Seller Beware in the Economy of Choice

Author Daniel Pink outlines how the tables have turned for today’s customers, and today’s sales staffs too.

Daniel Newman

Editor’s note: This column originally ran on the NSCA blog

Next to lawyer, there may be no job title on the planet less trusted than that of the sales professional.

Words like slimy, smarmy, and manipulative come to mind. In fact, of the top 30 words that come to mind when people are asked to describe a sales professional, only one in six is positive.

Throughout times, consumers and businesses were often stuck dealing with sales professionals who controlled the conversation. The more they knew they had what the buyer wanted, the more they could perpetuate the negative stereotypes of sales professionals. This behavior may be the reason so many people don’t have a positive image of the sales profession.

However, whether the word “sales” is in our professional title or not (for one in every nine people it is), we are all selling. All of this, according to Daniel Pink, is a reflection of selling in the new economy where informed buyers who are surrounded by information, choices, and ways to talk back to brands control the sales conversation.

No longer buyer beware, we are in the economy of “seller beware.”

Perhaps no introduction is required for Pink, but with such an accomplished background, one is certainly deserved. Having the chance to see him present at the NSCA Business & Leadership Conference last week was an absolute pleasure.

Pink is a multi-time New York Times best-selling author, including “Drive” and his most recent “To Sell Is Human.” The recognition he has received is well worth it.

The Consumer Has Taken Back the Power; What Sales Can Do About It?

When you have the opportunity to listen to a speaker like Pink talk for nearly two hours, there isn’t a takeaway … there are many takeaways. For me, it was all about what the sales professional could do to stand out in a world where information is abundant.

For most businesses, big and small, trying to stand out in a noisy, cluttered marketplace, this is a huge challenge. To this, Pink had some advice.

In an epic shift from “Glen Gary Glen Ross” where Alec Baldwin introduces the ABCs of selling – “Always Be Closing” – Pink offers a new take on ABC.

  • Attunement: This is where sales professionals need to get out of their own heads and try to see what the customer sees: a combination of empathy and insight where we try to not only consider what the buyer is thinking, but also what they are feeling.
  • Buoyancy: In sales, we don’t face a pond of rejection; we face an ocean. The more you can get over that rejection and move on quickly, the better off you will be.
  • Clarity: Less about promoting and pushing what you have to offer and more about understanding the customer’s problem and then positioning how your offer can help. Pink furthers this by saying the best at sales are moving from problem solving to problem finding: stepping ahead of what is obvious and giving clarity to the customer about what is coming next.

I can say firsthand the ability to help the customer better understand not only the problem, but context around the implications of the problem, is the best way to be attuned to the customer – almost as if attunement drives clarity. However, even when we provide near perfect alignment between our offerings and our clients, at times (many times), we will still hear no which is where buoyancy becomes so important.

Another Important Observation

In a world where storytelling provides immediate connectedness between people, Pink is the ultimate example of how storytelling makes important data and information relevant.

While there is no question he brings tremendous research and experience to the table, much of what he offered is things we already understood. Ideas like being genuine, imitation as a form of flattery, and being a bit of a “Chameleon” as a way to sell more. This isn’t a new idea, but it becomes impressively obvious when learned through a storyteller like Pink.

For brands that want to sell more, better storytelling should be at the center of their strategy – online and offline – as a way to sell and market. Tell a better story, and you will captivate more customers.

If you don’t believe me, go see Pink for yourself. I guarantee you will be impressed.

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About the Author


I am a principal analyst of Futurum Research and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. I spend my time researching, analyzing and providing the world’s best and brightest companies with insights as to how digital transformation, disruption, innovation and the experience economy are changing how business is done. Bringing together the technology layer with the human layer, I seek to solve the biggest challenges that companies have today; how to grow, scale, change and adapt to a world where technology and media shift at breakneck speed. So what does this mean? It means that I spend my life learning about what drives people to adopt new technology so I can share those secrets with companies that are ready to take their business to the next level. From keynoting on the world’s largest stages to weekly insights on Forbes, MarketWatch and our owned media properties, my goal is to provide our clients with what they need to know to out innovate and turn disruption from threat, into a business model for success.

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