To Sell is Human

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink The surprising truth about moving others
by Dan Pink
ISNB: 9781594487156

One issue I have with this genre of book — I’d loosely describe it as occupying the intersection of business and social science, from which one can see self help — is that I find myself wondering if the books should really be books.

I’m not saying the topics aren’t worthy, rather that the execution may be rounding out more pages than necessary because the ideas could be covered in a series of blog posts. I wonder if the desire for the “seriousness” of being a book, and the marketing potential in being a best-selling book (which this will no doubt become) drive the form.

There are interesting and good ideas here. The basic premise is that all of us are in sales — at least, in “non-sales selling” — because we all have a need to convince people to exchange something they have (time, attention, resources) for something we have (an idea, a story, a collaborative effort).

Pink understands that unless you are in sales (and maybe even if you are), sales makes you cringe. So it’s sort of an interesting premise: write a book about something that most people don’t like and think doesn’t apply to them, and convince us all it does apply, isn’t necessarily so bad, and in fact is something we could all be pretty good at if we applied a few not-so-scary-sounding techniques.

Rather than go through the big, catchy ideas (Pink is good at framing — he’s read his Heath brothers) I wanted to share the ideas that stood out to me as useful:

  • Power distorts perspective — the more power you have, the less you tend to see things from another’s perspective
  • Map discussions — I think creating a “a visual representation of who’s talking the most, who’s sitting out, and who’s the target of people’s criticisms” will 1) make some otherwise not so awesome meetings more bearable, and 2) create an artifact to use to help spur changes
  • Recognize that problem-finding is different than problem-solving
  • If you want people to act, you need to provide not just clarity of thought, but a clear path to action
  • Great pitches aren’t supposed to close deals, they are supposed to start real conversations
  • If you have a strong argument, lead with a question: “when people summon their own reasons for believing in something, they endorse that belief more strongly and become more likely to act on it.”
  • Upserve, don’t upsell

So, is it worth reading? Probably. It’s a relatively quick read and there are some good nuggets in there that might change how you see things or cause you to try something new and improve your attempts at persuasion. I didn’t love it. I liked A Whole New Mind much more, but perhaps I’m just overly resistant to selling even though I have no doubt I am in the “people moving” business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *