How to sell anything to anyone

Long read: Great sales organisations have a few things in common. But is the gift of the gab one of them?

by Adam Gale

The elevator pitch version of Daniel Pink’s influential 2013 bestseller To Sell Is Human is this: we’re all salespeople now, because all jobs, revenue-generating or not, rely to some extent on persuasion. Not everyone buys it. There’s a difference between persuading someone to, say, file their expenses on time and persuading them to part with money. And, more importantly, there’s rather a lot more to sales than just persuasion. 

Sales occupies a unique position in any profit-making organisation. As the top-notch commercial operations featured in these pages will show, sales is fundamental to survival and success, a source of genuine competitive advantage for those that do it well. Yet simultaneously it is still considered somehow grubby and lowbrow compared with the supposedly higher arts of marketing, finance and strategy. 

Forgive the pun, but it’s not difficult to see why sales gets a bad rep. Door-to-door salesmen may be on the endangered list, but the trope – the slightly down-on-his-luck huckster with a perma-smile and an oversized suitcase full of things you don’t want – is alive and well in fiction.

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