Why we’re all in sales in now

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Why we’re all in sales in now

By Tom Fitch

While you might not have “sales” anywhere in your title, you probably spend a lot of time trying to convince other people to buy into what you’re saying. Whether it’s pitching a new idea to your coworkers or persuading the family that Nebraska is a better choice than Florida for vacation, you probably “sell” more than you think.

And in Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others,” he writes that contrary to the belief that the Internet has replaced the need for salespeople, the Internet has actually prompted more of a need for salespeople.

First of all, sales never really died the way people thought it would when the Internet entered the scene. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that only one in nine workers are traditional salespeople, which is still a lot of people! If the nation’s salespeople lived in a single state, it would be fifth largest state in the United States.  And, while the sales industry took a hit during the economic downturn between 2008 and 2010, the field is picking up momentum and the BLS now projects that the United States will add nearly 2 million new sales jobs by 2020.

But there’s another part to this equation – the other eight in nine people from the BLS report. These people also do sales, but more of what Pink calls “non-sales selling.” He writes, “Physicians sells patients on a remedy. Lawyers sell juries on a verdict. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. Entrepreneurs woo funders, writers sweet-talk producers, coaches cajole players.” While these acts don’t involve convincing others to make purchases, which is what many consider sales to be, they involve moving others to act, which is really what sales is about.

Pink commissioned a study called “What Do You Do at Work?” in which 9,057 respondents from around the world were interviewed about their working habits. The two main findings were:  1) People spend about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling, which equates to about 24 minutes of every hour, and 2) People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success.

There was a day when only certain types of people were in sales, but that was before the rise of the entrepreneur, especially in recent years. These people have to do everything themselves, from bookkeeping to accounting to sales. As a matter of survival, they have to learn to become diversified.  This group of people is growing every year. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the American economy has more than 21 million “non-employer” businesses, which are operations without any paid employees other than the owner. Although this group only accounts for a modest portion of America’s gross domestic product, they constitute the majority of businesses in the United States.

At this point of the book, Pink has made his case that we are all salespeople, whether we like it or not. So now the question is, can we all handle this role? Don’t you have to be an extravert to be a salesperson? The answer, surprisingly, is “No.” A comprehensive study of salespeople showed no correlation between extraversion and sales. But, that doesn’t mean that introverts are necessarily better salespeople.  In fact, the most successful salespeople tend to be “ambiverts – people who are neither overly extraverted nor overly introverted.

The reason that ambiverts tend to better salespeople is because they know how to balance themselves in a sales situation. They don’t get overzealous, as extraverts often do, and they don’t get shy and removed, as introverts often do.

But again, regardless of whether you are an extravert, introvert or ambivert, you probably still have to sell. For a long time, salespeople operated under the A-B-C principle: Always Be Closing. Today, if you want to influence people, aka “selling,” you should remember the new A-B-C principle.

  • A – Attunement. This involves harmonizing your actions and outlook with other people, and seeing the world through their eyes. You want to look into their hearts and minds, and interestingly enough, their bodies.
  • B – Buoyancy. This means that you have to stay afloat amid rejection. After all, selling involves rejection and if you let it paralyze you every time it happens, you will never succeed.
  • C – Clarity. When you are selling, you are likely trying to sell a solution to someone’s problem. So, in essence, you are a problem solver. To make sure you are solving the right problem, you need clarity about what the other person’s problem is. You should also try to sell insights about what you’re selling, not just try to the product (or service) itself.

One of the most important things to remember when you’re selling is that you are there to serve others, so make your sales engagements as personal as you can. In business, we try to stay professional, which is good but sometimes we can appear distant in the process. People who put themselves out there personally, standing behind whatever they are selling, often have the most success.

Well, I hope I’ve done a good job of “selling” this book to you. It has so much valuable information in it and I’ve just scratched the surface with this review. I hope you’ll pick up a copy yourself and read more.

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Tom Fitch is a construction professional from Springfield.

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