Look, “selling” gets a bad rap these days. But after reading this monumental book, I realized that EVERYONE sells, especially in the modern workplace. To sell is to be human. And when you do it with the right approach, it’ll make you proud to be in sales, just like I am.
Today we’re talking about the book that made me proud to work in sales, To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink. We’ll be covering two foundational concepts covered by his work.
Selling: We All Do It
We aaallll are sellers. From the retail professional over at GAP to Fortune 500 secretaries, mom-n-pop accountants, and traveling HR consultants. No matter who you are or what you do, odds are you’ve had to sell someone on an idea before.
Pitched an idea in a meeting? That’s selling. Asked for a raise? That’s selling. Convinced your co-worker to speed up signing the checks so you could get them out in today’s mail? S.E.L.L.I.N.G.
Pink took this idea and used it to form what he calls Contemporary Selling. This kind of selling is about moving others to exchange resources that include but do not revolve around money.
Contemporary selling isn’t about PRODUCT. It’s about SERVICE.
Okay, so what does this all mean for you, a sales professional?
The New Paradigm: What That Means for Professional Sales
It means there’s a new sales paradigm. Rather than “selling” in the traditional sense, your job is to render a service to your prospects and clients. And your job is to do it with the end goal of improving their lives.
Now there are two specific steps you can take to sell better in this new paradigm.
1. Making It Personal
I’ve seen lots of reps try to keep their relationships all-business and ultra “professional.” To a fault even. While there’s a time and place for that, leaning too heavily into it creates distance rather than forging a connection with the customer.
Instead, try coming from a place of passion. You LIKE what you’re selling. You believe in it. And you want others to get the same value from it that you do. When you approach your relationships this way, you come off as credible, not profit-driven. And that builds trust.
Here’s an example of making it personal for you.
Say you sell a certain type of large-scale project management software for Fortune 500 companies. And guess what? You hate what you sell. It’s inefficient. It’s overpriced. And frankly, it just doesn’t do a great job of solving your buyers’ real problems.
Since you know making a sale won’t actually help the prospects you’re selling to, you have to find value in other aspects of the deal. You’re making money. You’re boosting your numbers. You’re shooting for a promotion and this will seal the deal. Ultimately the potential buyer becomes a means to an end. And that leads to devaluing them and their needs… not good for sales.
But on the other hand, say you love what you’re selling. You know it works. You’ve seen how it makes your other clients’ lives easier. And you think your potential buyer will get a lot out of it too.
When you approach a sale with that mindset, your genuineness shines through. You’re there to provide a service. And your buyers can tell. So they trust you, what you have to say, and the value of your product.
2. Make It Purposeful
It’s easy to get caught up and bogged down in the specifics of your solution. The nitty-gritty features, the in-the-weeds technical details, the straightforward use cases. And if you spend too much time here, you may not realize that what you’re selling is actually connected to a broader purpose.
As it turns out, studies show the desire to serve is innate. It’s built right into us. And you’re most successful when you believe you’re serving not just you, not just the client. But also a larger person than both of you.
When you connect your solution to that larger purpose, you’re more passionate. You’re more service-oriented. And more driven than ever.
So to be more purposeful, focus on how your service can improve society as a whole and frame it that way to potential buyers.
Say you sell accounting software specifically for mom-and-pop sized businesses.
Your product is powerful enough to keep these businesses’ costs down by keeping things compliant. But it’s also easy enough to use that they won’t have to hire an accountant.
Your product also works really well, your clients love it. That alone is a great driving force you can get behind.
But take things a step further.
You’re helping these businesses stay afloat. But you’re also contributing to a world where small but valuable businesses can compete with the big box stores. You’re making it easier for new ideas to thrive and not be immediately squashed by monopolies. And you’re also helping contribute to the values of the free market—competition, ingenuity, and the freedom for anyone to participate.
And you thought you were just selling accounting software!
When you make your work purposeful, you make it important. That shines through with your buyers.
And when you do that, you too will be proud to work in sales.