There’s a new face in selling. A new (common sense) view of sales now determines your success, the success of all your colleagues and the success of your business too. No more is selling the exclusive remit of the ‘sales person’. According to statistics, in the UK 10 of every 100 workers are directly involved in selling. Across the EU it’s 13/100 and in the USA 9 of every 100. However, a ‘What Do You Do At Work?’ research study of 9,057 non-sales employees shows that 24 minutes of every working hour is dedicated to non-sales selling. Teachers are selling the merit of homework, managers are selling the merit of getting work priorities done. So, 10% of people are selling as a traditional sales job, the remaining 90% are largely involved in selling ideas, concepts and desires. Plus, the research suggests that nearly everyone considers non-sales selling to be crucial to their success.
Selling is an essential skill in every type of work from health and educational workers to every walk of business life. To succeed, it pays to master the skills of non-sales selling.
Accept that everyone in your business sells, and that when you all master selling ethically you’ll be deemed trustworthy by more customers and build a better business bank balance as a result.
The old view of slippery shark-like sales people making dodgy deals is long gone. The internet and social media now means any such ‘sharp’ dealings will be soon found out and news of it will spread like wildfire. Trust is now the new currency of the sales person – whether you’re employed to sell or just sell as part of your non-sales role.
Who needs sales people?
Atlassian build large ‘enterprise software’ for the likes of Microsoft, Samsung and the United Nations. The software helps manage large projects, tracks progress and fosters collaboration among employees. For Atlassian the new face of selling is not a sales person at all. Here’s their CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes: “We have no sales people, because in a weird way, everyone is a salesperson.” $110m of sales without a sales person. So, what do people in sales (or non-sales selling) do to avoid irrelevance and deliver value?The new world of selling
Before the internet, buyers needed salespeople for information and help to solve the buyer’s problem. But the internet now allows information equality. Sales people no longer wield the power of knowledge. We can all now easily and quickly educate ourselves about the best computer or best hotel without the help of a sales person or travel agent. Your customers do the same for your products and services.
Persuasion. Influence. Encouraging learning and new behaviours. Everyone is selling something every day. Parents sell their kids on going to bed. Spouses sell their partners on mowing the lawn or buying better wine at the shop. And aren’t Facebook, Twitter and Instagram simply platforms for selling yourself? And if we all think it’s crucial in all our jobs, as the research suggests, then we will all benefit from improving our non- sales selling skills. Starting with the ABC of selling…
Daniel Pink in his research-based and yet easy-to-read book ‘To Sell Is Human’ lays out a formula for success. The tarnished, shark-like, 20th century view of sales people was typically linked with double-glazing or used cars. Back then the famous acronym ‘ABC’ stood for ‘Always Be Closing’. The new face of selling relies on a new ‘ABC’ – Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.
Pink summarises attunement: “…step outside [our] own experience and imagine the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of another”. Thirty-five studies of more than 3,500 sales people showed that being an extrovert did not make you a better sales person – the evidence suggests extroverts are not the winners at sales. One USA university study tracked several hundred sales people’s average results over several months:
- Extroverts sold $125 per hour
- Introverts sold $120 per hour
A third group sold 25% more:
- Ambiverts sold $155 per hour
In his book, Pink calls these people the “Goldilocks personalities” – not too hot (extrovert) and not too cold (introvert). “Extroverts... can fail to strike the proper balance between asserting and holding back, which can be read as pushy and drive people away.” “Introverts have their own, often reverse, challenges. They can be too shy to initiate and too timid to close.” The solution, from the research? “…to emulate those in the centre.” Ambiverts are more successful because they are better at tuning into the feelings of others whilst retaining a logical perspective.
To tune into the feelings of others, Pink’s studies suggest you start your sales encounters with the assumption that you’re in a lower position of power: “… [Lower power] will help you see the other side’s perspective more accurately”
As humans we are natural mimics – we mimic what people say and how people move. Being a mimic reassures. Like Pink says, being a mimic: “...serves as a social glue and a sign of trust.” But you must be a natural and subtle mimic to be good at non-sales selling.
You’re pretty much guaranteed some teenage-like-eye-rolling when you start promoting the idea of a positive mental attitude (PMA)! Your buoyancy rating (BR) is measured by the number of positive messages compared to the number of negative messages you express. Pink quotes a study clearly showing the most successful buoyancy rating is between 3:1 and 11:1. This is important because research shows that a positive tone is twice as likely to result in a successful agreement than a negative one – even when the terms are identical. Use the way you talk to yourself in a way that means you express at least three times more positive messages than negative ones – but don’t overdo it beyond 11:1 (says the research) because: “...unchecked levity leaves you flighty, ungrounded, and unreal.”
Simply telling yourself you can do it, as Paul and Tony suggest (both are world renowned advocates of PMA) doesn’t work, or so says the social science. Bob the Builder on the other hand has more to offer when seeking buoyancy above 3:1: “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!”. Positive self-talk works better when it’s ‘self-questioning’ rather than ‘self-affirming’.
