Dan Pink, NYT and WSJ bestselling author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, knows that many professionals don’t think (or like to think) of themselves as salespeople. For many of us, the word “sales” conjures up anxiety-inducing visions of ourselves standing with charts in front of a restless audience or fumbling through an “elevator pitch” to someone who’s hoping the elevator will hurry up and let him out.
Today, like it or not, we’re all in sales.
The Death of a Salesman might be a great play but it’s far from the truth about what’s happening in the workforce today. If you look at the U.S. economy you have about one in nine people in the U.S. workforce are in sales sales. That is their job is to sell stuff. They’re selling wholesale seafood or consulting services or motorcycles. But if you look at those other eight and nine, eight and nine people in the workforce, they don’t have sales in their job title. They don’t have sales on their business card. But they’re spending an enormous amount of their time selling in a broader sense. They’re persuading, influencing, convincing, cajoling.
We have data showing that people are spending on average about 40 percent of their time on the job in this thing that I call somewhat clumsily non-sales selling. You’re selling but the cash register’s not ringing. You’re selling but money’s not changing hands. You’re selling but the denomination isn’t dollars, it’s time, effort, attention and energy. You’re a boss trying to get employees to do something different or do something in a different way. You’re selling. You come to a meeting and pitch an idea. You’re selling. And it’s a big part of how we spend our time. What’s also interesting is we ask people to talk about how important that aspect of their work was to their overall effectiveness. And what was very interesting about that is that people rated the importance of it – of that task, of non-sales selling very, very high. Indeed in excess in the amount of time they were doing it. So what we got from people was saying yeah, this is a big part about what I do but in order to be effective on the job I actually have to do it a little bit more.