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We Are All Partners in This Business – of Selling

10 insights from Daniel Pink position you ahead of the pack.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Selling is the most basic of all human activities. Whether you know it, everyone lives by selling one thing or the other. And the earlier you know it and start tooling up on your selling skills kit, the more likely your chances of thriving in this arena we call life.

As it’s often said, it doesn’t matter what you know, but equally important is, who you know. What you know and who you know can only carry you thus far. What you have to sell and how you sell it is what will keep you far ahead of the pack and enable you to thrive for the long run. What you know may not carry you far unless you know how to sell yourself or whatever you have in your kit to those you know or meet in our life’s common hustle.

In his book, To Sell Is HumanDaniel Pink offer practical insights on how to hone your selling skills and stay ahead in the game of selling.

According to the author, selling was in the past, seen as being the realm of shady characters where some people get ahead through deceit and trickery at the expense of honest fair dealers. Indeed, this might have been true in the past. But today, the author intones you to realize that, “selling isn’t some grim accommodation to a brutal marketplace culture. It’s part of who we are — and therefore something we can do better by being more human.”

Unlike in the past, these days, the balance of power has according to the author shifted from a world of caveat emptor, buyer beware, to one of caveat venditor, seller beware. In this “new selling world” of caveat venditor, honesty, fairness, and transparency are the only viable path.

In this caveat venditor selling world, the rules of engagement have changed from the old ABC of Always Be Closing to the new paradigm ABC of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. This book has been around for some years. But the lessons contained are as timeless and invaluable for old and first-time readers (like me).

1. Attunement

This is the ability to bring your actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.

2. Buoyancy

You must believe in the product you’re selling. Faced with rejections, avoid the pitfalls of learned helplessness by being optimistic. Don’t take negative setbacks personal or have the mindset that they will last forever.

3. Clarity

Knowing the problem you are trying to solve is the key to solving it. You need to help the customers clarify the problems they are trying to solve. You need clarity on how to think as well as clarity on how to act. Otherwise, people won’t be moved.

4. Learn how to ask better questions.

In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers.

Empathy is valuable and virtuous in its own right. But when it comes to moving others, perspective-taking is the more effective of these fraternal twins.

5. Ask more questions.

Whenever you have the chance to present a strong case before a prospective employer, new sales prospect, or undecided friend, be more inclined to asking questions instead of bombarding them with statements. This is counterintuitive. But according to the author, “When people summon their own reasons for believing something, they endorse the belief more strongly and become more likely to act on it.”

Photo by Raymond Perez on Unsplash

5. Know that attention spans are shrinking to disappearing points

Clarity and brevity must be your guiding light if your message and offerings are to stand the chances for being heard or acted upon by your audience.

6. Learn the principles of better pitching

Pitches that rhyme makes it easier for your target audience to hear and grasp your message. This makes your message stick in their minds compared to your competitors.

  • Your audience should have something to gain (Extrinsic values)
  • Your message should stir their curiosity (intrinsic values).
  • Your message must be clear and specific. Thus, a sloppy subject line like “Improve your golf swing” achieves less than one offering “4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon.”
  • Even though both intrinsic and extrinsic values work, adding the two at the same time can backfire.
  • Following from the new ABC selling mantra of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity, you must learn the skills of pitching, improvising and serving.

After someone hears your pitch…

  • Have they now known what you want them to know?
  • Are they moved? Do they now feel what you want them to feel?
  • Are they now more inclined to doing what do you want them to do?

7. How to position yourself at sales presentations.

At sales presentations, position yourself to go first if you’re the incumbent. If you are the challenger, go last. In competitive sales presentations, where a series of sellers make their pitches one after another, the market leader is most likely to get selected if it presents first. If you are are a challenger, the best spot, by far, is to present last. While research is not clear on how widely this applies to other settings, in general, the middle is the place you’re most likely to get run over.

How we do what we do is as important as what we are doing.

8. On carrying “Win-Win” to the negotiation table

Making your partner, the person you’re selling to, look good has become even more critical than it was. This is because if you make people look bad, they can tell the world — Facebook, Twitter and others. But if you make people look good, they can also tell the world. If each party looks past the other party’s position to its actual interests and invents options for mutual gain, negotiations could end with both sides better off (a win — win).

9. On being a good listener: Taking it slower can take you further.

Your answers to the following questions will help you know if you are are a good listener.

  • Do you allow the person across the table to finish what they are saying before you jump in?
  • Are your conversation partners actually finishing their sentences?
  • Are people getting their perspective fully on the table without your interrupting?
  • Do they have time to take a breath before you start yapping?

Taking it slower can take you further.

10. Serving and upserving

Service means improving another’s life and, in turn, improving the world. And while doing that, you learn that upserving doesn’t mean compelling or cajoling customers to buy more from you than they would otherwise have done.

Upserving means doing more for the other person than he expects or you initially intended, taking the extra steps that transform a mundane interaction into a memorable experience.

To move people a large distance and for the long term, we have to create the conditions where they can move themselves.

Final Word:

The above insights shared above are not exhaustive of the author’s lessons. They are just my personal gleanings. If you have read the book or any other related book, click here to connect and share your insights.

Thank you for reading this story. I originally published another version of this review here.

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