To Sell is Human

Daniel Pink, former speechwriter for Al Gore, has written an unconventional book on sales called To Sell is Human. In this well researched book, Pink observes a few surprising evolutions in society and their impact on sales.

The hard sell is dead. Enabled by the internet, prospective buyers know more about a product than a salesperson. This is true for cars as much as enterprise software. As a result, the salesperson no longer leverages an information asymmetry to sell a product. Instead, the salesperson must negotiate from the very first word, identify a customer problem and solve the problem using a product. Sales is evolving to consulting.

The purpose of the pitch is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.

According to Wharton research, the gun-slinging extroverted salesperson generates only a fraction more revenue than introverts. Champions of the sales floor balance introversion and extroversion. Dubbed ambiverts, these salespeople sell 25% more than their colleagues.

Everyone in a company must sell: customer support, marketing, engineering, and so on. Atlassian and Zendesk have reached tens to hundreds of millions in revenue without sales teams by empowering customer support teams to solve the problems of an educated customer base.

In addition, more than 18M Americans work independently, a figure that will quadruple in the next ten years. More than most, this segment of the workforce must sell effectively to thrive.

The term elevator pitch originates from the very first demonstration of an elevator with a safety brake. At the time, elevators were hazardous, routinely plummeting down shafts when their hoisting ropes fell, destroying their payloads. In 1852, Elisha Otis invented a locking system that would catch and secure plunging elevator. Unable to drive much interest in his innovation, Otis organized a demonstration in New York City. He stood in the elevator as an assistant severed the hoisting ropes and the safety brake engaged. Otis' innovation paved the way for humans to ride in elevators. Today, the Otis company’s products transport 7B people every three days.

To Sell is Human is a breezy, data supported book that catalogues the changes in sales and shares techniques to improve sales performance.

04 January 2013

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