Upselling Sales: To Sell is Human

Readers beware: I haven’t yet read the book, To Sell is Human.  My comments are based on a talk given by the author, Daniel Pink, at an Author Event at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

While I will certainly read the book, I came away from the event a bit disappointed in Pink’s latest effort to apply fresh thinking to the pedestrian concept of “selling.”   His thesis is that while 1 in 9 full-time workers is engaged in selling, the other 8 are also influencing and persuading others in their commercial and personal interactions.  He claims that while business schools teach the elements of commerce, few teach how to be more effective in sales.  While I totally subscribe to the need to embrace and elevate our “sales-selves,” my initial response is that Pink has engaged in a bit of publication “up-selling” to promote his views.  In his previous work (A Whole New Mind and Drive), Pink has made abstract concepts more accessible; I fear that in To Sell is Human, he has made a simple concept unnecessarily complex.

Pink spoke about the need to apply a “servant selling” perspective that increases the power of the seller by reducing it.  He suggests that prospective buyers no longer rely on sellers for information; instead, there is “information parity” in the relationship between buyer and seller. To be effective, the seller must be a more active communicator (an “ambivert”), pitching with questions, listening to offers made by the buyer, and ultimately, exchanging products or services that make life better.

I’m sure the book will offer engaging interviews, surveys, and anecdotes to flesh-out the somewhat contrived-sounding lists of personal qualities, skills, rules that Pink laid-out in his Free Library talk.  Perhaps my enthusiasm for the book was dampened by the nature of the interaction, which was a bit too traditional in its approach to promoting Pink’s reconstructed views of economic behavior.  I challenge the author to apply his new paradigm of effective selling to the conventional “meet the author” and “book-signing” event.

Apply Pink to Talent Acquisition, Career Transition, & Access to Education

I’m still working through my response to A Whole New Mind… and Drive… Now I’m challenging myself (and you) to apply the “new Operating System” to the field of talent acquisition, career transition,  and student success.  Pink claims that Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are the basic elements of our new “Conceptual Age.” He indisputably demonstrates that these elements have displaced the traditional concept of rewards and punishment as motivation for solving all but the most routine problems.  I want to dig deeper; I want to think and discuss how these three elements can be applied to the dilemma facing individuals who wish to navigate the world of  employment, higher education, and entrepreneurship.  From where I sit and work, I see a disconnect between our 21st-C. workforce, which is creating the Conceptual Age, and the processes that govern recruitment, transition, and access to education.  I think the latter are stuck in the Industrial or the Information Age. How can we integrate the gatekeeping process with the Conceptual Age?

While I want to be an advocate for Pink’s “Operating System 3.0,” it has been my experience that few of those charged with admissions or recruitment actually seek-out those who admit to a preference for autonomy vs. teamwork; those who prize mastery over multiple task management; those who are purpose-driven vs. driven toward tangible outcomes. Is there a disconnect  between what science knows about human behavior and the talent acquisition process that is embraced by colleges, universities, and 21st-C. employers?  Do “fancy pants” consulting firms talk the talk of innovation while actually promoting more of the same management systems, supported by traditional incentives?

Can you chime-in with some thoughts about how Operating System 3.0 can become an engine of a more mindful transition process?  I’ll be coming back to this from time to time; your comments and ideas are what will make this discussion “pop.”

S-W-O-T: Another version of “Ask what you can do…”

Those in career transition – seeking new careers or new jobs – are frequently encouraged to be proactive in their search.  Coaches use words such as “brand,” “value proposition,” “significant selling points” to describe the “pitch” that candidates must make to stand-out from the crowd – to be a purple cow in a herd of black and white cows. purplecow in herd

Recently, I’ve been trying to generate some buzz around this concept by suggesting that candidates can create value for an organization by responding to what is most needed and least expected.  I’m not sure if the connection is transparent to others, but to me, this concept is reminiscent of the words spoken by John F. Kennedy on Jan. 20, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you;  Ask what you can do for your country.” While my version is not so stirring, the concept has a compatible ring for those in career transition.

All this rises to the surface again this week, following the recent death of Ted Sorensen, who was the speechwriter to JFK and probable author of the most famous call to action uttered by the 35th President of the USA.  Media reports have suggested that Sorensen offered a S-W-O-T analysis to Barack Obama in November 2008; it was too late for the President to heed Sorensen’s advice to wait for a better Opportunity to implement his ideas; for a less Threatening political climate.

The burden is on you, the candidate, to understand the needs of the industries and organizations you are interested in; to discover what the strengths and weaknesses of the industry are; to identify people who can add a deeper dimension to your understanding of the needs of the company.  This process is explained by this author and others as S-W-O-T analysis.  Ask what you can do to meet the needs of your future employer…

Think outside the ballpark re: Encore Careers

Watching and reading about the NLCS, I am beginning to see that encore careers are not really about age.  My evolving revelation: Anyone can create an opportunity to embark on an encore career by creating great value for an organization when it is most needed and least expected.

