We’re all in Sales, Whether We Like it or Not

By Communications

I went with several colleagues to listen to Dan Pink at the Virginia Festival of the Book Leadership Breakfast this morning. Dan’s new book (we’re fellow authors — I can call him Dan, right?) is To Sell is Human. The point of the book, and Dan’s talk, was that we’re all in the business of selling, persuading others to provide us with something they value in exchange for our products, services, or intelligence. People have such a negative reaction to the term “sales.” I tend not to think of myself as a salesperson and even shy away from thinking about anything I do in terms of sales. But of course, it is. I own a business; we provide services for which we are compensated. If it didn’t work that way, the business wouldn’t exist.

Dan shared a lot of data from his research on our thoughts, as a country, about sales. One part of that research focused on whether people who were extroverts were better salespeople, or if the introverts boasted better numbers. We tend to think that it’s the outgoing, gregarious (perhaps even backslapping, glad-handing, aggressive, pushy) person who gets the sales. Some of us want to think introverts do it better; they listen, and therefore provide better solutions. Naturally, the best sales people, and most of us, in fact, fall somewhere in the middle. The extremes do poorly. The balanced excel.

The big takeaway for me was Dan encouraging people in the audience to “be more like yourself.” Once again, authenticity wins.

Are you in sales, or have sales in your job description? How do you feel about it? Is it a difficult or easy part of your job, and how do you think you do?



Want More Sales? Trust in Me!

By Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sales and how social platforms and processes have affected them. Sales, in case we’ve all forgotten, is the mother of all ROIs. No matter what marketing or business development efforts you engage in, the rubber meets the proverbial road at sales. Did all our effort generate more closed business, or didn’t it?

The social, mobile web has unleashed a torrent of attention deficit issues. There are so many “opportunities” thrown at us everywhere, so many chances to “connect” and “share” anytime that it takes a LOT to get our attention, and the usual cold call or marketing drivel just doesn’t make the grade. At all. As soon as we see an ad, we’re out. To make matters worse (for the seller), we can get most of the information we need to make a decision online these days. To rise above the crowd, companies need a serious advantage, a serious leg up. So what is that leg up?


Trust? Wow, OK. So how do you build that with perfect strangers when you’re under a lot of pressure to close new business from the higher-ups? Well, it’s not simple, but it’s well worth the effort. The good news is that one really great feature of all these amazing new social, digital and mobile platforms is that they provide an unprecedented opportunity to LISTEN and absorb conversations that may be taking place around your brand, industry, and process that were never previously available. That means that if you choose, you can start anticipating your customers’ needs by paying attention the conversations they are already having without you. It’s like 24-7 market research that helps you know when and how to interact with a potential customer so that your abilities are aligned with his needs.

Will this chair fit in my office? When’s the payback on that power purchase agreement? Do I need seven or eight generators to run my office? What’s the best way to select a delivery company? When you couple listening with a decent content development strategy, you can become the go-to thought leader in your space because you listened to these questions and created content to proactively answer them. Trust can be further established, often with people you haven’t even talked to yet.

So when you DO finally choose to engage in a sales call, you might have already provided the answers to a potential customer’s business problem via some other process like a white paper, tweet or an online referral. If you offer those solutions freely, in a consultative way, even more trust can be established. You have the proper context at the right time to sell successfully. At that point, it’s not even selling—it’s helping.

To win business these days, you have to be engaged in a lot more places, and over a longer period, to establish trust. Trust is the only way to hold a prospect’s attention in the attention deficit world.