The Human Approach: Serving vs. Selling

At Noetic, we strive to keep our thinking fresh by taking on different perspectives and viewing our work through other people’s lenses. One way we do this is by reading, reading, reading.

I recently had a chance to read Daniel Pink’s 2012 work, To Sell is Human and was struck by several of his concepts that are even more relevant today – ten years later and in the changed-forever business landscape post-Covid.

First, everyone is a salesperson. Yes, this means you. On any given day in business, each of us are “selling,” in that we are seeking to influence others around us and gain alignment to our point of view. You may not be selling a potential client for a revenue-bearing deal, but are you persuading a management team to adopt a new messaging strategy? Are you transforming a team of individual contributors into a higher-performing integrated whole? Are you trying to gain alliance amongst your colleagues to get the fall company offsite to involve a pumpkin farm? (Ok, maybe that last one is just me.) But…you’re selling.

So, what are proven ways to be a more effective seller? Mr. Pink does a masterful job of elucidating many of these, including:

  1. Grow your skill of attunement. Tune in to the people you are seeking to influence and connect with them in human ways. People who show humility, people who get into heads and hearts…these are the people who succeed in an influencing and selling capacity because once connections are made, they can truly move others.
  2. First, second and third…seek to learn. Following on from the “knowing when to shut up” point above, the best way to start any sort of a sales relationship (one might argue most relationships, actually) is to listen. What are the issues someone is grappling with? Where are they all set, where might they need help? When someone new enters our Noetic sphere, we often schedule a 45-minute exploratory conversation to do just this – ask questions, and truly LISTEN to the answers. If we ourselves can help, great – let us tell you what we do, how we do it and why this might be the right fit for you. If we are not suited to help based on what we hear, we go out of our way to offer non-Noetic introductions or solutions. Only when you are truly listening can you truly help.
  3. Serve, don’t sell. Which leads me to my last, and honestly my favorite point. Mr. Pink rounds out the end of the book with a concept he calls “Servant Selling” – based on the “Servant Leader” foundation developed by Robert Greenleaf – here adapted to selling. The concept is simple – serve first, sell later. At Noetic, we live this through our primary company value, “Help and Kindness First” which we practice every day. For example, we often spend time on conversations with people in our network who might not even be potential “official clients” or “revenue targets” or “in our sales pipeline”. In fact, well over half of these discussions don’t result in any direct revenue for us. But we love it, and it pays off. Why? Because we seek to understand how we can help, how we can serve that person and then we do whatever we can. This creates a virtuous cycle, and time after time…those good people become clients, refer us, introduce us – and then the revenue comes. Noetic has operated this way for 20 years and it truly works.

So, the next time you are really hoping for the pumpkin farm outing (or driving revenue), try some of these for yourself, and drop us a line on how it goes at – we’d love to hear from you!