How To Sell Without Being Salesy

January 4, 2016

by Ravi Raman

What words come to mind when you think about selling? Sleazy? Slimy? Dishonest? No matter what your opinion is of sales, we are all salespeople.

Each and every one of us needs to move others to do what we need them to do. It might be convincing your kids to do their chores. It might be encouraging your team to wrap up a major project before the deadline. It might be convincing your spouse to have pizza for dinner instead of salad!

Selling is a fundamental human skill.

Our ability to inspire and move others has a significant impact on our ability to lead a productive and useful life. Daniel Pink is the author of four New York Times best-selling books and was once a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. Using both the written word and the spoken word, Pink is highly skilled in the art of moving others.

His book “To Sell Is Human” is a fresh look at the art and science of selling. The book is full of interesting stories, scientific research summaries and easy to remember tools that you can use to inspire and motivate others more effectively.

By the time you are done reading this book, you might even consider yourself a salesperson :).

After recently reading this book I’ve come away with the following key distinctions when it comes to the art of moving others, and selling without being salesy:

Being Versus Doing

Selling successfully is not just about taking action, it’s about how you are “being” while taking action. It’s EQ not just IQ.

Pink refers to this as the new ABC’s of selling. ABC used to mean “always be closing.” To Pink, it means “Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.” Attunement is about adjusting your actions based on your surroundings. Buoyancy is about having the emotional strength to continue moving forward even in the face of resistance. Clarity is about wording and framing things so that people to understand how to think about your proposal, and also how to take action if they agree and want to take the next step.

If you pay attention to these three things, the sales process will flow naturally and be less energetically draining for everyone involved.

Emotional Buoyancy

This is much of what Pink refers to as “Buoyancy” in his A,B,C’s of selling. Your emotional strength, stability and optimism plays a large part in determining whether you will be successful in motivating others. Selling can often require the ability to withstand 1000 “no’s” to get the single “yes.” It takes a healthy mind and balanced emotions to be able to operate with those kinds of odds.

To me, buoyancy is also about cultivating routines and practices that help me stay emotionally healthy, no matter what happens in a sales conversation. Exercise is an essential method in this regard. If I exercise on a regular basis, I can stay emotionally tuned into others, and deal with adversity much better. Exercise not only raises my energy level, but it also helps me balance out my emotions. This helps me properly motivate others to action without getting too caught up with rejection.

Meditation also helps.

The Elevator Pitch

The original idea of the elevator pitch was that if you found yourself stepping into an elevator with someone important you have a way of describing yourself during the time between when the doors closed and when they reopened.

What’s your elevator pitch? How strong is it?

We live in a world of information overload, making it important that your pitch is sharp and concise. The book mentions the statistic that the typical American hears or reads more than 100,000 words every day! Cut through the noise with a powerful pitch.

Pink provides a half-dozen examples for how to create a successful pitch. We should also have at least one, perhaps a few unique ways of describing what we do in a way that can motivate others to action – quickly!


No matter what your job is – or if you even have a job – it is worth investing in your sales skills – of which a big one is your ability to empathize deeply with your customer. Pink states:

“The ability to take another perspective has become one of the keys to both sales and non-sales selling. And the social science research on perspective-taking yields some important lessons for all of us.”

The more deeply you can understand someone else’s perspective, the better you can identify if your offer can help them, and if so, how to communicate in a way that best resonates with their individual needs.

Selling Is Serving

Pink closes the book by recommending that with every opportunity you have to sell someone to ensure that you can answer two critical questions. If the response to either of these is “no,” you are doing something wrong.

  1. If the person you are selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?
  2. When your interaction is over with the other person, will the world be a better place than when you began?

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