What do you do at work ?

We are all in sales now.

Says Daniel Pink.

“To sell is human – the surprising truth about moving others” by Daniel Pink

Analysing his work week, Pink realised that as a writer he spends a big portion of his time selling in a broader sense – persuading, influencing and convincing others.

Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. We deliver presentations to fellow employees and make pitches to new clients.

We’re in the business of “moving” people to part with resources – whether it’s tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention or support.

In a survey of 9057 respondents, he commissioned, two findings emerged:

1. People are now spending 40% of their time doing non-sales selling -persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of profession, we are devoting roughly twenty four minutes of every hour to moving others.

2. People consider this aspect of their job crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they devote to it.

Dan Pink ask the following questions
1. Do you earn your living trying to convince others to purchase goods or services?
2. Do you work for yourself or run your own operation even on the side ?
3. Does your work require elastic skills – the ability to cross boundaries and functions, to work outside your speciality, and to do a variety of different things throughout the day?
4. Do you work in education or health care?
If you answered yes. Then you’re in sales. Because you’re in the business of moving others.

If selling is part of our work experience, what must we do?

Perspective-taking of the other person

  1. Attunement

Attune to the other person. Best way to start a conversation, he suggests: Ask – where are you from? Attune to culture differences.

Watch, wait and wane.  Mimic but don’t lose sight of your objective and do it with deftness, dont let the person think you’re imitating them. Mood map

2. Buoyancy

Before you attempt something, rehearse Interrogative Self Talk.  

Instead of positive self-talk such as “I’ll be the world’s best salesman”, take on a different tack – Ask questions.

According to researchers Ibrahim Senay and Dolores Albarracin of University of Illinois and Kenji Noguchi of University of Southern Mississippi, when given task to solve anagrams, the self-questioning group solved nearly 50% more puzzles than the self-affirming group.

Why?  Asking questions – interrogative, brings out answers which are strategies for carrying out the task. Daniel Pink suggests asking yourself “can I do that?”.  (Note: I suggest to rephrase that question to “how can I do that?”.  Unlike Pink, I have found that people with low self-efficacy sometimes answer, “no, I can’t.”

Ambivert and be positive.

After the sale: what is your Explanatory Style?

Martin Seligman found out that people who give up easily, even when they can actually do something, have a negative explanatory style.  They explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal. It can diminish performance, trigger depression and turn setbacks into disasters.

Optimists instead attribute bad events as temporary and something external.

3. Clarity

Good salespeople are skilled problem-solvers. They assess prospects needs, analyze their problems and deliver the optimal solution. Or so we used to think.

Today’s world, information is abundant, so its less on problem solving than on problem finding. The Conference Board, a few years ago, asked public school administrators and private employers, what are the most important competencies required in today’s workforce.  Administrators ranked “problem solving” as number one.  Employers instead, ranked it number eight.  

Their top ranked ability was “problem identification”. [Interestingly World Economic Forum also ranked problem solving as Number One.  But Critical thinking as number two.  Nothing on problem Identification. ]

According to Haas School of Business in University of California, Berkeley, “being able to see what the problem is before you jump in to solve it” or “framing a problem in interesting ways” is very important. It triggers the ability to sort through data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces.

Skill valued in the Past: Answering questions

Skill valued Now: Asking questions, uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues and finding unexpected problems.

How to be a better salesperson?
Identify frames of reference for the other person.

  1. Clarity depends on contrast. Frame your offerings in ways that contrast with its alternatives and thereby clarify its virtues.
  2. Everyone loves choices.  But too much choice is bad. [See Jam experiment by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University. While more customers stopped by the jam booths with 24 choices, only 3% bought jam. At the booth with more limited selection (6 choices), 30% customers made a purchase.]
  3.  Use the experience frame.  Experiential purchases make people happier than material purchases.  Framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business. If you’re selling a car, “go easy on emphasizing the rich Corinthian leather on the seats. Instead point out what the car will allow the buyer to do – see new places, visit old friends, and add to a book of memories.
  4. The label frame – in 2004, social scientists from the Interdisciplinary Centre in Israel, the US Air Force Academy and Stanford University recruited participants to play a Prisoners Dilemma game.  For one group, they called it “Wall Street Game”, and the other “Community Game”. In the Wall Street Game, 33% of participants cooperated.  In the Community Game, 66% reached the mutually beneficial results.  The label helped people put the exercise in context and hinted at what was expected. In an experiment of 5th grade students, a similar thing happened. Students who were labelled “neat” were more likely to keep their classroom clean.
  5. Clarify other’s motives
  6. Try a jolt of the unfamiliar
  7. Curate information
  8. Learn to ask better questions
  9. Find the 1%
  10. Ask 5 “Whys”

To improve your influencing skills:
Books suggested by Dan Pink

  1. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  2. Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  3. Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  4. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
  5. Nudge: Improving decisions About health, wealth and happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
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