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Gini Dietrich

To Sell is Human: A Communicator’s View on New Business

By: Gini Dietrich | March 7, 2013 | 
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To Sell is HumanAfter I’d been at Fleishman-Hillard for a couple of years, I had three promotions under my belt and was already eyeing the corner office (some things never change).

Because I was so steadily climbing the corporate ladder, I was soon invited into new business meetings where my presentation skills were honed, I was taught to think on my feet, and I was forced to stop biting my fingernails.

But all of those meetings? They were put on by one of the partners and you had to be invited in. No one at my level ever hosted a prospect.

And then. My then mentor and now good friend, Ron Arp, came back from an executive team meeting and told a group of us we had to learn how to sell. 

Learn to Sell

Of course, he didn’t use that word because he’s much better at consensus than that, but that’s what it was…we had to learn to sell.

What the heck did I know about selling? I am an English major. I wrote the obituary and wedding announcements at the Omaha World-Herald during college. I was a communicator and on my way to being a client service pro. Not only did I not know how to sell, all of my contacts were also in their mid-20s. They didn’t have decision-making power. Who was I going to sell?

But, being the double type A, highly-competitive person I am, I convinced my supervisor to let me join PRSA and IABC and I started attending meetings and getting involved. I began to network. By golly, I was going to find a way to bring in some new business!

Ron did everything he could to bring us along. He bought us all copies of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He brought in speakers who gave us roadmaps on how to build relationships with people in order to get them to buy.

But it was all so foreign. It still didn’t make sense…this selling thing.

Is it Just Networking?

Over dinner one night, I was talking to my dear, dear friend Henry Gantz about this conundrum. I was doing so well at almost every part of my job, but failing at this new business thing.

A few days later he called me.

He said, “We’re going to hire a PR firm and we want it to be FH.”

At the time, he was the president of The Catfish Institute and they ended up spending more than $1 million a year with us.

I was a freaking hero and all I had to do was talk to a friend, without even realizing they were looking. All I did was put a germ of an idea in his head and he made it happen.

This selling thing is easy! It’s not suckering poor souls into buying. It’s not putting on a lot of pressure. It’s just doing business with friends.

Fast forward to today where a majority of my job is business development. I love the chase. I love bouncing around new ideas with prospects. I love introducing a new client to my team. I love watching my team gain the results we proposed in the beginning.

It’s fun and it’s extremely rewarding.

To Sell is Human

All of this to say Dan Pink (one of my most favorite business authors) has a new book out called, “To Sell is Human.”

In it, he argues selling has become an essential part of nearly everyone’s job in today’s world.

Everyone is in sales.

Many of us spend time on the social networks and represent both us and our organizations while we’re out there. Many of us go to industry events and talk to old friends and new about what we do. Many of us attend trade shows and Chamber of Commerce meetings and networking events and meet new people.

That, my friends, is selling, and it’s up to all of us to help our organizations grow.

Think about it this way: Wouldn’t you rather work with your friends than try to go out and find some stranger looking to buy what you do?

To sell is human…and it’s up to all of us.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

61 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

I agree with "everyone is in sales". However, I know I much prefer to educate, to "excite" about the possibilities, and to do business analysis (find out what the client REALLY needs)...versus sell. I'm not a great "go for the no" kind of guy. I'd rather have a meaningful and fruitful discussion, actually demonstrate value, and then not have it still come down to lowest bidder. Especially when there will always be a lowest bidder, and that is frequently because they will work the change order process once they get their foot in the door.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

I tend to integrate my various aptitudes in to each other- to me, sales is communication,  communication is education... So it doesn't surprise me to see you use your English degree to sell any more than it does when I use mine. I spend quite a bit of time trying to change this negative perception of sales, with mixed results. In my mind, I would like to partner with my customers to help make their lives even slightly easier. It is my job to serve them if and when they need it. Of course, this makes me nearly impossible to sell to. Recently, a sales person flooded my inbox with messages marked "urgent!" Hmmm...you want me to sacrifice time away from my work to consider your pitch- how is this in any way urgent for me?!? This sort of pushiness and disregard for the time of the customer really turns me off. Even had that service been exactly what my company needed, I would not have wanted to work with that sales person. When I wrote back to tell him no, that this service was not a good fit for me, I did not receive a reply thanking me for my time. Nothing. Have to say, I am much less interested in that business as a whole now. 

