To sell is human

What is Daniel H. Pink’s approach in his latest bestseller “To sell is human”? Krauthammer consultant Christian Fölster explains Pink’s ABC of influencing others and the six new ways of pitching.

“To sell is human” is the latest book by best-selling author Daniel Pink, and if you’ve ever watched kids playing shops you know there’s some truth to it. US statistics show that one in nine Americans works in sales. So do the other eight too, at least according to Pink, who says that we are all in sales now. Whether we push our children to study more, convince our partner to visit a new holiday destination or negotiate a salary increase, it’s all about persuading others to go along with our ideas. In short, it’s all about selling something to someone.

Krauthammer consultant and sales trainer Christian Fölster has read the book. Let’s see what his takeaways are:

1. What are the main challenges in sales today?

“Many people say that the sales environment has changed dramatically. Customers are bidding farewell to the traditional way of buying and are relying much more on shared information. The amount of information has also exploded, and this trend is continuing thanks to the internet. This changes the way we build trust and make our decisions. We access information about the product or services we want to purchase much earlier than before, by comparing prices and services on the internet. We are better informed as customers, and sometimes have very concrete ideas when we talk to salespeople. As salespeople, we know that in the past we were often better informed than the customer. Today, we have the feeling that it is the other way round. If you read recent articles, you will even come across provocative statements saying that customers don´t need salespeople anymore! On the other hand, we know that in this world of information we need someone to guide us through the jungle. That is when we need good salespeople and good communication. Good communication is more important than ever in sales.”

2. What are your participants in sales trainings struggling with?

“A lot of salespeople find themselves in a challenging new environment where it has become extremely difficult to differentiate yourself through a product. However, salespeople should never forget that it is not about WHAT they sell but HOW they sell it. They also struggle quite often with finding the right strategy or the right techniques in their conversations with clients. They need to take time to reflect about their communication. In order to improve, they have to know their strengths and weaknesses. What’s more, they should always ask their customer for feedback!”

3. What do you like about Pink’s book? How can it help sales professionals?

“The book is a good source of inspiration to improve the way you sell. First of all, Pink shows that selling is a natural thing. Many people don´t even recognise that they are working in sales, and would not define it that way. We all have to “sell” our ideas or opinions to other people. Pink also dispels the negative connotation that some people have when they think of salespeople.”

4. Pink introduces a new ABC of effectively moving people, which he backs up with social science
research. What’s behind his so-called new ABC?

“Finding the right attitude in sales is the key to success. For this reason, the new ABC builds on psychological factors that influence our decisions. The A stands for attunement, the B for buoyancy and the C for clarity. Based on this ABC, Pink gives three pieces of advice: increase your power by lowering it, use your head and your heart, and mimic your conversational partner. At first sight, these aspects may appear obvious, yet they are very important if we are looking to improve our behaviour in sales.”

5. For Pink, the traditional elevator pitch is outdated because organisations and technology have
moved on. He presents six new ways of pitching. What is the reason behind this?

“The six new ways of pitching is a great idea in order to reflect on the message that we want to get across. As hierarchies in many companies are vanishing, so too is the idea of catching the “big boss” in the lift on his way to the top floor. Pink offers many ideas about how to formulate the perfect pitch. The Twitter pitch, for example, is a very nice way of trying to shorten your main message. Can you describe your job in 140 characters? You should try it!”

6. Do you have any advice about how sales teams can pitch in the new way at their next sales meeting?

“Try to think of what has been the traditional way of explaining what you do and try this exercise:

What do you want people to say?
What message should come across?
How should they feel and what should they do?

Using these questions, every pitch can easily be analysed and tested for its relevance in our modern world.”

7. What is your final takeaway from reading Pink’s book?

“At the end of the day, selling is human and has a lot to do with interaction with others. Reflect on your actions, think about the other person and ask for feedback in order to improve your communication. It’s a simple message and still very true in sales today.”