Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Reframe Your Thinking to Sell Your Business Ideas

When you think of sales, you might conjure a car dealer swindling unwitting customers, or a telemarketer who interrupted dinner last night. But, no matter what your role is in your company, you're also in sales. As a business leader, you sell your ideas, your products, and your company on a daily basis.

"Like it or not, we're all in sales," says Daniel Pink, author of the new book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (Riverhead, 2012). All of us persuade, influence, or convince others to give us time, money, attention, or opportunity every single day.

In order to succeed, you must be an effective salesperson. But salesmanship today is not what it used to be. "[Buyers] have a huge information advantage," Pink says, adding that they often come to a conversation more informed than the seller. "That means [sellers] can't take the low road. They have to be much more transparent."

That shift requires a new way of thinking about how to sell your ideas or products -- an approach that accommodates a culture that now expects customization.

Try these tips to learn how to sell your ideas effectively: 

1. Rethink your pre-sale pep talk. 

Before you pitch an idea to an important person or investor, how do you boost your confidence? If you're like most people, you tell yourself, "I can do this." That might make you feel better, but it does little to improve your performance. 

Instead, ask yourself, can I do this? Even if you don't respond aloud, the question prompts an answer, reminding you of past experience and expertise. “Interrogative self-talk actually prepares you for the encounter," Pink says. The affirmation from answering your own question also helps you stay positive in case of rejection.

2. Aim to understand the buyer's point of view. 

To successfully sell an idea, you need to be attuned to the other person by making an effort to understand their perspective. "When we understand someone else's point of view, we're more effective," Pink says. That insight empowers you to allay any concerns or frame the idea in a meaningful light.

Pink calls this kind of attunement "empathy plus," meaning that you need to understand more than just how your audience feels. “Consider what they are thinking and what their interests are," Pink says. Addressing those thoughts and interests is the surest way to make a successful pitch.

3. Think of yourself as a curator.