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Why it’s time to embrace your inner salesperson

Sales. Often seen as the preserve of commercial plans, awkward conversations, and shiny suited TV contestants. But are we missing the value that selling can bring? Value that goes beyond profit margins and has the potential to impact many areas of our business? Dan Pink definitely thinks so.


In ‘To Sell is Human‘ he dispels long held notions around the practice of sales and shows how we can harness sales skills to create purpose, growth, and movement – for both professional and personal gain.

He shares how selling isn’t about a simple buy/sell transaction of goods for money. It’s about moving others to exchange resources – and that’s something we can use in all kinds of situations.

Convincing someone to give their time to a project, negotiating a contract with a team member, approaching someone for mentoring support, encouraging your kids to try something new. These are all times when we need to flex our influencing and persuasion skills. To sell in our ideas. To move people. 

So how can we start to embrace our inner salesperson?

Make connections

Pink defines connection as getting in sync with and adapting to people, communities, and contexts to serve their needs.

It’s easy to see how this could help you to seal a deal, but taking the time to really understand what someone needs or the problem they need support solving is applicable in so many situations.

This empathy allows us to build trust and create the kind of connection that has big impact.

How can we put this into practice? One way Pink suggests is to use your imagination to get a deep understanding of the perspective of others. Rather than taking interactions on face value make space to see the bigger picture.

If you’re in conflict with someone in your leadership team take time to look beyond the arguments they are offering. How might they be seeing the conflict? What are their motivations? How is it making them feel? Consider how that differs from your perspective and whether it affects how you feel about the situation now.

Another useful technique is power shifting. As leaders, parents, even friends, we might be perceived as holding the power and this can make connection harder. When we surrender power, we can focus on meeting the needs of others rather than ourselves. This could be as simple as sitting at an equal level with someone, holding a meeting in a neutral space, or just asking ‘what do you need and how can I help?’.

Encourage focus

Pink talks about clarity being key to modern selling. Drawing customers attention to their needs and offering solutions. Creating an environment free from unhelpful noise and distractions allows the consumer time and space to see the benefits.

He talks about ‘problem finding’ not ‘problem solving’. And this is a tool in our salesperson kit that is useful in all kinds of situations.

As leaders we often have to firefight but by encouraging our team, our clients, and ourselves to focus on what we need, we can stop the fires before they start. How? By relationship building, asking the right questions, and using that information to unlock new strategies and possibilities.

And as with sales, people are more inclined to act when they have a path to follow. When we have focus, we need to use that focus to commit to and deliver on clear steps towards our end goals.

Get purposeful

For Pink modern selling is less about sales and more about service, and at the heart of that is acting with the intent to improve someone else’s life.

When we connect what we’re selling with a broader purpose we’re likely to get a better response.

But it needs to authentic. Successful businesses are driven by purpose and when you have this single point of truth it’s easier to present an offer that resonates with your customers.

And this is key for internal motivation too. Research shows that when a team is connected and believes in the purpose of the business, they will find a greater sense of meaning in their work, be more engaged and productivity rises.

The shift in the power from traditional seller to buyer is mirrored by the shift in power between business and talent.

Explore what’s meaningful to your team, what they care about and what drives them and look for ways to connect their personal purpose with the purpose of your business.

Get moving

When we see sales as less about profits and targets and more about persuasion and service there are lots of applications for Pinks thinking and techniques. Every transaction, with clients, with our team, with family and friends, is an opportunity to act with empathy, add value to the lives of others, and create trust.