Think Cody Ross, the San Francisco Giants player who has become the nemesis of Philly fans during the NLCS.  As part of a team  described as a collection of “scrap parts,” Cody Ross has become a baseball folk hero.”  Against the most powerful trio of 2010 pitchers, he has hit 4 homers in 3 days, a performance that has put his SF Giants ahead of the defending league champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

A radio announcer in SF dubbed him “Babe Ross,” a reference to Babe Ruth, once a pitcher who was traded by the Red Sox to the Yankees –  a big oops!  Ross will celebrate his 30th birthday in December 2010 – I think this may be the equivalent of age 45 -50 for a small business owner or wage earner, like most of us.  If you look at Ross’ baseball biography, some interesting career-related facts emerge:

  • He did not play college baseball. Many  of the highly-compensated in business have no college degrees or have unremarkable academic credentials.
  • His goal had been to be a circus clown, a legitimate career in the arts which requires vigorous training.  Clearly he is a successful career changer!
  • His first 4 years were quite mediocre – his best year was 2007 with the Florida Marlins, a team that placed him on waivers in August 2010.  Is this comparable to a layoff with limited outplacement?
  • San Francisco picked up Ross’ option primarily to prevent their rivals, the San Diego Padres, from acquiring  him.  Applying baseball strategy, as competitive intelligence would be applied in the business world.
  • Cole Hamels, the 2008 MVP of the Phillies and (losing) pitcher of Game 3, said of Cody: “He’s hitting pitches that most normal people can’t hit at this time.”  Is it possible for we regular folks to find opportunities that most others can’t respond to at this time?

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Ross, who went 4-for-14 with a homer and three RBI in the Division Series. “It’s been an unbelievable experience for me.”

Is it naive to believe that those of us between 45 – 65 years of age can identify opportunities (perhaps through S-W-O-T analysis) and  make their encore career dreams come true?


NYNT: Speed Networking with Net Impact-Philly

Kudos to Lindsey and Kate, who organized this well-attended event at the  Public House in Center City, Philadelphia.

What is “Speed Networking?” It is an event designed to promote business connections, in this case among a group of professionals who already share an interest in careers in the “Sustainability” sector of business.  In my role as a resource for people interested in this sector, this association-sponsored event was sure to attract people I would be able to relate to.

How does the event work?  Participants were assigned either letters or numbers.  Letters remained seated at small tables; numbers changed seats after a specified period of time  until most attendees had an opportunity to meet one another.  In other words, letter “C” met with number “3;” then number “3″ moved over to meet with letter “D.”

Where does “speed” enter the picture? These events are staged to promote a quick introduction to as many people as possible, with time afterward for socializing.   Time seems to be our scarcest resource these days: I was able to meet and make an initial assessment of 10 people in 65 minutes.

WIIFY-What’s In It For You?

  • For those who are not comfortable with face-to-face networking, this is an opportunity  to practice in a controlled environment and for a limited period of time – no need to reach-out to people ‘cuz they’ll come to you.
  • This type of event preserves a bit of anonymity – you may find 1-2 gems among the 10 contacts you might make, and there is no shame in leaving the 8 or so other contacts to be mined later or not at all.
  • In just a few minutes, participants  share business cards and discuss their goals, share their “1-minute commercial,” ask for recommendations”, etc.   Take notes, follow-up, be a giver…
  • Your group can suggest some “prompts” or conversation starters, or leave it to the participants.  Lindsey and Kate suggested 6-minute blocks of time, so there was ample time to share information and determine if connections were worth pursuing.

I’d like to hear about your experiences:  is this a legitimate method to build your network, or is it too contrived?  So far, my take on it is that speed networking could be a great ice-breaker for a group training exercise or meeting.  I recommend it as a NYNT – Nurture Your Network Tool.  Thanks again to Lindsey and Kate, (and to whomever jammed the parking meter outside the Public House so I could park for free)!

MBA, or should we strive for MBI (Indispensable)

The Reach Personal Branding group recently circulated a post that deserves wider circulation.  William Arruda,  a respected advocate for personal branding and co-author of Career Distinction, commented on a NYT piece by Thomas Friedman called,  “The New Untouchables.”

Arruda makes the point that those who will survive and flourish during challenging times are those who can distinguish themselves – those who can become the purple cow in the herd of brown and white cows.   As I prepare to meet MBA students who aspire to be the corporate and entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow (Net Impact Conference 11/13 & 11/14),  it seems timely to extrapolate these words from William’s post:

As I see it, this is all about personal branding. What do you offer that is not available from anyone else? What emotional brand attributes do you add onto your competence that gets people excited about you? What unique talents and abilities put you in a class by yourself?

