Sell is Human

Around one in ten people sell for a living but the other 90 per cent are involved in "non-sales selling", Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human , told delegates at the CIPD's annual conference.

"Like it or not we are all in sales now," he said. "If you are trying to get the CEO to invest in a new talent programme, you are selling. It is selling with a twist."

Pink added that in a world of near "information parity", the nature of sales has changed from "buyer beware" to "seller beware", something that HR professionals will be all too aware of with websites such as glassdoor.com allowing job hunters to get the inside track on organisations.

The key to successful sales, said Pink, was attunement (taking another's perspective), buoyancy (dealing with rejection) and clarity (problem finding rather than problem solving). And he outlined five tips to help HR professionals improve their negotiating and influencing skills:

  1. You can increase your effectiveness by briefly reducing your feelings of power

    "There is an inverse relationship between feelings of power and perspective taking," said Pink. "High status people stink at perspective taking." The answer, he said, is to temporarily reduce your feelings of power, for instance when in negotiations with a more junior colleague you might think about their high worth to the organisation.

  2. Use your head as much as your heart

    In negotiation experiments subjects who thought about what the other side was thinking did better than those who concentrated on feelings, said Pink. "Attunement is not only about empathy. You need to understand emotions but think about thoughts and interests when dealing with the C-Suite."

  3. Don't be a glad hander, be more like yourself

    While extroverts are more likely to go into sales as well as be promoted, there's no correlation between sales performance and extroversion. Instead, said Pink, ambiverts (somewhat introverted and somewhat extraverted) do best - and that's what the majority of us already are.

  4. Can we fix it? Yes, we can

    Before an important meeting or event we are likely to tell ourselves "you can do this" but it is better to ask "can you do this?" because it will illicit an active response. "It's the quieter muscularity that comes from preparation. To be more persuasive try interrogative self-talk," said Pink. "Bob the Builder is your role model."

  5. Context is king

    When trying to predict behaviour it is important to understand the context as situations shape behaviour more than we realise, said Pink: "It is often less important to change people's minds than it is to make it easy for them to do something."

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