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The Myth of a Salesman

Marketing podcast with Dan Pink

photo credit: ernestkoe via photopin cc

My father was a salesman in the classic Willy Loman kind of way, without the sad tragedy part. He got up each week, packed his bags and went on the road to exchange his time and information for the monetary reward of an order. However, one thing he knew and stated often was that everyone sells for a living he just happened to know that’s what he did.

While 1 in 9 people in the workforce seek sales in the classic sense, we all “seek resources other than money.”

When I write a blog post I am selling in today’s world of marketing, when I speak at a conference I am selling, when I talk to a journalist, when I refer another business. All of these activities collectively make up the world of sales today just as surely as an appointment for the stated purpose of getting someone to buy my wares.

Few people have addressed the changing manner in which the world works over the past decade better than my guest on today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, Dan Pink, author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

Pink’s earlier works Drive, Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation defined working trends that have become accepted norms in the world of work today. His TED Talk – The Puzzle of Motivation has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

Prior to becoming a free agent in his own right he wrote speeches for Vice-President Gore and helped sell a nation on ideas worth investing in.

While the need to sell in any environment has perhaps become more important than ever, the role of the traditional salesperson has forever been altered in ways that require us to rethink what it even means to be a salesperson.

Traditionally, the salesperson was the outgoing go getter who possessed the secret information. Today’s successful salesperson is a cross between marketer, educator, information seeker and innovator.

According to Pink this is not a change in degree, it’s a fundamental change in kind.

The days of transactional selling are over, the days of solution selling are coming to an end as today’s sales skill is one of problem finding – correctly identifying and solving problems people didn’t even realize they had.

So the idea of selling now must be woven through everything that everyone in the organization is doing.

In our interview Pink cites an example from his book of a company doing a quarter billion in sales that claims they have no sales force. Their view is that they have no salespeople because everyone is a salesperson.

The implication of this idea is extremely important for both entrepreneurs and those that would call themselves salespeople in today’s market.

Is everyone simply a salesperson or has the role of the salesperson simply changed?

How To Become a More Effective Speaker

TEDSpeaking, or, at the very least, effectively presenting an idea, whether to two or two thousand, is an essential business skill. I would argue that marketers should have one or two core presentations that they make routinely as a way to share their companies’ unique point of view or story. Small business owners should think of presenting information in online and offline seminar formats as an important lead generation and conversion tactic.

Many people struggle with speaking in front of an audience and the only real cure for this is to get up and do it, realize no one will suffer permanently from it, and then get up and do it again. There are, however, three bits of advice that I would give to anyone that desires to become a more effective speaker. For me, effective only means getting your point across in a way that inspires the listener to do what you want them to do.

Share the love – one of the most important elements an effective speaker brings to an audience is passion. This can be passion for helping people get something valuable from hearing the lesson or advice presented or passion for the subject itself. You can’t fake passion, but when you have it, your message often comes through more clearly regardless of the polish of your speaking presence.

If you’re naturally passionate about your subject or the purpose of your information, then just don’t hold back, let people be attracted to that passion. If, however, your position requires you to present information that may be useful, but doesn’t exactly capture your imagination, then your job is to inject something you are passionate about. Let’s say you are talking about network security, but what you really love is World of Warcraft, music, or baseball. I believe you will be a much more compelling speaker when you find a way to weave topics you are passionate about into your presentations.

Become a TEDhead – If you’re not familiar with TED, then I am thrilled to be the one to introduce it to you. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. It has grown to be a worldwide phenomenon and one of the best places for you to learn how to be a better speaker.

TED speakers are chosen because they are fascinating and have passion for a big idea. The format challenges them to present that idea within 18 minutes and most use very little in the way of slides or media. Every TED Talk is recorded and housed on the site. Make this your classroom and you will have access to a tremendous collection of speakers that will inspire and teach you how to be better speaker. Watch everything they do. (Start with Dan Pink on the Science of Motivation)

Shoot Your Free Throws – Legend has it that Larry Bird, the great NBA star, shot 100 free throws every day, even after he became a superstar. He also led the league in successful free throw shooting year after year. In order to be a better speaker you’ve got to practice. You may choose to spend a lot of time in front of mirror going over your presentation, but I suggest you get in some pickup games pretty quickly too.

Hunt down a Toastmaster’s Chapter in your area and start forcing yourself to present and receive critical review from a peer group. Seek out opportunities to present your ideas wherever you can. Speaking to the knitting club monthly lunch may not get you in front of the audience you ultimately desire, but it will get you live feedback and help you get better. Another thing about practicing in front of an audience is that it almost always leads to other speaking opportunities. Don’t let weeks slip by without rehearsing and presenting live, keep refining your ideas and approach by listening to your audience.

The Truth About What Motivates Us

Dan Pink has a new book coming out at the end of the year – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – that may help people rethink the entire notion of the carrot and stick approach to motivating and rewarding employees. Seems that autonomy is a much greater motivator than we understand.

