Saying ‘everything is sales‘ was tantamount to dropping poison into the ear of the idealistic youth (OK, so I was 29) who’d spent a decade reading and teaching obscure sixteenth and seventeenth century literature, couldn’t get tenure, and thought publishing sounded like an easy gig with a solid future (how was I to know? This was 1998, after all), so I sucked it up for a decade, because I didn’t think it would be.
It turned out everything was mostly sales, as a matter of fact, regardless of the publishing function that one worked in.
Today, everything is still sales, but ‘sales’ itself now means something very different.
Sales are largely indirect and transactional-conversational rather than direct-transactional. Effective ‘salespeople’ are now engaging informers, not pressurizing influencers. The endpoint is still revenue generation, of course, but the way we get to ‘I’ll take it!’ is not a road we were able to travel with ease ten years ago.
This is what sales used to sound like (Glengarry Glen Ross is a great film of a great play, but this tense clip explodes the F Bomb all over the place so could be NSFW. However, if it is NSFW where you are watching it, are you sure you’re working in the right place? 😉 ):
Sales is now less ‘always be closing‘ than it is ‘always be conversational‘.
The business model, the product, and the way we deport ourselves professionally have all changed. It, and we, are social.
Sales is now not so much about ‘being the brand’ as ‘believing in the brand’. Of course, if you don’t actually care about what you’re doing, you’re still a snake oil merchant, and nothing is going to change that.
The social web has afforded us the opportunity to make a living by being the best exponent of whatever service the niche we like to be in offers. Consequently, if we align ourselves with something that we genuinely care about, and that we believe can make a difference then our working life has the potential to be a liberating rather than an enslaving experience.
We are not here to sell through force of will, the allure of our irresistible charisma, or the blunt force of an argument that will brook no contradiction. Frankly, unless you’re someone of the intellectual stature and rhetorical prowess of a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Karl Marx, or Martin Luther King, Jr., you’re unlikely to have to ability to change your interlocutors’ minds about anything anyway.
Yet sales has always been social. People sell to people.
Sales has always been conversational. People talk to people.
Sales has always been relational. It’s just now we don’t talk about ‘customer relationship management’ in the third person as an abstraction, we tweet people we follow, reach out to people we know via a professional networking group, or message someone we’ve friended.
Often we won’t be talking about a product or service at all; but if and when we do, the nature of the conversation that may lead to an invoice being generated is qualitatively different from the ‘sales pitch’ of the past, and it’s as easy as ABC:
ABC: always be conversational