 

I am reading the Pink too- we shall have to exchange thoughts once we are done! 

ValerieSimon
ValerieSimon

If ever a word were in need of PR counsel, it would be "sales." My career in sales was purely accidental...when I am excited about what I am doing I talk about it! And when you share your enthusiasm  about a service with people who have a need for that service... sales happen. But although I spent a great deal of my career in sales, I confess my voice often trailed off when asked to introduce myself. "Senior Vice President of (mumble) sales." Today, I am proud of that sales background and recognize that those sales skills have been a critical factor in every success I have had. I very much agree that EVERYONE is in sales... and in great organizations, where company pride and enthusiasm exist, I think you'll find that all employees, regardless of title, evolve into a veritable sales army.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@ginidietrich Looks like we’re sharing a brain. Wrote about selling for the newsletter today.

bdorman264
bdorman264

So, were you the male wedding reporter character in 27 Dresses; is that how you met Mr D? 

 

I was an 'insurance' guy. About 10 yrs ago as we evolved all the 'sales people' at LUI had to make a decision if they wanted to be in sales or service. Knowing sales is where the money is, I chose sales, but out of about 15 'sales people,' over half chose service. They didn't think they could sell, and they didn't want the accountability and seeing your results (or lack thereof) on the board each month. 

 

I don't know why not, sales are easy, right? 

 

Even though I had been 'selling' all my career, I considered myself 'insurance' guy and now had to change my focus to become a student of sales. 

 

Once my mindset changed, I guess it was an 'aha' moment. That is probably when I realized we are all in sales, top to bottom, whether we know it or not. 

 

Sales is not a dirty word; really...:). 

danperezfilms
danperezfilms

If everybody is selling then why is it such a dirty little word in the social space? Who spends several hours a day on social media who isn't selling a product or service? And then they talk of transparency and authenticity with such reverence. Don't believe the hype, people.The more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology may have changed but the needs of people (to earn a living) hasn't. Oh, and it's OK. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

People make sales overly complicated. Half the battle is learning how to listen and then respond appropriately. We really do engage in "sales" throughout our days. How many times do we have conversations with someone spouse/partner/friend about what to eat or what to do.

 

Every time we do that we are selling an idea. 

magriebler
magriebler

What I love about the whole "to sell is human" concept is that even when sales isn't a line item in our job descriptions, it's a mindset that indispensible for success, whatever our calling in life. We have to sell ourselves in a job interview. We have to sell our ideas to our bosses and our colleagues. David Mamet said it best: "Always be closing! " Because there's always a deal in the offing that can move us to the next stage in our careers.

DickCarlson
DickCarlson

I'm at a point in my career that if I have to "sell" you on working with me, I don't want you as a client.  Because, in all likelihood, you're not ripe.  You're not really ready for what it is that I can do for you, and I'm going to be spending a lot of time arguing with you about choices, options, next steps and how the journey will work.I wish I knew who I stole this metaphor from, but it exactly describes where I am right now.I'm on an airplane.  The pilot has informed me that the engines are out, and we're going down.  There's no hope of restart, and it will be a horrible crash.  But we have good news -- there are parachutes enough for everyone on board, and he wants me to make sure everyone gets out.I go back to the cabin.  There are two groups of passengers.  One group is standing in line, quietly waiting to be handed a parachute.  The understand the value of parachutes, WANT a parachute, and are willing to listen to me tell them how to use it.The other group is hotly discussing parachutes.  They want me to convince them that parachutes are the best idea. One has a nephew that makes hang gliders, and he told his uncle that parachutes are not safe.  Another is concerned that the parachute might muss up her dress.  A third wants me to test the parachute with some sand bags first and give her the results.I DECIDE TO SPEND MY TIME WITH THE GROUP READY AND WILLING TO PUT ON THEIR PARACHUTES.If there's any time left before the crash, I'll talk to the others.  At 500 feet, I'm jumping.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

