To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink
Recommended for: People trying to persuade others
Daniel Pink is known in the Agile and Lean circles for another great book, Drive. Those that follow my blog know I struggle with trying to get people to change. I was excited to see he had written this book.
Pink’s premise is that while 1 out of 9 people are in sales, the other 8 also sell. We are all trying to persuade others all the time. Unfortunately, many of the truisms that we’ve accepted about selling are either outdated or just aren’t correct. From my own experience, much of what he writes about will be counter-intuitive to most or will sound wrong simply because this isn’t what we’ve been taught. Its quite the eye opener.
Pink’s a great storyteller and easy to read. His ideas are backed up by research, mostly from the field of psychology, and is all cited.
There was a lot of good takeaways here and its a book, of course, that deserves further study. This is my top 25:
- We used to be in a world where the seller had more information than the buyer, but now we live in a world (thanks to the internet) where the buyer has as much information as the seller if not more. We have to change our approach.
- Empathy is an important attribute to have in sales, but studies show it is more beneficial to understand what is going on in another’s head than in their heart.
- Know who the key players are involved in making a decision, but more importantly, understand their biases and preferences. This will help you better allocate time, energy, and resources to the right relationships. It would suck if you spent a year trying to persuade someone only to learn they are not the person you need to persuade.
- Learn to mimic others (but don’t over due it) touching is also helpful (though make it appropriate).
- Studies show that its not the extroverts who do better at sales, despite what we may think. Those who are considered ambiverts are the best. Introverts do about as good as extroverts, though not as quite.
- We are more likely to be persuaded by people who are more like us. Its because they remind us of us. For those who are not like you—find things you have in common. Its ok if its small talk—like you have the same type of dog. People are more likely to move together when they share common ground.
- Positive emotions are good to have in a sales pitch, because they are contagious. Use them. Related- if you believe in something, you are more likely to be able to sell it.
- People with the ratio of 3:1 positive emotions to negative emotions are more likely to move someone. Those whose ratio exceeds 11:1 are less likely. These people are, or come off, delusional.
- Optimism is good. It can stir persistence, steady us during challenges, and stoke confidence that we can influence our surroundings. Even the best salesmen aren’t optimistic all the time, though. They can take things personally, just like everyone else.
- The more you are able to explain away bad events as temporary, specific, and external, the more likely you are to persist.
- Every silver lining has a cloud. It isn’t about banishing negative emotions. Negative emotions are crucial to our survival. They prevent unproductive behaviors from cementing into habits. They deliver useful information on our efforts. They alert us to when we’re on the wrong path.
- There is a difference between people who solve problems and those who are trying to find the problem. Pink looked specifically at Csikszentmihalyi and Getzels’s study in creativity. The findings are that people who have creative breakthroughs in various disciplines tend to be problem finders not solvers. Problem finders sort through vast amounts of information, experiment, are willing to switch directions, and often take longer to complete their work (and I would add– that’s the rub—people want their results NOW!!)
- When selling ourselves, its more important to focus on our potential. Don’t just fixate on what you achieved yesterday. Emphasize the promise of what you could accomplish tomorrow. There are studies by Tormala and Jia of Stanford University that suggests this is the right approach. Sounds counter intuitive.
- “Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.”
- When selling an idea, don’t get lost in the details. Think about the essence of what you are exploring—the 1% that gives life to the other 99%. Understand that 1% and learn to explain it to others. This will make you more likely to move others.
- He suggests trying to come up with a one word pitch that encapsulates what you are wanting to do. This is the elevator pitch on acid and works pretty well in our world where people’s time is getting more and more limited. For example, Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign’s strategy was encapsulated with the word, “Forward.”
- Another good tactic to use is to pitch using a question. For example, Reagan asked the American people “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Pink warns this can backfire. You need to know your audience. Mitt Romney tried this in 2012 and it didn’t work because plenty of people thought they were better off.
- He also suggests the rhyming pitch. People will remember it. Remember Johnnie Cochran in the OJ Simpson trial, “If it does not fit, you must acquit.”
- When you are preparing your pitch, ask yourself these three questions: “What do you want them to know?,” “What do you want them to feel?,” and “What do you want them to do?”
- He suggests you start observing and making a collection of how others make successful pitches and emulating.
- Get feedback on your pitch. Many people are surprised by the disconnect between what they think they’re conveying versus what others are actually hearing.
- Study improv. You can apply these lessons to selling. Interestingly enough, sales have learned from theater for some time. It used to be they went off a script, but now they are seeing the benefits of being able to act like a good improv actor.
- Pink said its important not to try and get into a I must win situation. He said the idea isn’t to win, its to learn. Alfred Fuller of Fuller Brush fame said “Never argue. To win an argument is to lose a sale.”
- Its important for when you are trying to move someone to understand that you are dealing with a human being. They are not an anonymous case study.
- Most sales are geared toward self-interest. However, studies have shown that moving people by appealing to their self-transcending side is much more effective. Improving other’s lives and in turn improving the world is the lifeblood and final secret to moving others.
Great book. Like I said, I’ll be coming back to this one again.
It can be bought here.