize it for achieving sales results and success in other areas of life through “To Sell Is Human”. Our guide simplifies and supports the ideas of renowned author Daniel Pink, making them easily applicable to your own life.
Everyone’s a Salesperson
Pink argues that the modern workplace has made sales skills essential for all workers, introducing the concept of non-sales selling or contemporary selling. This involves persuading others to exchange resources, not just money, and includes activities such as negotiating prices, job interviews, and even asking someone on a date.
The Traditional ABCs of Sales
Pink believes that sales was previously seen as deceptive and manipulative, but now there are two sales philosophies: the traditional “buyer beware” and the new “seller beware.” The former prioritizes the seller’s benefit and lacks integrity, while the latter emphasizes serving the buyer and requires integrity. Successful salespeople now operate from a place of integrity, rather than using it as a last resort.
Traditional Sales Philosophy
During the 1900s, when traditional sales dominated the stable and consumer-driven economy, the primary objective was profit, as exemplified by the “ABC” acronym (Always Be Closing). This profit-focused approach led salespeople to disregard the buyers’ needs, creating a negative perception of salespeople. For instance, a traditional car salesperson would misrepresent their vehicle’s quality and overcharge buyers to maximize profits, regardless of the buyers’ interests.
The decline of traditional sales was initiated by two factors. Firstly, economic disruption caused by the Great Recession forced workers to expand their skill sets, making sales a necessary skill for everyone.
Additionally, the rise of entrepreneurs also contributed to the need for flexible skill sets, including sales. Secondly, the technology boom disrupted the power imbalance between buyers and sellers, as the internet provided access to information previously monopolized by sellers. This shift forced sellers to prioritize the needs of buyers over their own profits.
The Modern ABCs of Sales
Pink argues that the economic and technological changes have led to the emergence of a new selling philosophy that replaces the old profit-oriented “ABC” approach. This new approach prioritizes meeting the buyer’s needs and is characterized by three strategies: connection, optimism, and focus.
Contemporary Selling Step 1: Connection
Pink views connection as the ability to synchronize and adjust to individuals, communities, and situations to meet their needs.
Pink proposes three methods for practicing connection.
- First, mimicking the buyer’s mannerisms to build trust and camaraderie.
- Second, adopting the buyer’s perspective to better understand their needs and offer personalized solutions.
- And third, power-shifting by treating the buyer as if they hold the power, creating a service-oriented dynamic.
For example, sitting at an equal level and asking, “What are you looking for, and how can I help?” demonstrates a willingness to serve the buyer’s needs.
Contemporary Selling Step 2: Optimism
Optimism is a key aspect of Pink’s modern sales method as it fosters resilience in the face of rejection. In sales, hearing “no” is more common than “yes,” and an optimistic outlook enables the seller to persist in their efforts or move on to the next customer. For instance, if a door-to-door salesman encounters a prospect who seems uninterested, they can remain positive and demonstrate their belief in their product/service. This mindset allows the seller to bounce back from potential setbacks and approach the next customer.
Prepare: Question Yourself
Pink recommends asking targeted, positive questions to prepare for a sales interaction. This helps focus on sales goals and boosts confidence and motivation, leading to better results over time. Examples of such questions include “How can I be of service to this buyer?” or “How can I demonstrate the value of this purchase?”
Maintain: Communicate Positivity
Pink emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive environment during a sales interaction for both the buyer and seller. Studies show that a healthy ratio of positive to negative sensations increases receptiveness and likelihood of a positive outcome. Therefore, communicate positive information with a minimum 3 to 1 ratio, while still acknowledging a few negatives. Additionally, speak with conviction about your product and create a friendly atmosphere by smiling often and highlighting its positive aspects.
Evaluate: Reflect With Optimism
Pink suggests reflecting on a sales interaction by assuming that negative experiences are temporary, circumstantial, and not personal. This helps to frame the experience positively and influence how you feel about it.
Contemporary Selling Step 3: Focus
Pink’s modern sales model’s third component is creating focus, which involves identifying problems, bringing them to the customer’s attention, and providing solutions. As an example, imagine you’re a tutor and a life coach working with a 12-year-old boy who’s struggling academically due to a lack of self-discipline. By recognizing the issue and offering life coaching instead of tutoring, you provide an effective solution, resulting in significant academic improvements.
Pink offers four ways to create focus for customers:
- Problem Finding: Pink’s method is about helping buyers clarify their needs. By being thorough and asking good questions, you can use the information you discover to help your buyer focus on their needs and decide on a solution.
- Creating Contrast: Show buyers multiple potential paths they can compare, or use an unfavorable option to highlight the benefits of a more favorable one.If you’re trying to sell a vehicle, for instance, have several vehicles prepared to display to the customer, including one of inferior quality than the others that you may use to emphasize the advantages of the other vehicles.
- Selling Experience: Sell experiences rather than products. Framing a sale through the lens of experience focuses a buyer on how they will benefit and is more likely to get them emotionally invested in making a purchase.
- Providing a Path: Provide buyers with a clear path to solving their problem. Giving them clear steps and a clear time frame makes them more likely to commit to working with you.
The New Paradigm: Say Goodbye to Sales and Hello to Service
Pink believes that sales should ultimately be about providing a service to others and improving their lives. He suggests two steps for service-oriented sales.
- Step #1 is to make it personal by showing your passion for the product and focusing on service rather than profit. This creates a connection with the customer and makes your pitch more credible.
- Step #2 is to make it purposeful by connecting what you’re selling to a broader purpose and framing it that way to potential buyers. This taps into the innate desire to serve and can improve society as a whole.
For example, a teacher can remind themselves that they are not only improving the lives of their students, but also preparing them to improve the world.
Bonus Step: Enlarge Your Service Mindset
Pink distinguishes between upselling, which benefits the seller, and “up-serving,” which benefits the buyer. Upselling involves convincing customers to buy more expensive products or add-ons to benefit the seller. In contrast, up-serving means helping customers identify their unmet needs and finding the best solution for them. For instance, if you’re selling a phone to an elderly customer, up-serving means recommending a simple and reliable phone instead of a high-tech and expensive one to maximize profit.
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