We are all in selling now.
‘Always Be Closing’ – as Dan Pink explains in his thought-provoking book ‘To Sell is Human’, a generation of salesmen and women were taught this mantra. Always Be Closing – in other words, everything you do and say in a conversation with a customer or client should be pushing towards the Close, the clinching of the sale, when the money changes hands. That is the defining moment of the sales person’s life and work. After that, the salesman can walk away in the knowledge of a job well done, with an assurance that his commission has been earned.
No wonder selling has had such a bad press. As Pink points out, such a model of selling could only succeed in an age when the saleswoman could occupy the place of expert – only she had the product, or information about it, and selling was therefore a challenge to show the customer the necessity of parting with her cash to purchase this product (and this one only). But we’re in a new age, when we can google the details of most products and services, and we can all be experts. What has become of the salesman?
Pink shows that the salesperson hasn’t gone away. In fact we are all salesmen and women. ‘Selling’ in the traditional sense of persuading a person to part with hard-earned income for a product you or your company has created, has now been replaced with the much bigger and all-pervasive need to ‘move’ other people to make decisions.
The teacher has to move the recalcitrant student to complete his Film Studies coursework; the doctor must move the patient to change her lifestyle; the minister must move that nice man on the PCC to become churchwarden; and yes, the marketing manager or the salesman must move his clients to give his company’s product a try. We are all in selling in this sense – even in families, when we long to move our children to tidy their rooms or empty the dishwasher.
So in place of Always Be Closing, Pink offers us a new ABC – attunement, buoyancy and clarity. Attunement: we make a relationship with the person, understand what will move her; we are so attuned, in fact, that we won’t sell her what is actually wrong for her. Buoyancy: we develop resilience, so that when we fail to move someone we are not destroyed by the experience; we learn to value ourselves and whatever it is we are offering sufficiently, independent of our success in moving others. Clarity: we ask questions to discover what it is that the person we are talking to actually does want, and how we (or someone else) may be able to meet his needs.
What are you selling? A vision of the future of your firm, to your staff? The need to keep on top of school work, to a student? A product or service you provide? A new way of looking at your marriage, to your partner? A great new interest you have discovered, to a friend? The value of reading a particular book, to a client, or reader?
We are all in selling, and it’s not about the Close, it’s about the relationship and the process. How can you focus on those this week?