Start asking yourself questions. You then stimulate self-talk about the ways and means of achieving what you want – the science suggests this is far more productive than sugar-coated, over-inflated statements about your general awesomeness! And when you start thinking and commentating on the results you achieve, what do you say? If you say anything like:
“I never fail to mess up every conversation with my boss”…this language undermines your buoyancy ratio. Stop using the 3Ps
–Permanence (never fail)
– Pervasive (every conversation)
– Personal (I).
Instead, it pays to alter your language when reviewing results and be ‘temporary’ not permanent (sometimes), use ‘specific’ for pervasive (this time) and seek ways toacknowledge the contribution of others to the failure (not just you). Remember: “Optimism, it turns out, isn’t hollow sentiment. It’s a catalyst that can stir persistence, steady us during challenges, and stoke the confidence that we can influence our surroundings.”
“I can see how Google has made our buyers as well informed as my team. So, what can we do to be viewed as valuable?” This is about providing clarity to your buyers… “...in the past, the best sales people were adept at accessing information. Today they must be skilled at curating (filtering) it.” Filtering and distilling information – so your buyers can see the wood for the trees is crucial. Filtering brings clarity. Your value to your buyers is filtering information and providing them with clarity.
Google and the internet means your prospective buyers no longer lack information. So, buyers asking information-gathering questions is less likely. To be great at persuasion and influence, your job is to ask questions that will:
• uncover possibilities
• find unexpected problems
• give your buyers clarity on the problems that need their attention.
Focus on finding problems rather than solving existing problems. Filter the information your buyers need, and you’ll be rewarded for providing a clear picture of what really matters to your buyers. The head of sales for the Mentos sweets brand Ralph Chauvin suggests buyers are: “...looking for unbiased business partners... those who can brainstorm with retailers, who uncover new opportunities for them, and who realise that it doesn’t matter if they close [the sale] right at that moment.” Pink points to improving your skills around questions as being crucial – questions focused on finding problems and filtering data into consumable bitesized and relevant pieces.
“Compared to what?” Is a brilliant question to ask because you’re now having a conversation about comparing one outcome with another. This will point to finding a relevant problem if one exists. “Why didn’t you pick a lower number?” This is a great question when it is preceded by a framing question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning low and 10 high, how ready are you to improve your website?” Whether it’s about website marketing or encouraging a child to revise, these two questions open a broader discussion. A discussion that points to a clear view of the problem or need for different/better information.
In Daniel Pink’s research-packed book you’ll find a set of tools, tips and exercises for succeeding in the new terrain of 21st century selling – even if you don’t have a traditional sales job. ‘To Sell Is Human’ shows how we’re all selling something a lot of the time as parents, spouses, teachers, business-owners. Pink then sets out how you and your people can get better at non-sales selling so that you and your business can succeed at a higher level.
If Atlassian can sell $100m of software without a sales force, you too will get a pay-off from building your team’s non-sales selling skills.
1. Assess your team’s view of their non-sales selling time
2. Help your team build the skills of ATTUNEMENT – be an ambivert
3. Help your team build the skills of BUOYANCY – better self-talk
4. Help your team build the skills of CLARITY – find the real problems
“How do I know we can sell products and services without people in sales?”
You don’t. But you can start building non-sales selling insights and skills with your team.
Historically, sales people got a bad press (possibly well-earned), thanks to the shadier dealings of aggressive sales people. But now, thanks to the internet, ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware) has become ‘caveat venditor’ (seller beware). Customers now ‘bite back’ if you’re seen to be anything other than whiter than white as a business when selling. Teaching, promoting and encouraging ethical non-sales selling skills will stand your business in good stead.
The amount of information available via the internet means that your prospective buyers are now more knowledgeable than ever before. To succeed at persuading and influencing your prospective buyers, your job is to ask questions, uncover problems and seek solutions.
Start by educating yourself and your team on the skills of non-sales selling:
Learn how to become attuned to your prospective buyers, be self-questioning whilst having a positive mental attitude and ask your buyers questions to get absolute clarity and develop real solutions together.
Daniel Pink has brilliantly pulled together research that points to the natural way of selling because, as the title of his book states so clearly, ‘To Sell Is Human’. Selling is no longer the domain of sharp-suited, sharp-practicing, so-called professionals. The research shows that 41% of our working (waking) lives have us selling ideas, next steps, learning, homework etc to colleagues, friends and family. And when asked, people suggest such non-sales selling skills are crucial to their success.
1. Assess your team’s view of their non-sales selling time
This will help all your colleagues to appreciate the value and importance of growing their non-sales selling skills.
2. Help your team build the skills of attunement – be an ambivert
See how dropping the need for power over the buyer, subtly mimicking your buyers and learning the behaviour of ambiverts puts you in pole position.
3. Help your team build the skills of buoyancy – better self-talk
Learn how to use the ‘Bob the Builder’ self-talk when preparing to persuade people (can we fix it?) to build your buoyancy to beyond a 3:1 ratio. And to strengthen your buoyancy further be sure to avoid the 3Ps when reviewing your non-sales selling results – Avoid Permanence, Pervasive and Personal.
4. Help your team build the skills of clarity – find the problems
Solving problems was the focus for sales people who held all the knowledge. But in the world of Google, buyers have as much knowledge as sales people. Now the job is helping buyers be clear about the real problems they face. Help your buyers filter the information at their disposal and ask questions to get absolute clarity on the real issue they want to resolve.