Quick, answer the following question: “Are you in sales?” Unless your profession involves selling insurance, or cars, or something else specific, you’re likely to answer this question with a resounding “no.” But not so fast, according to best-selling author Daniel Pink’s newest book, To Sell Is Human. In it, he argues persuasively that though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one-in-nine Americans are in sales, the other eight of us actually are, too.
Using colorful anecdotes to personalize the points he’s making (including the story of the last working Fuller Brush Man in existence), Pink walks us through how economic and societal changes that began in the last century have affected how we define a “salesman.” To start, where formerly there was an information asymmetry in favor of the salesman, now thanks largely to the mass of information available online, the balance of power has shifted to the consumer. Consumers are better informed about their choices and what they want to pay for them than ever before. A car salesman or an appliance salesman has to be ready for this, knowing that there’s a good chance the person walking through their doors has done extensive research and can’t be “sold” in a traditional way.
The larger point, though, that leads Pink to determine that nearly all of us are selling in one way or another is the growth of small businesses. In smaller companies, roles and job responsibilities are by necessity fluid. The founder of a small business has to be able, for instance, to convince venture capital firms to invest in his company, to convince banks to loan him money, to convince stores to stock what he’s producing, and to convince his employees to remain engaged and loyal.
It’s this act of “moving” someone to part with something in exchange for what you’re offering — whether you’re asking them to part with time or attention or shelf space or actual money — that Pink’s referring to as “selling” in the new economic landscape. And just about all of us are doing it in one way or another, whether you’re trying to convert co-workers in a meeting to your way of thinking or even trying to talk your kids into finishing their homework.
Pink provides lots of practical guidance and tools in his book for those of us interested in improving our ability to move others and sell effectively. And if you still think you’re not actually in sales, this book might just surprise you.
— LouAnn Lofton, firstname.lastname@example.org