Dan will be a guest on an upcoming episode of the Duct Tape Marketing but this past summer he presented the central theme of his book durting a TED Talk. The 18 minute clip below is worth watching over and over again. (Dan’s a great presenter and this video could be used to teach how to present.)

Weekend Favs August Twenty-nine

mountainsI’ve added a weekend post routine that I hope you enjoy. Each weekend I write a post that features 3-4 things I read during the week that I found interesting. Generally speaking it won’t involve much analysis and may range widely in topic. (Flickr image included here is also fav image of the week)

Enjoy!

Good stuff I ran across this week:

Image credit: Philippe sergent

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2009 Will Be the Year for Small Businesses to . . .

With 2009 just around the corner I thought it would be fun to collect the thoughts of some of the leading marketing folks around the web, but do so in what I am calling snack size fashion – so welcome to Snackfest 2009.

In keeping with the current trend in social media for small bites of info, think twitter sized responses – Plain and simple, I asked some thought leaders this question:

2009 will be the year for small businesses to . . .

Want to play along? Here’s how, post your comment answer to the same question, comment on the snack answer of each expert and tweet your thoughts using #snack09. (Follow the Twitter thread)

Here’s how some thought leaders responded to my question.
Seth Godin, author of Tribes said . . Run/grow/compete like mad because the big bad companies that have been slowing you down are in such disarray.
Seth Godin – Sqidoo page

Aaron Wall, author of SEOBook said. . .buy great domain names, as their perceived value drops due to an ad slowdown and browsers eating type in traffic.
Aaron Wall – Twitter ID

Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting said . . . to assertively reinvent their relationships with customers and prospects, because you can’t grow by cutting back, can’t improve if you’re afraid, and can’t lead from the back.

John Battelle, founder of Federated Media said . . . get closer to its best customers, add value to their lives, and build new business from that value. Twitter ID

Andy Beal, author of Radically Transparent said . . . take their head out of the sand and start listening to the social media conversations customers, employees, and other stakeholders are having about their brand. Twitter ID

Tim Ferriss, author of the Four-Hour Workweek said . . . get advertising at 70-90% off. Recessions mean budget cuts for larger corporations, which means advertising cancellations, just as in 2001 and 2002. There will be fire sales on remnant advertising, whether print, TV, radio, or online.Twitter ID

Dan Pink, author of Whole New Mind said . . . think boldly and push frontiers while the big guys run scared and retreat to safety. Twitter ID

Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software said . . . refocus on fundamentals: core strategy of identity, market, and focus, plus specific metrics and milestones, basic numbers, and planning as management, with review and revisions. Twitter ID

Bob Bly, author of Persuasive Presentations for Business said . . . prove their unique value to their customers and earn rather than expect repeat orders. Twitter ID

David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR said . . . stop spending $$ on marketing. Instead create interesting information people WANT to consume.Twitter ID

Chris Brogan, publisher of ChrisBrogan.com said . . . demystify the business effects of social tools, and bring real projects to light.Twitter ID

Bryan Eisenberg, co-author of Waiting for Your Cat to Bark said . . . stop waiting for a magic bullet and realize the magic comes from hard work they do.Twitter ID

Look for another helping of expert snacks tomorrow – Snackfest – a second helping!

Is small business ownership a career?

Johnny Bunko

Dan Pink is the author of two very important books on ideas around careers – Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind. If you own a small business, that’s your current career – but I wonder how many small business owners actually view it that way?

In Free Agent Nation he defined what a lot people were starting to feel, that it was becoming cool to do your own thing, start a business or just jump from project to project.

In A Whole New Mind he revealed a great deal about the nature of the Free Agent Work and how it had changed from information work to strategic, right-brain work.

I caught up with him for a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast to discuss his latest take on work called The Adventures of Johnny Bunko – The last career guide you will ever need. One of the most intriguing elements of the book is that it’s written in the Japanese comic style known as manga – a book style known in the US primarily by teens, but widely used to communicate every possible topic to kids and adults in Japan.

One of my favorite lessons (there are six in all) is – There is no plan.

Now, Pink has written this book in the point of view of career guide, but every word of it applies to the small business, even if it hadn’t dawned on you that your business is a career.

With that in mind, I share Pink’s notion about “the big plan” – I believe that small business owners need to have an intention, a vision – the big idea, but sometimes you’ve got to let go of just exactly how you get there. Sticking to the plan is what often stifles opportunity. I’m not suggesting that you use this bit of advice as an excuse to tilt at windmills, I’m just saying, create the vision and let go of some of details.

Don’t confuse what I said above as a dis of planning, I’m also a big fan of planning – not because of the end results, a neatly bound document, because of the process and what it means to creating, keeping and growing the vision.

Actively participate in planning, stoke the vision, but understand that sometimes just getting up tomorrow with an open mind and paying attention to what’s happening in this moment is the plan.