Ever since the social media revolution really started to take hold (what would you reckon, 2008?), selling has seemed to have become equivalent to a swear word. Selling is pushy. Selling is what snake oil salesmen do. Social Media, many have preached, is not about selling. It’s about relationship building. These two actions, both integral for the success of any given company, have been torn asunder as if they are mutually exclusive.
If you have read this book, you might question how I feel it can combat the sense that selling and social media don’t mix. After all, Pink does not really deal with social media much at all except for a few brief mentions of Twitter and Facebook. The key is how Pink talks about selling, however. After reading the book, you can apply the lessons between the covers in whatever environment you might find yourself
Why do we hate selling?
The first part of the book explores selling as a profession. Pink illustrates based on survey results that people definitely think negatively about selling. The word invokes images of a smarmy used car salesman who is trying to sell you the worst car in the world at the highest price. If you’re in sales, people think, you are in the business of trying to fool people into buying things. Poor, defenseless people. That’s why we have the phrase, “Buyer Beware.”
There’s just one small problem. This entire line of thinking is old-fashioned. Buyers now know as much, if not more, than salespeople. Before someone buys from you, they have probably researched your competitors, read blog posts, talked to friends who bought from you or one of your competitors (or both), and more. Pink suggests the saying should now be, “Seller Beware.” Selling is no longer a game where the salesman has the distinct advantage in information currency. We are acting like a kid who is still convinced the bogey man is in the closet even though the doors are wide open and the lights are on. Times have changed. It’s still possible to get duped, but many salespeople are now aware that their customers and prospects can test the validity of their claims with one simple swipe of a smart phone.
Pink also offers some bad news for those who insist that selling is the work of the devil. We are now all selling something. It may not be a product or a service. It may be an idea of how to improve a process at work. It may be a blog post we want people to read. Selling is really just moving people into a direction you want them to go. Based on that definition, we spend quite a lot of our time selling. Sorry folks.
How to think successfully about selling
The second part of Pink’s book is about the brain. Pink cites several fascinating studies about how people interact with other people. To sell (whatever that means for you), you need to be attuned to what people need and want. You need to be watchful for opportunities. There are a lot of interesting tidbits in this chapter, including research that indicates that a sell that offers a few negative points can produce better results than a purely promotional pitch. There is the idea that selling potential can be more effective than selling already existent results.
A lot of the studies that support this chapter are based on in-person reactions. There is a lot about how people betray what they are feeling with body language, for example. But there are cues you can watch for in the online world too, and there are ways you can experiment with how you present yourself, your company, and your products or services. For example, Pink talks about how effective salespeople will often work to present the potential buyer as the more powerful person in the relationship. This runs counter to what many in the online world currently do via self-promotion, but it is easy enough to engage someone online and give them the upper hand in the conversation.
Pink also talks in this section about the importance of asking oneself questions to prepare for selling. Often you will hear people say that you need to pump yourself up. Pink says the more effective approach is to ask yourself, “Am I ready for this?” This forces you to answer either yes or no, and it forces you to then support those answers. This is a much more honest conversation. When using social media, instead of simply saying, “I am being authentically human,” you can ask yourself, “Am I coming across as an authentic human being?” That may be a difficult question to answer.
What to do when selling
Finally, Pink talks about listening, improvising, and serving, the three facets that make up the foundation of human selling. Social Media practitioners may perk up a little at the word “listening.” “Sure, I have my monitoring software right here!” But that is listening “for.” Pink talks about the additional importance of listening “to” what people are really saying. In person it is easy to interrupt. Online it is easy to simply phase out or impress our own meaning on to what someone else is saying. Building relationships that can ultimately create loyal customers requires that you listen to. This does not mean that your care is anything less than genuine. It simply means that if you want to differentiate yourself and your company, if you want customers to think about you as “human,” then you need to BE human. That is more than a catch phrase, as Pink clearly illustrates.
The “serve” chapter may also strike social media users as familiar,. Online we might call it “give to get.” This may be boiling it down into terms that are too simplistic, but the concept is obviously a solid one. If you want to earn someone’s trust, you have to be trustworthy. If you want to be thought of as human, you must show human qualities.
Daniel Pink’s book has given me a lot to ponder. I highly recommend it, whether you think you are selling or not. You can get it here. (not an affiliate link).