August: To Sell Is Human

September 18, 2018

The Book Report series consists of monthly articles reviewing one of the books I read that month followed by the complete list of all the books I read and/or listened to. I disclose my monthly reading list (the good, the bad, and the embarrassing) so my readers can draw from the same resources I do or just get an insight into the many interests I have that I might not blog about. If you have any book recommendations for me, pass them along! 



To Sell Is Human: The surprising truth about moving others

By: Daniel H. Pink





Pink conducted a survey in which he found that significant numbers of people who don't consider themselves to be in sales professionally to nonetheless engage in what he calls "non-sales selling - persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don't involve anyone making a purchase." In fact, he discovered that the art of selling is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, whether we are trying to convince a prospective romantic partner to go out with us, get a child to take a bath, convince our boss that we deserve a raise or negotiate the best price on a car. 


The thing is though, many people associate sales with manipulative tactics meant to push a product or service by those who don't really care about the true needs of the consumer. The prevalent distrust of salespeople is a consequence of the imbalance of power and knowledge between the seller and the buyer. This has shifted in the digital age where it's now possible for the consumer to have as much, if not more, information than the seller prior to making a purchase. The power is in the consumer's hands.


What is the role of the seller, then? Pink believes that it is to help the consumer recognize a problem or a need that they have and then guide them to the solution. To do this, sellers need to cultivate a different set of skills than what may have worked in the past. They need to get into the consumer's head and heart, relating to them in such a way that the consumer feels seen and heard. Pink explores the role that empathy, power, and strategic mimicry play in forming such a connection not just to make an effective sale, but to build a positive relationship with the consumer based on trust.


So many of the tools presented in the book are insightful and helpful for anyone wanting to forge more effective relationships, let alone convince or persuade others. Even the discussion of power's inverse relationship to perspective taking was eye-opening in the setting of the current political climate, with what to me feels like an explanation for a divided society that on one hand responds to fear mongering by Republicans by giving up personal power and autonomy, and on the other hand can't be sold a glass of ice cold water on a sweltering day by Democrats. To effectively sell, you must be able to take another's perspective, respect their power and move them emotionally before they will buy into your product or message.


Political tangents aside, one of the stand outs in the book for me was the section on "interrogative self-talk", not so much in the context of selling or convincing others, but because it's a tool I have found extremely useful in personal development. I've long believed that affirmations, while useful, are limited particularly when subconscious negative beliefs are preventing growth. For example, the statement "I will write one blog post a week!" might be a helpful pep talk as an indicator of what I'd like to achieve, but if I have strong subconscious barriers to it, it won' be effective. In contrast, asking "Will I write one blog post a week?" not only reflects the intention but causes my brain to come up with strategies to make it happen. In the context of selling, it makes sense that thinking creatively leads to innovative solutions. Interrogative self-talk seems to allow that type of out-of-the-box thinking.


The other important take-away related to interrogative self-talk is shifting explanatory style to reframe negative events. Based on Martin Seligman's research in positive psychology, Pink recommends coming up with ways to answer "no" to the following questions:


1. Is this permanent?

2. Is this pervasive?

3. Is this personal? 


Finding good reasons why the answer to those questions is "no" shifts the brain from a negative, fight-or-flight mindset to a positive, problem-solving one. It allows the processing of negative events as "temporary, specific, and external." Anyone who has ever failed at anything will be able to relate to how important it is to reframe the failure in order to successfully move forward having actually learned something from it.


The underlying message throughout this book is that no matter what industry one finds themselves in, learning how to move other people is crucial to getting the job done well. To effectively move others, one must also have personal tools that allow for growth and recovery from negative events. Moving others is fundamentally about serving them; not manipulating them, coercing them or taking advantage of their vulnerability. This is the new era of sales that truly meets the needs of the consumer.





Have you read this book or will you be adding it to your list? Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below!



Reading List: August

  1. Real Love - Sharon Salzberg

  2. Goddesses - Joseph Cambell

  3. No knives in the kitchen of this city - Khaled Khalifa

  4. To sell is human - Daniel H. Pink

  5. Waking up - Sam Harris

  6. How to change your mind - Michael Pollan







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