When you hear the word “sales,” do you picture that stereotypical, sneaky used-car salesman who lies through his fake smile? If so, it’s time to change your perspective, because even if you don’t have the word “sales” in your title, you probably sell every day.
You may not actually sell a product or service, but as Daniel Pink points out in his newest book, To Sell Is Human, all people “persuade, convince and influence others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for something we’ve got.”
I attended a conference this past weekend where Pink spoke, and he got me thinking about the concept of sales in our society.
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), one out of nine jobs in the United States is in sales. Through further analysis, Pink concludes that the other eight out of nine require selling in one form or another.
As a leader, you sell a lot – probably more than the top salesperson on staff! And if your title happens to be CEO, you sell every day – to investors, employees and customers.
In fact, it could be said that selling is one of the most important parts of a CEO’s job. Ignore it, and you’re dead in the water. Investors will dry up; key employees will be courted away; and your competitors will sweep up your best clients.
Yet, most of us grimace at the notion of selling and loathe the concept. In fact, Pink surveyed 9,057 people around the world, asking them: “When you think of ‘sales’ or ‘selling,’ what’s the first word that comes to mind?”
The top 10 answers, in relative order of frequency, were:
Seven of these 10 words range from negative to extremely negative!
Yet, if most of us sell every day, how could we have such low opinions of ourselves?
The likely answer is that most people think of “selling” as in only selling products and services, and many of us have had negative experiences with people trying to sell us things we didn’t want or need. Personally, I think there are many more examples of good, reputable salespeople than bad ones. Unfortunately, the latter have somehow falsely-personified the sales profession.
However, if we agree that persuading and influencing are the most important aspects of selling, we can readily admit that we all sell! Only then can we intentionally build the selling skills we need to be more successful in business and life. After all, what could be better than getting more people to truly understand our positions and take action accordingly?
As Pink so brilliantly puts it, to sell is human. And the sooner we embrace this fact, the sooner we can get better at influencing with purpose.
Perhaps this article has persuaded you to look at sales in a slightly different way. I’m certainly not trying to sell you on the idea. That’s not what I do. At least, it’s not in my title!
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