To Sell is Human

Pink To Sell is Human

Bestselling author Daniel Pink

You probably wouldn’t expect me to kick off 2013 by recommending a book about sales, but I’ve found that pretty much everything bestselling author Dan Pink writes is funny and fascinating. So too his just-released book, TO SELL IS HUMAN: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

This is not a book about sleazy car-dealer sales tactics. Pink argues that we all work in sales – “whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others.” And he’s out to help us spend our days more effectively.

Here are three of my favorite insights from his book:

1. The power of passion and quirkiness: When writers pitch Hollywood executives their ideas for new movies and TV shows, they’re most successful when they show passion, wit, and quirkiness, least successful when they’re too slick and trying too hard.

2. The power of less power: People who have less social power can be effective at sales, because they pay more attention to others’ perspectives and are good at seeing the world through others’ eyes. People with high status can easily slip into egocentrism.

3. The power of rhyming: Did you know that people ascribe more weight to observations made in rhyme?

“Woes unite foes” is more persuasive than “Woes unite enemies.”

“Caution and measure will win you treasure” is more convincing than “Caution and measure will win you riches.”

Crazy, but true.

(Other gems by Pink include “A Whole New Mind” (a book that permanently changed my world-view) and “Drive” (on the surprising truth of motivation). I also enjoy his radio program, “Office Hours,” where I made a guest appearance last January.)

What’s your opinion? Do you think there’s such a thing as humane salesmanship?

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  1. Maria on 04.01.2013 at 08:19 (Reply)

    Yes, I think there is such thing as humane salesmanship. :) I sold fine jewelry for several years in a town that gets tourist and local traffic. I did well because I was relaxed and I focused on helping people find something they or their gift recipient would love wearing, not on “sales.” I would try to figure out people’s motivation for being in the shop, and then I could let the browsers browse, help a panicked husband pick out a gift for his anniversary on the way home from work, show someone the bracelet that all her friends have and she wants, or let someone demonstrate to her friend how much more taste and class she had than a shopgirl paid by the hour.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s important to have inner resources, so you can try to get your own ego out of the way. If you focus on identifying a need and doing your best to meet it, are as eager to help someone with a small purchase as a big one, and you accept that some people have needs you can’t meet (and that’s okay), the numbers tend to take care of themselves.

  2. Mark on 04.01.2013 at 10:36 (Reply)

    I enjoy Daniel’s material as well.

    To your second point, I own a group of full service car care centers in Central VA. For the very reasons mention, I hire non automotive, women to fill store management and service writing openings I have.

    The background they bring puts them in a position of initially having “less power”, thus making it necessary for them to build their retention efforts around non traditional exchanges w our customers.

    Over time, this has proven to be an effective approach for us.

    Hope 2013 is as prosperous as it is healthy for you and yours.


  3. Maureen on 05.01.2013 at 07:41 (Reply)

    I used to work with sales people in a design firm. One thing I noticed is that when sales people are talking, they aren’t listening because they are too busy trying to make a sale! I was always in the “less power” position (supporting the sales staff), and I would always ask the client the “who-what-why=where” questions. I put the client in the position to tell me their story and help them understand why they needed us to solve their problem.

    It was all about solving the problem to me; not about making a sale. If a competitor had exactly what my client wanted, I told them so instead of trying to convince them to buy what we had instead. I found this built trust, showed that I was knowledgable of the market, and demonstrated that I was really listening to what they wanted and needed. It didn’t make me popular with the sales people, but then again, they were paid on commission.. I wasn’t. Salesmanship can be humane, when you focus on the people, not the sale.

  4. Mike on 06.01.2013 at 21:10 (Reply)

    Interesting - I think I will have to read some of his work. It is doubly interesting to me because it was sales that moved my ‘introvertedness rating’ over to be closer to the middle. I ended up (literally) traveling all over the world in the company of sales people as the ‘token introverted geek’ on their flashy roadshows, but surprised them (and myself) by being decently capable at talking in front of audiences about what I knew, and being able to relate to a wider audience.

    It was a broadening and eye-opening experience, but I am glad that time is over now. I am sure that the best work happens in silence and I am still more comfortable in my home office…researching and digging into technical issues without having to worry about shallow perceptions or ‘presentation’.

  5. BenParis on 07.01.2013 at 14:53 (Reply)

    If I can reflect on my own experience concerning “sales”…well I must say that it never occured to me that it was effectively one. Indeed, the way I came to the realization that I was actually doing a sales job, started when I tried to convince myself of doing something meaningful, and very useful to me…so from self-convincing to applying for a job, it’s again about selling, an idea, or yourself.

    And as Maria pointed out, you can’t connect with people if you don’t have anything to offer, could it be time, empathy, help, or a good laugh!

  6. Andy Phillips on 07.01.2013 at 15:19 (Reply)

    I used to work in sales and my very first day was told that you sell nothing, you only help a buyer get the solution they need. Sometimes that will mean telling them that the solution is actually somewhere else. Aggressive sales techniques either don’t work or only work once. I agree with Dan that everyone is selling - I currently work in HR. Trying to get buy in to a new initiative needs sales skills! Focus on solving the problem though and it is all fine!

  7. Sam on 16.01.2013 at 21:33 (Reply)

    To your #2 point. That was definitely not true in my case (when I was the one selling), but it is definitely true in my case (when I’m buying something from a salesperson). Because I’m an introvert with unique qualities I can sense a lot about other people because I’m usually the one listening and taking in all the information, whether it be verbal or non-verbal clues. If someone whether a salesperson or not , has a big inflated ego, it really turns me off, and would definitely make me very hesitant to buy right away.

  8. Jackie on 07.02.2013 at 12:51 (Reply)

    #2 hits home! I have been in retail for a long time. I recently lost my job and believe a big chunk of it was due to not getting out in community to bring in sales. I won’t play the car salesman and won’t do cold calling. I don’t think either of these methods truly work. I have never had a problem handselling. As an intovert, I believe it is because I listen to what buyer is really looking for and I can show my passion for the product without “hard selling”.
    I really need to get this book!

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