“To Sell is Human” really…

written by Susan Rancourt

I recently had the privilege of hearing Daniel Pink, author of Drive and, most recently, To Sell is Human speak at a sold-out gathering of executive women in Silicon Valley.  This talk had me sitting up straight from the first moment of what turned out to be a journey of both nostalgia and foresight.

For purposes of this blog, I’ll highlight just one key point made by Mr. Pink that resonated with me like a tuning fork.

Mr. Pink said, “… What the best salespeople of any kind know is that it’s really about listening; it’s really about understanding the other person’s perspective, hearing what they’re really saying. One really profound way to do that is to slow down.”

In short: It’s the relationship that matters.

This goes against our traditional view of “sales” or salespeople, especially those who follow the brutal Glengarry Glen Ross style of selling – “ABC: Always Be Closing”.  Traditionally, selling has been focused on what can I do to you rather than what can I do for you.

I had two uncles who were – yep, used car salesmen in the wilds of Maine in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Many of our family stories still begin with, “Can you believe what Uncle Harry and Uncle Charlie did to that customer?”

My father took a different direction from his brothers and built – literally and figuratively – a customer service business that was successful for more than 40 years.

How did he do it?  He told us, “It’s simple – a firm handshake, look people in the eye, provide consistent value and quality and tell a story that doesn’t include you. But most important of all: listen to your customers.”

I guess Dad and Mr. Pink were cut from the same cloth. I’d like to think I was too.

As head of Business Development for BBC, I follow my Dad’s lead. He taught me that relationship building takes time and consistency, that earning respect – not just ‘selling’ – is the goal, that being authentic has more value than being wily and most importantly, that listening is key.

Here’s to firm hand shakes, eye contact and giving the gift of respect and undistracted listening.  After all, much like the old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” it’s also true that “relationships aren’t built in a day.”