When You're Selling, Always Ask Yourself

I just finished reading an excellent book – To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink.

Since we’re talking sales and selling this week, I wanted to share a few of his key ideas with you.

First – if you’re immediately turned off by the words ‘sales’ and ‘selling’ – bear with me. I’m guessing you’re reading this because you have something to sell, but you feel uncomfortable labelling yourself as a ‘salesperson’ (even though, deep down, you know you are – you have to be).

I – like you – used to have a really negative reaction to these words. Selling is pushy. Icky. Inauthentic. Smarmy. All those 80’s Glengarry Glen Ross stereotypes. Right?

Well… no. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Ironically, I internalised this perspective growing up, even though my father – one of the best men I know – was a salesman! I had absolutely zero – less than zero – interest in going into business or sales when I grew up – it seemed not only boring, but had a kinda negative connotation for me, though I couldn’t really pinpoint why.

I guess life had a different idea, and here I am today – happier, more joyful, and – I believe – doing more to serve others than ever before in my life… through doing business! Who woulda thunk it? Certainly not me 10 years ago – if you told her what I’m doing now, she would have raised an eyebrow at the least, or laughed outright in your face at the most. And yet… I wouldn’t change a thing.

Amongst other things, I’m a saleswoman (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever typed that in relation to myself – and it still feels a tad weird, I’ll admit). The thing that makes me okay about being a saleswoman is simple. I believe that what I’m selling is good. And by good, I don’t mean a good product (though it is that, too) – I mean it’s good for you, good for the world, and good for me, too. I believe that my work fulfils a need, makes people happy, adds nothing but good to the world. And that – dear reader – is why I’m happy and proud to sell it.

Now – to get back to what Pink talks about in his book: he argues from the premise that every one of us is already in sales. Now, by sales he doesn’t mean we’re all selling products (though if you’re reading this, you probably are) – he goes broader and deeper to include any interaction we make with another human being where our goal is to ‘move’ them in some way.

Think convincing your kid to eat their dinner. Think asking your boss for a day off. Think haggling over a house price. And, of course, think of the woman standing behind a handmade market stall, selling someone her wares. All of these interactions are a form of sales – of attempting to convince someone of something.

Of course, the most successful way to do this – to move people – isn’t to try to trick them, lie to them, or aim to convince them of something that’s not in their best interest (perhaps your internalised view of what a salesperson does – and yes, some of them do still do things this way, unfortunately).

No – the best way to do this is to come from a place of service.

You’re trying to get your kid to eat her veggies because they’re good for her. You’re asking for a personal day off so that you can take care of you – which in turn means you’ll be a happier and more productive member of the workforce, because you feel valued. You’re putting yourself in the shoes of the person selling their house, and trying to find a price that is fair for both of you. You know that your ceramics are not only functional – they’re beautiful, sturdy, and will give the buyer a lifetime of use and joy.

Helping and serving someone else while also getting what you need out of the ‘transaction’ (whether monetary or not) are not mutually exclusive things. You can – and should – achieve both.

This is the idea behind the phrase ‘win-win’ which you’ve probably heard before today, especially if you’ve worked in business before – or if you’ve read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a classic book that I highly recommend). Yes, you’re trying to sell your goods. AND you’re trying to sell them to someone who will value them – someone who wants or needs what you are offering.

In the last chapter of his book, Pink boils it all down by proposing two questions that you should ask – and answer – every time you find yourself trying to move someone – to sell.

These questions are the ‘service test’ – are you really thinking of the best interests of the other person?

1. If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?

2. When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?

And, as Pink states – “If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re doing something wrong”.


Sure – there are still plenty of unscrupulous, smarmy people out there who aren’t aiming to serve anyone but themselves. But I don’t think you’re one of them.

You create something you love – with love – and you want to share it with the world because you believe it’s worthy, and it will make someone’s life better, brighter, easier, and happier.

You are in the business of helping – of serving – other people. And if you don’t think your product is making people’s lives better, and the world a better place – keep creating new things until you do.

Because then, selling isn’t a dirty word. It’s simply helping people to fulfil a want or a need in their life – in a way that benefits you both.

If you can answer the questions above, you can enter each and every sales interaction from a place of integrity and authenticity – which will make the entire process not only more natural, enjoyable, and positive for you – but for your customer, too.


Image source: Image in Cafe

Want to learn how to truly serve your next customer in a way that is effective, authentic,  and leaves you both happy at the end of the transaction? Check out our NEW self-study e-course – How to Sell More at Markets & ShowsEnrol now and get learning straight away…

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