Sales in All Situations

When most of us think of sales, we think of a formal pitch like the one Don Draper offers in this clip from Mad Men.


While Draper gives an excellent sales presentation, “selling” situations manifest in numerous ways outside of formal business. Leading sales expert Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, argues the point:

“I don’t think there’s a catch-all term to describe selling”, says Pink in a recent interview with strategy+business

“[b]ut for me, moving is the closest word. I’m trying to get you to go from here to there. I can persuade you that the Washington Nationals will win the National League this year but I’m just changing your mind. Selling is an exchange. If we’re colleagues and I’m trying to get you to join my team, you’re exchanging your time and talent for the opportunity I’m giving you. It’s not denominated in dollars, but I still think that’s sales”.

In Pink’s view, any persuasion for an exchange is a sale, even if one party is only sacrificing time. Think about all the situations this covers. The possibilities range from offering an allowance to a child in exchange for doing household chores… to applying for a loan… to asking someone for a date.  Is there a common technique that can work in most of these situations?

To Sell Is Human avoids outlining a specific sales process, like so many other books in its genre, which is a conscious decision on the author’s part. He states, in the previously mentioned interview, that there is no one-size-fits-all process. Pink elaborates,

“I didn’t want to give people a set of custom Legos to build only one particular castle, even if that’s an awesome way to build that particular castle. I’d rather give people a rich set of basic building blocks, which they can fashion into a process of their own and constantly evaluate”.

The key is to focus on the other party’s interests. According to Pink,.

“The evidence says very clearly that people are able, especially in negotiations and sales situations, to reach a better deal for both sides when they’re focused on interests”. 

This probably sounds like familiar advice to regular readers of this blog.

As both technology and consumers have become more sophisticated, you may have noticed that advertising has become more specifically tailored to you and your interests. With the increasing importance of the Internet, advertisers have come up with more and more unique ways to target consumers. Have you noticed that when you look at a product on a shopping website, you will see ads for the identical product on other websites you visit?

If you watch videos on, you will be asked every so often  which ad experience you prefer. You can choose the product you will see advertised throughout the program, or which specific ad campaign for a designated product you will see. Hulu has commented on its own blog how effective the technique has been, showing significant increases in brand recall, brand favorability, purchase intent and stated relevancy.

Just remember… whenever you want to strike a deal with someone, it always helps to know their bottom line. Before any new product or service enters the marketplace, the developer is advised to research the current market, potential consumers, and likely competitors first. That’s why cold selling techniques like telemarketing are often unsuccessful. If you don’t know what the other person wants, how could you possibly position your offer in a way that is favorable?

As always, listen and respond. Selling, like any other communication, is a two-way street!

Speaking that Connects