We should all look at daily life and relationships more like salespeople, Savage author and business executive Brett Keirstead said in a recent interview.
That doesn’t mean taking a selfish or cold-hearted view of the world, he wrote in his book, “We Are All Sales, People,” which came out in February.
Keirstead, who’s chief revenue officer for an Iowa-based software company, argues instead that becoming more skilled in the everyday transactions between family members, coworkers and strangers could bring make life and society less self-centered and more helpful for all.
“We’re all selling,” he said in an interview, and whether it’s selling ideas, products or a job application, good communication is essential. “The only ways sales work, professional sales work, is when both parties benefit.”
Keirstead organizes the book around five stages or ingredients of a deal. First is knowing yourself — your goals, strengths, background, prejudices annoying habits — and second is understanding the same in others.
“Fighting to prove your point may feel good, but if you want to achieve extraordinary results, you must learn to deal well with people you don’t enjoy — and who may even initially disrespect you,” he wrote in the book.
Some people are too prejudiced or unpleasant to get anywhere with, he added, but even a misplaced or offensive comment can sometimes give you, the person selling whatever you’re selling, some key information about the other person.
Then the third step comes in: finding mutually positive outcomes. A job candidate wants to be hired, and an employer wants her skills, for example. Most of the time, Keirstead wrote, “we all want the same outcome. We want everyone to walk away feeling satisfied and respected.”
Next would come negotiating how to get there. Keirstead said negotiation is important even in unexpected situations, such as when he tries to get his teenage son to do his homework or some other task.
Commanding him to do so wouldn’t create anything but resentment, he said. Approaching it like a salesperson, understanding each other’s needs and coming to a compromise, could leave his son with skills that’ll come in handy all his life.
The last step in any sale is closing it — an agreement isn’t done until it’s done, in other words.
Keirstead provides examples and scripted scenes to illustrate the five pieces, then he applies them to real-world issues, such as dealing with bullying and other adversity. Some researchers and communication experts back up several of Keirstead’s points as well.
Scott Brown, a father and founding member of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, has said “persuasive parenting,” which means parents who understand their own emotions and their kids’ and listen to what their kids are saying, can defuse family conflicts, for example.
And the author and psychologist Marshall Rosenberg has made a career of calling for nonviolent communication, a way of facing disagreement with compassion and focus on what the two sides want and need.
The book is also Keirstead’s attempt to break the negative salesmen stereotype. There’s an empty version of sales out there that’s all charming personality and manipulation, he said; his birth father, who exited his life early on, was a good example.
The real thing, in Keirstead’s thinking, is based on a set of skills and, above all, genuine curiosity about others. This version of selling can help the other person with something as serious as finding the right kind of house or accepting public health measures.
“It’s a discipline,” Keirstead said.
“We Are All Sales, People” is published by Peacock Proud Press and is available on Amazon.