In his recent best seller, To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, author Dan Pink makes the case that we are all now really in sales and that learning good sales techniques can help us all do our jobs better. While the official employment statistics show that only one in nine people is officially categorized in sales, Pink notes that the other eight in nine workers are in sales as well.
While we may not be stalking customers in the traditional sense, we are now spending a significant part of our time trying to persuade, influence or convince others in what Pink calls “non-sales” selling. In analyzing what people actually do on the job, Pink notes that about 40 percent of our time is spent trying to move others (employees, employers, co-workers, customers, etc.) and doing so is critical to our professional success.
Pink explains that this workplace transformation is due to three key elements: Entrepreneurship, Elasticity and Ed-Med. He notes that the very technologies that were predicted a few years ago to eliminate salespeople have actually lowered the barriers to entry into the marketplace and increased sales and competition. Small business is more vital than it has ever been and the number of competitors “selling” in the marketplace has expanded, not contracted.
In terms of elasticity, most of us, whether we work in small or large organizations, have moved from doing only one or two specific things to doing a wider variety of things. And as that has happened, our skills must stretch as well and often include a “sales” aspect to them – some traditional selling, but often “non-sales” selling.
Finally, Pink notes that the fastest growing services around the world are educational services and health care – a sector he calls “Ed-Med,” which are all about “moving” or “selling” people.
Pink acknowledges that most of us have a negative view of sales and salespeople, who do not have a stellar reputation in our culture (Willie Loman, etc.). But he goes on to dispel the idea that to be good in sales, you have to be deceptive or conniving. Instead, he says that today when you are trying to sell or move people, the keys relate to honesty, fairness and transparency.
So think about what you do in your position on a daily basis. I am guessing you will find a fair amount of “selling” going on, perhaps not in the traditional sense (although if you have customers or clients you do), but in the non-traditional sense of trying to move or convince people of something or another. And to do it well requires you to hone skills related to communicating, having empathy toward others and problem solving.
What Pink says in his book syncs up with some of the key skills identified for future success through the AICPA Vision Project. Things like:
Communications: Being able to give and exchange information with meaningful context and appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills. It includes the ability to make thinking visible to others in a way they can easily grasp.
Collaboration and synthesis: Being effective at engaging others and working across boundaries to turn challenges into opportunities, including the ability to consider the whole picture (past, present, and future context) and create alternatives and options for the future.
We are all in sales now!