Best-selling author Daniel Pink book on sales, The Moving Business: The Tender Art and Surprising Science of Convincing, Compelling, and Cajoling Others, takes an approach that nonprofits would benefit from considering.
Pink suggests convincingly that everyone is in sales—not just those who are in positions with that word in the title. That’s because, he suggests, throughout every day we all try to “persuade” someone (a boss, an employee, an association member, or a prospective conference registrant). His research shows that many of our preconceptions about sales, and how to succeed in this endeavor, need updating.
Historically, Pink explains, salespeople have, over time, earned terrible reputations. Asked to offer a single word that described someone in sales, respondents to a survey offered words such as “sleazy” and “pushy.” We enter a sales transaction cautiously because as buyers we suffer from information asymmetry; the salesperson knew more than we did. Today, however, the sales situation has changed. In most transactions buyers enjoy information asymmetry. Buyers can find much more about the product, its manufacturing cost, and customers’ experience with it (think about car buying, as one example).
This change means that anyone in sales, including those selling association memberships and conference registrations, The old A-B-Cs of selling, Always Be Closing (remember the play, later made into a movie, Glengarry Glen Ross?) must be replaced by new A-B-Cs:
- attunement (see the world through the customer’s eyes),
- buoyancy (stay afloat through a sea of rejection), and
- clarity (problem identification—so we can determine if the association can offer a solution).
Sellers often are told they must master their elevator pitch—in our case that short description of what the association does and offers. In Pink’s book, which will be available by the first of next year, he will offer 12 options. Being the clever author, we got just a few in the presentation:
- The one-word pitch that encapsulates your organization. For example, when someone says “search,” most people would offer this one word response: “Google.” So, what one word do we want our association to own?
- The question pitch means that instead of offering a statement of purpose or mission, ask a question. For example, instead of saying the economy is down and the current president is not doing enough about it, then-candidate Ronald Reagan famously asked this famous question: “Are you better off now than four years ago?”
- The rhyming pitch is a catch-phrase or slogan that is memorable and repeatable. The best example involves a now famous trial held almost two decades ago: “If it doesn’t fit . . . . “ You know the rest, right?
Is there one word we want to own, or a question we should ask prospects?