How to Overcome the "Used Car Salesman" Stereotype
For his new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, bestselling author Daniel Pink asked people to describe the adjectives that came to mind when people were prompted to think of "sales" or "selling."
After removing value neutral adjectives, what remained were words like “pushy,” “annoying,” “manipulative” and “dishonest.” Then the participants were asked to draw an image that came to mind when they thought of the word “sales,” and the stereotypical image drawn was a used car salesman in a suit.
It all connects to this idea that people in sales are somehow dishonest or deceitful. In the book, Pink argues that this is a huge misconception and that nearly every person in the world is now in sales, whether it’s trying to move others to buy their products, accept their ideas or invest in their companies.
Today, people have more information than ever. If you take the example of selling cars, people can look up the car's price, get information about the dealer and even find out if the car has been in any accidents.
Sellers need to be aware that their professional reputation is dependent solely on their customers. Pink argues that great sales techniques aren't just about selling products or services anymore—they can be used for everything from popularizing a business, to doing many jobs at the same time (as every small-business owner does), to mentoring people.
Here are his best tips gleaned from social science to help you whether you're selling products, ideas or your consulting expertise:
Use your head, not your heart, to identify with people. Taking someone else's perspective is absolutely essential to moving people. By doing so, you become better at picking up on their signals and figuring out what they want from a transaction. People think of that as an emotional process, as requiring empathy. Researchers at INSEAD find that people who focus on what others think are much better negotiators than those who think about what they feel.
Focusing on thoughts means you're better able to focus on their context, and get to a solution that's in both parties’ interests.
Try "strategic mimicry." We instinctively copy other people, sometimes without realizing it. That includes behaviors, gestures, sometimes even accents. That might seem like it would put people off, but studies actually recommend that you, for example, touch your face once in a while if the person you're meeting with does.
It has to be subtle, though. If someone notices, the effect can be very negative.
Be an "ambivert," not an extrovert. You would expect that the best salespeople would be the most sociable and gregarious. There's actually almost no evidence of that. Studies have found no relationship between extroversion and sales. In fact, research from Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School finds that the most effective salespeople are right on the middle of the scale between extroversion and introversion. They're what he calls "ambiverts."
Being too gregarious can actually hurt sales, as people can get turned off by someone who's too assertive, zealous or prone to stumbling over themselves in their eagerness. If you tend to talk too much, reign it back and listen more.
Change how you psych yourself up. Many people try to prepare themselves for something challenging by thinking positive thoughts—something researchers call "self-talk." How you do that actually has an effect on performance.
People who ask questions—rather than making statements—have been found to do better on a variety of tasks. Asking questions is a way to come up with strategies, and it helps you remember what motivates you instead of just getting a quick emotional boost.
Get more great tips from these marketing and sales articles.