Even if you're not in a traditional sales position, you're in sales. So argues Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Whatever your business, you may be spending a great deal of your time and effort convincing, cajoling and influencing people to buy your ideas. It follows that we could all benefit from becoming better at this "non-sales selling," as Pink puts it.
Using the latest research in social science, described in plain language, Pink provides a road map to help people succeed in this brave new world of selling. Besides To Sell Is Human, Pink is the author of four other bestselling books, including A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and hosts Crowd Control, a new TV series about human behavior on the National Geographic Channel. Thinkers 50 named him one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world.
We recently asked Pink about the psychology of selling, the role of emotional intelligence in sales, and some of the tools that can help your business thrive.
In To Sell is Human, you say that one in nine people in the economy today works in sales and that the other eight are also in sales, what you call "non-sales selling"; i.e., influencing or persuading others in ways that don't involve anyone making a purchase. What are the top three strategies you can share to help someone improve in this crucial area for success?
1. Take the other person's perspective. You generally cannot force people to do something. Instead, you have to understand their point of view and their interests and find common ground.
2. Make a comparison. People make decisions in relative, rather than absolute, terms. Compare your idea, product, service, suggestion to an alternative rather than present it on its own.
3. Build an "off-ramp." If you want someone to do something, make it easy for them to do it.
Can you speak about how emotional intelligence may enhance our ability to sell?
Understanding someone else’s emotional state is a hugely important skill—both for being an effective seller and for being a decent human being. In the selling context, if you know what someone is feeling, you have a better chance of serving that person more effectively, which is ultimately what the new world of selling is about.
How is "perspective-taking" different from empathy in the sales process?
That’s an important question. Social scientists often view perspective-taking and empathy as fraternal twins—closely related, but not identical. Perspective-taking is a cognitive capacity; it’s mostly about thinking. Empathy is an emotional response; it’s mostly about feeling. Both are crucial, but in the selling realm, perspective-taking can often be more powerful.
Can you elaborate on the "new model of leadership," as you see it? Are there any roles or skills that are going to be important for business owners to be successful in this new environment? Are there any skills that will be rendered obsolete?
Any model has to reckon with two huge changes that have occurred in the world of leadership, influence and persuasion in the last decade.
First, the leader often no longer has an information advantage over employees, suppliers or customers. That makes it tougher to take the low road or even to resist transparency. It also means that accessing information is less important than making sense of the welter of information around us. That curatorial, sense-making skill has become more important.
Second, today, talented people need organizations a lot less than organizations need talented people. That altered power dynamic means that leaders generally must be less coercive and controlling and do more to foster people’s self-direction, challenge and growth. Ultimately, leaders must have the proper understanding of what motivation really is. Motivation isn’t something that someone does to another person. It’s something that people do for themselves. So a leader’s job is to create a context in which people can be self-directed, creative and productive.
What are some top tips from your new Drive workshop that can help small-business owners grow to the next level?
Carve out a small island of autonomy in which employees can do whatever they want. Call them “hack days” or “ship-it days” or “Friday evening experiments” or “hackathons.” It doesn’t matter. Set aside, say, one day a quarter when people can simply work on stuff that interests them or solve a problem that’s been bugging them—and that isn’t part of their day-to-day work. The results are often amazing.
Also, get rid of formal performance reviews—big companies like Adobe and Accenture have already done that—and establish more regular, higher-metabolism feedback sessions with employees. Things like weekly one-on-ones or regular check-ins or even peer-to-peer conversations can do wonders to help people make progress and to see the progress they’re making.
Finally, this week, have two fewer conversations with employees about how they’re doing what they’re doing and two more about why they’re doing it in the first place.
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