• Even though sales is everywhere, most people underrate its importance. Silicon Valley underrates it more than most.

    The geek classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy even explains the founding of our planet as a reaction against salesmen. When an imminent catastrophe requires the evacuation of humanity’s original home, the population escapes on three giant ships. The thinkers, leaders, and achievers take the A Ship; the salespeople and consultants get the B Ship; and the workers and artisans take the C Ship. The B Ship leaves first, and all its passengers rejoice vainly. But the salespeople don’t realize they are caught in a ruse: the A Ship and C Ship people had always thought that the B Ship people were useless, so they conspired to get rid of them. And it was the B Ship that landed on Earth.

    Distribution may not matter in fictional worlds, but it matters in ours. We underestimate the importance of distribution — a catchall term for everything it takes to sell a product — because we share the same bias the A Ship and C Ship people had: salespeople and other “middlemen” supposedly get in the way, and distribution should flow magically from the creation of a good product. The Field of Dreams conceit is especially popular in Silicon Valley, where engineers are biased toward building cool stuff rather than selling it.

    But customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen, and it’s harder than it looks.

    — Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

  • Sales and non-sales selling are developing along a similar path — because the stable, simple, and certain conditions that favored scripts have now given way to the dynamic, complex, and unpredictable conditions that favor improvisation. Beneath the apparent chaos of improvisation is a light structure that allows it to work.

    Understanding that structure can help you move others, especially when your astute perspective-taking, infectious positivity, and brilliant framing don’t deliver the results you seek. In those circumstances and many others, you’ll do better if you follow three essential rules of improvisational theater:

    • Hear offers.
    • Say “Yes and.”
    • Make your partner look good.

    — To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

  • The time is ripe for the sales version of Greenleaf’s philosophy. Call it servant selling. It begins with the idea that those who move others aren’t manipulators but servants. They serve first and sell later. And the test — which, like Greenleaf’s, is the best and the most difficult to administer — is this: If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began? Servant selling is the essence of moving others today. But in some sense, it has always been present in those who’ve granted sales its proper respect.

    — To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

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