Daniel Pink has become one of the more important and influential business writers active today. His previous book, “Drive”, outlined and detailed the complex forces at work in the realm of human motivation, particularly in the business arena. He uses information and findings from university based research to support his conclusions, rather than anecdotes or personal experience. In his new book, “To Sell is Human”, he does the same for sales.
In my work as a consultant, I universally hear the objection, “I don’t want to be a salesman.” I think there are several levels to this, which have validity, but only on the surface:
- All of our training and education revolves around effective diagnosis and treatment of patient injuries and conditions, not around sales and marketing. While this may be factually true, dealing with human beings means that we are frequently in the position of having to persuade them to do what is best for them, not what they want to do at the moment.
- Becoming a doctor of any type preselects for introversion, and sales is thought of as an extravert’s domain. In reality, heavily introverted and heavily extraverted people are about as effective in sales. People towards the middle of the spectrum typically do better.
- Sales (the word) is associated with dishonesty, sleaziness, win/lose, pushiness, etc. Nearly universally negative connotations. This is much more likely to be true in the past, when the seller and the buyer were not on equal information footing. Now, if I want to buy a used car (to take the clichéd example), I can search everything necessary to know about the car, including price ranges, safety ratings, value over time, performance characteristics, etc. I can find a matching car in my shopping radius. I can find out the service and accident history of any car. True, not all web based information is accurate, but the disparity between buyer and seller is a thing of the past.
Names and definitions
Pink works through this by expanding and changing the definition of sales. He calls it the art of moving (or motivating) others. And, the movement is to persuade them of help them to part with something of value for something of equal or greater value. The valuable thing they are parting with could be money, such as in the purchase of a new smartphone. This is what most people think of when they think of sales.
But when we call it moving someone, it could be something more subjective and abstract but still valuable to the “buyer”. Common examples from ordinary life:
- Time in the case of a teacher, persuading a student to hit the books or to work on an extra project to increase her final grade
- Attention as in the case of an artist, persuading his listener through skill and talent
- Faith/confidence as in the case of a trial attorney, persuading a jury to find for her client.
In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll of over 7000 adult full time American workers across a broad range of occupations, a startling conclusion emerges:
- We spend about 40% of our time in non-sales selling during the average workday. This means persuading, influencing and convincing others to act without involving a financial transaction or purchase. Writing this blog post is an example of just that!
- Workers consider this to be a crucial part of their work and vital to their continuing success, in spite of the considerable amount of time this takes.
Workplace sectors and selling
The largest and fastest growing sector of the economy is abbreviated as Ed-Med, combining education and medicine. A bit of an artifice since there is not much overlap, but the sales characteristics are almost identical Consider:
- Both teachers and doctors require post graduate degrees, and must undergo licensing and credentialing in order to be hired.
- Both teachers and doctors have positions of authority in their domains, yet encounter resistance from the “buyers” as a routine part of their working tasks
- Both teachers and doctors can gauge their effectiveness by how well they were able to motivate their “buyers” to take effective action.
- Both professions can be outsourced and digitized, but only to modest degrees.
Why the comparison of these two workplace sectors? Because according to Pink, nearly every person in this segment is in sales at the core. Here are some obvious indications that sales is at least a big part of your work:
- Do you earn your living at least in part by persuading someone to purchase goods or services from you? A new bridge for a dentist? A fitness program for a new gym member? A treatment program from a chiropractor or physical therapist?
- Are you self-employed or have bottom line responsibility in your company unit? If so, you are spending time and effort getting your employees and customers on the same page and delivering your core set of services.
- Does your work require elastic skills? This means working in areas that you are not as familiar with or are not as skilled as your core set. Does your accountant or consultant expect you to understand quickbooks and excel? Does your webmaster expect you to understand basics of website operations? Does your local referral community expect you to communicate effectively?
Getting comfortable with the expanded definition of sales has the beneficial effect of making you more effective at your core work, and making you more comfortable with the emerging fact that in our over-informed and communicative world, we are all being required to sell!