Why Selling is in Our Nature
Selling can seem confusing and overwhelming. There are literally 1000s of books on the subject. 100s of experts and gurus. Everyone has their own system, methodology or philosophy.
It’s easy to feel that selling is horrendously complex. Clearly no one would be “born” with the skill of selling.
Is that really true though? Does selling have to be contrived, difficult, over-complicated, painful and miserable?
Short answer: no.
If selling was that crazy difficult, how would humans have been conducting commerce for thousands of years already?
Literally billions of people have been able to generate income for themselves and their families throughout history.
I believe instead that selling is a natural, evolved, human behavior. We see selling and trading going on across all cultures, from corporate board rooms in London to tiny hunter-gatherer communities in Africa.
We even see extremely primitive forms of trading going on in other primates like Chimpanzees and Bonobos. Selling is in our DNA.
So if selling is so simple, what is it all about?
Trust and Rapport
There is an old saying:
“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”
Look across the world or within your country and you will see a pattern play out over and over: places with high levels of trust and safety tend to be productive and wealthy. Places where trust is scarce are racked with poverty and sluggish economic growth.
Trust is the foundation of selling.
Yes, you can (and should) create a contract or written agreement to do a deal. But if you’ve been in business for any period of time you know it’s not practical or desirable to rely solely on legal contracts to get things done.
The amount of time and money you will waste chasing a non-paying client, or a partner who stole your trade secrets, will not “protect” your business. It will destroy it.
A piece of paper will not create trust. Trust is something that people must have before the selling process begins.
In cultures where people are mistrustful of authorities, institutions and each other, it is extremely difficult to get anything done.
Anyone who has spent time in a third world country knows this.
Transactions must be done in cash, making things less efficient than if electronic payments or credit was a viable option. Debt financing in general is impossible for most people to get. You need lots of assets, which the average person does not have. Banks don’t trust people.
Commerce in general is face-to-face, again slowing things down and killing productivity.
And exchange revolves around tangible, physical goods. Abstract “services” like design, consulting, education, or advisory are much less valued. People are interested in things they can touch and see.
Business is dominated by old men who have huge networks and lots of respect from the community, earned over many years (or just inherited). This kills dynamism and wastes years of productive energy from young would-be entrepreneurs.
Now, all of these things (face-to-face communication, physical goods, cash, and reputation) are valuable in first-world economies too.
But because of much higher trust levels, selling can occur in a greater variety of services, credit is more accessible, and businesses are more efficient.
So before anything else, trust and rapport are the foundation for selling. If you want to do business, you must be trusted by the people who would give you their hard-earned money.
Solving a Problem
Next, you must be actually providing a solution that people need.
If you are not fulfilling a need, you can try to persuade and cajole people all you want–selling will always be an uphill battle.
Selling becomes surprisingly and refreshingly easy when you are offering something that people actually want.
At the end of the day, selling is really about identifying problems or challenges and providing solutions.
This is another major hurdle that business owners face. They are either selling something that nobody needs, or they don’t know how to communicate the value of their service.
“Selling is something we do for our clients – not to our clients”
The most successful businesses are those that always seek to serve their customers, first and foremost.
Serve your customers well, and you will be rewarded.
Specialization and Expertise
In the distant past, one member of the tribe was really good with his hands. He would make the weapons that everyone used to hunt.
A few tribesmen were very athletic and strong. They were the ones who led the hunt, or fought intruders.
Some people were good at cooking the food, some were talented at telling stories around the campfire or remembering the tribe’s myths and history. Some had a knack for creating jewelry or clothing for everyone to wear.
Everyone specialized in something. Everyone had a role to play.
This exchange of specialties, talents and strengths benefited everyone. Today we talk about the division of labor, specialization and finding your niche.
Your strength lies in your special expertise, knowledge or talent.
If you can show that you have something of real value that will enhance their lives–whether it’s cooking food to perfection over a campfire or supplying high-quality manufacturing equipment–you will make a sale.
Simple, Natural Selling
Selling does not have to be complicated. Selling does not have to be fake or unnatural.
If you are truly stuck and don’t now how to sell your product, idea or even yourself, take a step back. Make things simple.
Don’t try to push a product on someone you have no rapport or trust with. Don’t try to invent a solution out of thin air that nobody needs. And don’t sabotage yourself by trying to “sell” something you don’t care about or have no real expertise in.
Focus on building trust and rapport with others. Learn about them and understand their needs, so you can solve a real problem they have. And lean on your personal strengths and specialties.
That’s how you make selling natural.