Will you make the case to a prospective employer that you understand their issues – that you are prepared to integrate your education, experience, and personal qualities in a plan that makes an overwhelming case for hiring and retaining you.  Will you make yourself indispensable?

The whoopin’ in the Biz School back-room

A chain of posts through the Net Impact LinkedIn group led me to rant again about the disparity between the innovation that is taught in “better” business schools and the conformity that is foisted-upon new graduates.

Ivy League universities hire distinguished faculty to teach classes in “innovation;” these same professors rally around the need for change to compete in the global marketplace.  Yet as students approach graduation and complete their exams, theses, and dissertations, it seems they are ushered into the back room to have the creativity beaten out of them.  The Biz School back-room “whoopin” leaves new graduates wondering about their considerable investment of time, money, and faith.

Resumes must conform to a specific style to earn a place in the recruitment “book; ” cover letters may as well be automated, and networking is almost incestuous (maybe due to over-reliance on alumni).  I shouldn’t complain, as many students seek the services of experienced career professionals to flesh-out their personal brand and manage their job search campaigns.  (Look for CAN and other career strategists at the Sept. 17th PA Governor’s Conference for Women,  as well as several MBA Career Expos and the November Net Impact Conference.)

The NetImpact group discussion led me to a related post by Matt Madden, a Presidio School of Management student who is writing a book tentatively titled Status Quo Values. The purpose of this project is to explore status quo value systems – economic, political and social values – and discuss the role these values play in our society’s aversion to change.  The goal of the work is to define status quo values, discuss the historical roots of our institutional embrace of status quo values, examine the role our institutions play in promoting these values to individuals and investigate examples of institutions and individuals adhering to alternative value systems.  Sounds like a continuation of the dialog started by Robert Reich in his Fast Company issue, Your Job Is Change.  I’ll be looking for the book, Matt…

Close the Deal with Features & Benefits

I love it when people can tell stories that make a point – like Aesop's Fables…  My father was great at this – unfortunately, I'm not.  For this homily, let's borrow from Seth Godin and his "The Panhandler's Secret."

Seth's post is a simple story that reinforces a truism of sales training – talk features and benefits.  Career changers and job seekers are selling themselves – selling their unique value proposition – their brand. 

So be sure you know the features and benefits needed by your target organization – be sure what they need is in your "tool bag." 

Karen P. Katz

Are you “launch-ready” – see Mark Cuban’s Open Source Funding Challenge

This is an amazing opportunity for those whose entrepreneurial ideas are ready to launch, similar to the government's criteria for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects. 

Cuban offers venture capital to those who can meet his 13 criteria.  The competition itself will spark innovative thinking; the process will be public, and therefore inspiring; the winning business plan may spark a stimulus of innovation. The time frame is NOW – its all about responsiveness and accountability.

Need help writing your business plan?  If I can't help you, I'll find someone who can. Check-it-out…<http://tinyurl.com/djwbbu>

Marketing guru, Seth Godin: a new platform for “I am” and “I know” skills

Godin, blogger and thought leader among personal and permission marketers, has re-framed the thinking of Richard Bolles, author and esteemed guru of career and life coaches. 

I'm always looking for a topic that might add real value to the career space, so I was grateful to a friend who sent me Seth Godin's recent post, What are you good at?    Taking a marketing perspective, Seth appropriately suggests that those looking for their next big gig" should consider the distinction between skills that can be categorized as "content" and "process."

Godin uses 21st Century terminology to make his point:  "Content is domain knowledge. People you know or skills you've
developed… Domain knowledge is important, but it's (often) easily learnable."
  While Bolles' terms may not resonate with Millennials, his discussion of this topic is as relevant today as it was in 1980, when the Quick Job Hunting Map was first published.  Bolles describes skills residing in the content domain as "I know skills" ,e.g."I know how to use SAP, "I know financial accounting," "I know movers and shakers in the logistics field."

Godin  uses the term "process" to describe "emotional intelligence" – what Bolles would call "I am skills."  When explaining process skills, a speaker is likely to start a sentence with "I am able to manage multiple projects," "I am persuasive," "I am adaptable," etc.  These are the skills, abilities, and personal qualities that can differentiate a candidate from the many others who share their credentials and knowledge skills.  As Godin says, the process "…stuff is insanely valuable and hard to learn." And I agree that these personal qualities are likely to be overlooked by screeners and scanners. All the more reason to dig-deep and seize control of your personal marketing campaign – to manage your career.

An infinite number of people share the same content domain, but precious few offer the same mix of process skills and personal qualities. Long-term career health, preceded by successful assessment, preparation of marketing documents, interview preparation, and offer negotiation, is dependent upon your understanding of these ideas.

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