The sales landscape is experiencing a seismic shift, and credit unions are ideally suited to navigate this new terrain.
Traditionally, salespeople had a huge information advantage over buyers and, therefore, the upper hand. Thus the adage, “Let the buyer beware.”
But this has changed due to a shift in the “information asymmetry” that defines the sales relationship, says Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” and other best-selling business books.
“In just about every market for everything, we’re in a world approaching information parity,” he says. “Add to that the huge number of choices buyers have, along with their power to talk back, and we’re now in a world of ‘seller beware.’ Now, it’s the sellers who are on notice. It’s harder to take the low road, which means sellers are forced to the high road—and that requires some fundamentally human capabilities.”
That, he says, is where credit unions’ focus on people and service will provide a competitive advantage.
Pink, who will address the 2016 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., shared insights on this new era of sales with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Magazine: Why did you tackle sales in your latest book?
Pink: For several reasons. First, I had a hunch that much of what white-collar workers do every day is a form of sales.
They might not be selling a product or a service explicitly, but I had a sense that they were spending an enormous amount of time on the job persuading, influencing, convincing, cajoling—that is, selling in a broader sense.
Second, having spent nearly two decades writing about business, I discovered that most great salespeople were nothing like the stereotype. They had sharp minds and a wide repertoire of skills.
Third, I felt that in the broader coverage, sales wasn’t taken seriously enough. So, in a sense, I tried to write a book about sales for people who might never read a book about sales.
CU Magazine: What’s the significance of the title?
Pink: Most of what we know about sales—whether we’re selling a product, a service, an idea, whatever—comes from a world of information asymmetry, where the seller has a lot more information than the buyer.
When the seller has a huge information advantage, the seller can rip you off. That’s why we have the principle of “let the buyer beware.”
But in the past 10 years, the information asymmetry that defined the sales relationship has shifted. In just about every market for everything, we’re in a world approaching information parity.
Sellers can’t simply be accessors of information. Everybody has access to information. Today, sellers must be curators of information. They have to use their expertise to make sense of the welter of information around them.
At the same time, sellers can’t just be problem-solvers. If the buyer knows exactly what the problem is, the buyer doesn’t need any help. He or she can find the solution on his or her own.
So what matters more than the skill of solving problems is the skill of finding problems: surfacing latent problems, discovering hidden problems, and identifying problems that lurk around the corner.
CU Magazine: What are the new ‘ABCs of selling’ and what does this mean for businesses today?
Pink: The question I asked is essentially this: “What does it take to be effective as a seller in a world where sellers no longer have an edge?”
There are almost no scholars out there asking that question directly. But over the last 20 years, legions of social scientists—economists, behavioral economists, social psychologists, linguists, cognitive scientists—have examined pieces of the problem.
How do people make decisions? How do people frame choices? How do small changes in wording produce big changes in behavior? Are people persuaded more by lots of facts or only a few?
If you go wide enough and deep enough into this body of research, it turns out there are three key personal qualities that seem to matter most in selling your idea, your product, your service, and yourself on the remade landscape of “seller beware.”
As luck would have it, they begin with ABC. They are:
Next: What's does it take to be good at sales now?