In the film Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), an expert salesman—portrayed by Alec Baldwin—vehemently touts the ABCs of sales: “Always Be Closing.” This approach is no longer as useful as it was in the ’80s because buyers have more options and information than ever before. Just as the times have changed, so too have the ABCs. When Daniel Pink talks about the ABCs of sales, he is referring to an updated set of qualities: attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.
Daniel Pink’s New ABC’s of Selling
Whether you’re on a sales team or working solo, you should familiarize yourself with Daniel Pink’s new ABCs of selling to become a better salesperson:
- A is for attunement. “When human beings have their own reasons for doing something, they’re more likely to do it; they’re more likely to believe in the reasons for doing it; they’re more likely to sustain that behavior,” Daniel says. Attunement is an ability to get out of your own head and into the head of the person you’re attempting to persuade. It’s not about coercion; it’s about seeing the situation through their eyes. This skill, called perspective-taking, requires you to see where a person’s coming from, understand what they’re saying, and honor their point of view. However, the more powerful the person, the harder they’ll have to work at perspective-taking. If you’re in a position of authority, you’ll have to dial back your power to work on this skill. For example, are you a manager trying to persuade an employee to take on additional work? Imagine yourself as their peer for a moment. How would you persuade them to take on the new project if you didn’t have the authority to simply assign it?
- B is for buoyancy. Buoyancy measures your ability to float “in an ocean of rejection,” Daniel says. As a seller/persuader, you’re going to hear “no” more times than “yes.” To become a better sales professional, you’ll need to equip yourself to deal with rejection—aka become more buoyant. Make an effort to de-catastrophize rejection by understanding and controlling the three-headed beast of self-biases called the Three Ps: personal bias (in which you believe rejection reflects who you are as a person), pervasive bias (in which you think rejection always happens), and permanent bias (in which you imagine each rejection is an indelible black mark on your status as a persuader). Once you have these biases under control, you’re prepared to bounce back after any rejection.
- C is for clarity. “Clarity is simply the ability to see a situation in a fresh light and help people surface problems they didn’t realize that they had,” Daniel says. At their core, effective persuasion tactics are born from providing clarity. In the past, sales was a role that revolved around expertise—the seller knowing more than the buyer. But the era of information parity means shifting the persuader’s role from gatekeeper to curator. It also means shifting from problem-solving to problem-finding. The salesmen of yore would have said to prospective buyers, “It looks like you’re in the market for a vacuum.” Now, the smart salesperson says, “Tell me about your house.” To that end, part of providing clarity as a salesperson hinges on being an expert on issues that contextualize the transaction.
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