Business consultant and former vice-presidential speechwriter Dan Pink took the stage at FPA Experience 2013 on Saturday afternoon in Orlando to defend salesman and selling. Pink, author of To Sell is Human, began by noting three ingredients in any effective presentation.
“They are brevity, levity and repetition; let me say that one more time,” he said to laughter. “I’m going to leave you with two insights and six takeaways.”
The first insight, he explained, is that “like it or not, we’re all in sales.”
“During the dot-com bubble, management consultants said salespeople would be ‘disintermediated;’ that’s consultant speak for removing them from the interaction because they’re gumming up the works. In 2000, about one in nine people in the labor force were in sales. Guess what? In 2013, that number is still one in nine — so much for that.”
That number holds true pretty much around the globe, he added, noting that in the EU it’s about 13% and in Japan it is one in eight.
“All the rest that aren’t in sales are in sales,” he argued. “It’s just not with a cash register and money changing hands. Sales is convincing someone to give up something they value in exchange for something you are offering; it could be their commitment, zeal time, or anything else. You are trying to move someone to take action, so the definition it’s broader than simply producers and consumers.”
When people are informed they’re in sales even if they don’t realize it, they have one of two reactions: “The first is they like it, the second is ‘or not.’”
Noting a survey he conducted on the perception of salespeople among the public, he noted that of the top 25 most popular answers, 20 were negative and only five were positive or could be considered positive.
“That’s astonishing. In no other profession, like medicine or accounting, do you find that? Yet we’re all involved in selling to some degree.”
The negative perception, he said, is outdated. It stemmed from the seller having an information advantage over the buyer, which often led to the latter’s abuse and was the origin of the phrase “buyer beware.” Announcing his second insight, he said technology has rendered the advantage moot, and it has moved from an asymmetrical sales environment to information parity.
“It’s now ‘seller beware;’ if you try and rip someone off, they’ll find out and they have the resources to tell everyone,” he said. “’Seller beware’ is different in kind rather than degree from ‘buyer beware.’”
He found it shocking that elite business schools do not teach sales, but rather sales management. Referencing Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” he said ABC no longer stands for “Always be closing.”