Off the Cuff

Dan Pink: Swimming in an ‘Ocean of Rejection’

Off the Cuff

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that one in nine of American works is in sales. Well forget that! Author Dan Pink says we’re all in sales.

Pink, the author of “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,” says even if you don’t realize it, you’re selling. You may not be standing at a cash register or standing on a car lot, but you’re selling. Every time you want a job, or pitch a new project, or if you’re an entrepreneur trying to get investors, you’re selling. You do it every time you stand before the board of directors and every time you try to get your kids to clean up their room or do their homework. Pink calls it “non-sales selling.”

Today’s type of selling Pink told "Off the Cuff", is not about making money. Instead he says we seek rewards of time, attention, effort, energy and commitment.

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Pink, a former speech writer for Al Gore is recognized as a “rethinker” an expert on our ever-changing world of how we work and how we live. Drawing upon a wealth of social science findings for his counterintuitive insights, he wants us to rethink what we believe about sales.

“There's a widespread belief that extroverts make better salespeople. It's almost an axiom of business. Extroverts are more likely to go into sales. Extroverts are more likely to get hired in sales jobs. Extroverts are more likely to get promoted in sales jobs.” But he says studies show the correlation between extraverts and sales performance is essentially zero.

The best sales people he says are ‘ambiverts’ - those people who are somewhat introverted, somewhat extroverted – in other words, that pretty much includes most of us. His advice let go of those long held beliefs that you have to do the hard sale to close the deal, instead he says, just be yourself. Pink believes sales has changed more in the last 10 years that in the previous 100. What’s driving that change, he says it is information.

Being a good salesperson in the information age he says, requires better listening skills, clarity of ideas and more expertise. Because the internet enables customers to research the basics, Pink says businesses should leverage their in-depth knowledge to better serve them. In other words, put the ‘buyer’ first.

Those old ABC’s of sales ‘Always be Closing’ are being replaced with the new ABC’s: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.

“Attunement, you have to understand where someone else is coming from. Buoyancy, you have to stay afloat in the ocean of rejection that is sales. And clarity, you have to move from accessing information to curating information, from solving existing problems to identifying problems people don't realize that they have.”

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So how do you get others to buy into what you’re selling? Pink says begin by rethinking your pitch. “We're better off using questions rather than statements.” Questions, he says “by their very nature, elicit an active response. They get people's wheels turning a little bit. If I make a statement, it can wash over you. If I ask a question, you have to at least consider it a little bit.”

The need for ‘buoyancy’ in this new world of selling is realizing you won’t always be able to close the deal. Not every new idea, meeting with potential investors or job interview will be a sure thing, so be prepared to hear “no.”

“When we're selling a lot more, we're going get rejected a lot more, it’s a fact of life...and we humans hate rejection, we hate it.”

“The last Fuller Brush men in America, a guy name Norman Hall, said, ‘the hardest part about being in sales is that every day I wake up, I go out, and I face an ocean of rejection.’ That's really what it is to sell anything. You have to face a lot of rejection. And most of us don't deal with that very well.”

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To deal with that rejection Pink counsels three things; don’t blame yourself, realize not every sell is rejected and even though rejection feels “toxic” being rejected isn’t permanent.

So as you begin to embrace the idea that you are now in ‘sales’ Pink offers this key reminder, “the most effective forms of selling, persuasion, and influence are when you're able to help someone else summon their own reasons for agreeing with you, their own reasons for doing something.”

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