When I used to work at a non-profit called the Heart & Stroke Foundation (similar to the American Heart Association) and people used to ask, "what do I do there?" I would respond: "I sell heart disease and stroke." Because that's what I really did. 

hessiejones
hessiejones

@ginidietrich now I know I don't have to be like @AmyMccTobin to sell like Amy:)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @magriebler I had a supervisor early in my career who would make me sell her on why the thing I was turning in was my best work ever. Not only was it my best work ever, I had to think about how I was going to sell her on it. She never made changes when I did that.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@JustInTheSouth I think you typed something wrong.

LisaMarieMary
LisaMarieMary

@JustInTheSouth @ginidietrich @SpinSucks DUDE! That's awesome times a MILLION!!!

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @ginidietrich The hardest thing I had to do was being able to turn the account over to my team; back in the day if I said we were going to do something, it was typically me coming back to the office and 'doing it.'  I mean I still have to know what I'm doing, but I am much more of a quarterback now and just making sure we have all the pieces in the right place. More of my time is networking and opening the door, which is unique, because I still get paid the same thing even after I assume the role as the 'fun' guy and let my team be the 'insurance' guy. 

 

You have established quite a name for yourself and you are certainly known in plenty of circles and have the credibility to back it up. You are there, you have the ability to open many a door and bring in the right team to get the job done. You worked hard to get there, just make sure you take advantage of all your efforts. 

MargieClayman
MargieClayman

I'm not going to even read this thread. I know it will be ugleh :) @hessiejones @ginidietrich @AmyMccTobin

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @ginidietrich  @magriebler I don't normally go for simple slogans, but you both just made me think of a great one =) ---> Selling is asking someone how they are and caring about the answer

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @belllindsay  @ginidietrich I actually think we have access to that product. To me, it looked kind of like dental insurance, which really doesn't pay much. Policies like that give you about $1,000 in coverage and you usually pay half until you hit your $1,000 limit and that's usually one office visit. 

 

I also think you can buy it online, you might Google it and see what is available and if it's worth anything. 

 

Damn insurance...........:). 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@MargieClayman @hessiejones @ginidietrich It's the perfect cycle.

MargieClayman
MargieClayman

@AmyMccTobin see, so she drives you nuts, you drive us nuts. It all evens out :) @hessiejones @ginidietrich

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@hessiejones @MargieClayman @ginidietrich Or, drives me totally nuts. :) But she's the cute one.

hessiejones
hessiejones

@MargieClayman @amymcctobin @ginidietrich Addie keeps Amy relatively sane

MargieClayman
MargieClayman

@hessiejones I think we've established Addie is the critical thinker in this crowd. @AmyMccTobin @ginidietrich

hessiejones
hessiejones

@AmyMccTobin Yes I am more sane... that's a given:) @margieclayman @ginidietrich

hessiejones
hessiejones

@MargieClayman Amy has the tenacity and energy I crave @ginidietrich @amymcctobin

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@hessiejones @MargieClayman @ginidietrich Awe... you are far more sane than me Hessie :)

MargieClayman
MargieClayman

@hessiejones Amy does kind of rock, doesn't she? *sigh* :) @ginidietrich @AmyMccTobin

hessiejones
hessiejones

@MargieClayman we're all friends! I just wish I could have a little bit of Amy in me @ginidietrich @amymcctobin #nottalkingboutblondehair

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