Serve. Give. Help. Three Keys to 21st Century Selling.

If your time is short and you want the executive summary, here it is:  

To sell is human and selling should serve others. (Daniel Pink, To Sell is Human)
We serve others best when we give more than we take. (Adam Grant, Give and Take)
We should give more help rather than offer just hype. (Jay Baer, Youtility). 

But now the rest of the story: 

I don’t like sales.
I don’t like selling.
I don’t like being sold.
I don’t like people trying to get my buy-in.
I could go on and on and on.

This is why I was so excited to read Dan Pink’s* most recent bestseller, To Sell Is Human.  With an array of interesting tales and a handful of compelling statistics, Pink correctly told me the brutal fact I need to accept: We are all in sales now.

So I initially sucked it up, accepted that he’s correct (really, would you argue against Dan Pink?), and gamely read on through chapter after chapter of engaging anecdotes, practical tools and tips, and interesting characters with stories to tell.

But when I got to the end of the book, the whole idea of sales still didn’t sit well with me.  So I waited a month or two and I read it again.

This time, the lightbulb went off.  Once you “get over it” and let go of all the negative attachments you may have to the ideas of sales and selling, Pink’s book is exactly the guidebook you need to become more effective at the business we all are in nowadays.

However, some of us have a lot of baggage to get over when it comes to thinking of ourselves in sales. This word cloud reflects the responses Pink received when he asked more than 900 people around the globe what adjectives they associate with sales or selling.  If you’re a salesperson, this is not a particularly appealing sense of how others see your profession.  And since we all are now in sales, we ALL get to be thought of as pushy, dishonest, sleazy, annoying, and manipulative.  Bet you can’t wait to get out of bed and go to work tomorrow.

But we need to get over it. The problem is that doing so isn’t necessarily easy.  Rightly or wrongly, Pink doesn’t spend too much time helping us work through our cognitive dissonance about sales (that’s graduate school speak for irrationally hanging on to an unhelpful belief).

That’s where the new books from Adam Grant (Give and Take) and Jay Baer (Youtility) are particularly of value.  Read in combination or succession with To Sell is Human, they form the three-legged stool for contemporary persuasion, marketing, sales, and service.  In fact if I was those three I’d box them together and sell them as a set along with a discussion guide and sample workshop outlines, perhaps written by someone like … say .. me?!  A few key takeaways from the works of Grant and Baer:

Give and Take
  •  "As the service sector continues to expand, more and more people are placing a premium on providers who have established relationships and reputations as givers" (p. 17).
  • "When we see a taker coming, we protect ourselves by closing the doors to our networks, withholding our trust and help" (p. 31).
  • Adam Rifkin's five-minute favor: "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody" (p. 55).
  • We overestimate what we bring to partnerships and collaborations because of the responsibility bias (attributed to psychologists Michael Ross and Fiore Sicoly), "exaggerating our own contributions relative to others' inputs" (p. 81).
  • "Consumers' desire to consume inherently useful information has never been greater" (p. xiii).
  • Three approaches to Youtility: (1) self-serve information, (2) radical transparency, and (3) real-time relevancy (p. 44).
  • "Now, we must build loyalty with information" (p. 50).
  • "If you sell something, you make a customer today.  If you help someone, you may create a customer for life" (p. 187).
So after this trifecta of good reads, I not only accept that like you, I am now in sales, but I also can embrace the act of selling as one that is about generosity, service, and helpfulness.  Because as Pink aptly notes:  “At its best, moving people can achieve something greater and more enduring than merely an exchange of resources.” 


* Disclosure:  I received compensation for contributing some activities to the paperback edition of Pink's A Whole New Mind and was one of a group of volunteers who received galley copies and other additional items in exchange for early blogging and reviews of To Sell is Human.


Dave Lutz said...

Jeff, awesome post! A lot of solo-preneurs never reach their full potential. It's rarely cuz their not smart and give expert advice, but more likely because they either are light on relationships or lack the confidence to get paid for the value they deliver!

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks Dave. I think these three books read in combination really provide a great foundation for a solo-preneurs to be much more successful.