Writer’s Wednesday: To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

to sell is humanMy apologies for the lack of Writer’s Wednesdays recently, I have been very busy with other stuff (including a 1½ week trip to Denmark without my laptop). I have been reading plenty, and will try to get caught up on reviews over the next month or two.

About a month ago I read To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink, in which the author makes the argument that the vast majority of us are in sales (especially people in health care and education), whether we know it or not.

People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling— persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of professions, we are devoting roughly twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others.

Pink shows us that the image, many of us have, of the dishonest used-car salesman who uses tricks and pressure to get people to buy, rarely aligns with reality. Instead he shows us techniques that can help us to more effectively share the world, as we see it, with other people.

First, in the past, the best salespeople were adept at accessing information. Today, they must be skilled at curating it— sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces. Second, in the past, the best salespeople were skilled at answering questions (in part because they had information their prospects lacked). Today, they must be good at asking questions— uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems.

Martin also said that top salespeople have strong emotional intelligence but don’t let their emotional connection sweep them away. They are curious and ask questions that drive to the core of what the other person is thinking. That’s getting into their heads and not just their hearts, attunement rule number two. Most of all, “you have to be able somehow to get in synch with people, to connect with them, whether you’re with a grandmother or the recent graduate of an MBA program,” she told me.

I especially enjoyed the part that looked at the role of introverts and ambiverts in selling:

The notion that extraverts are the finest salespeople is so obvious that we’ve overlooked one teensy flaw. There’s almost no evidence that it’s actually true.

Another key takeaway was the research by Barbara Fredrickson which showed that people with a positive outlook on life tend to have a ratio of 3:1 positive emotions to negative emotions in their lives. She has a daily tracker, which I’ve been using for almost 2 months now and have found incredibly helpful and insightful in realizing how different events and people affect me and my general well-being.

In addition, did you know that people unconsciously feel like things are more true if they rhyme, compared to things that do not rhyme?

Participants rated the aphorisms in the left column as far more accurate than those in the right column, even though each pair says essentially the same thing. Yet when the researchers asked people, “In your opinion, do aphorisms that rhyme describe human behavior more accurately than those that do not rhyme?” the overwhelming answer was no. Participants were attributing accuracy to the rhyming versions unconsciously.

I greatly recommend To Sell Is Human to traditional and non-traditional sales people alike – especially if you are in the business of moving people. And really, aren’t we all?

In both traditional sales and non-sales selling, we do better when we move beyond solving a puzzle to serving a person.

That means that not only should we ourselves be serving, but we should also be tapping others’ innate desire to serve. Making it personal works better when we also make it purposeful.

Have you read To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, or any of his other books? What did you think?
Do you agree that we are all in sales these days?

Please do connect with me on Goodreads.

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