Book NotesCustomer ExperienceCustomer Satisfaction

Book Notes: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

July 25, 2019 No Comments

This edition of Book Notes is shared by Himanshu Choudhary, Sales and Marketing Lead in the APAC region, and is a summation of Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others.

Working in a sales domain, I have been a keen follower of books about sales, influence and persuasion, not only because they explain the power of moving people, but because they help to develop people, both personally and professionally. To Sell Is Human, by Daniel H. Pink, is such a book, possessing a very distinctive approach to different areas of sales, influence and persuasion in every chapter.

The book begins with an explanation of what sales is and how sales implicitly revolves around the lives of most people. It further delves into what it means to sell in the 21st century. The thought of changing the perception of people around sales is a great challenge because many of us who don’t live in the sales world are skeptical. As introduced in the book by Mr. Pink, “Sales is an endeavour that requires little intellectual throw weight – a task for slick glad-handers who skate through life on a shoeshine and a smile.”

Initially, it explains how individuals resonate with sales — every job includes non-sales selling, which means you have to encourage and convince others somehow. It could be anything … urging the co-workers or team members to help with a project, convincing them on the merits of an idea. Medicine and Education are the two largest sectors which heavily rely on this. Doctors are supposed to persuade people to change their health-damaging habits, and teachers must get students to spend time on their education. Every day, to one degree or another, each of us put on our salesperson hat.

What really catches my attention is the content of the book, and the way it is presented. Since I work in the customer experience industry, I know what honesty means for a customer. Sales has had a negative connotation for a long time. Buying a car today is not the same experience as buying a car in the 1980s, thanks to the internet. Today, you are a click away from getting all sorts of details unattainable in the past – price, reviews, availability, product comparisons, specifications, etc. Dealers are no longer the only source of information. Today’s buyer is so radically self-informed, as the book points out, “The only way to sell in this age is to be honest and transparent.”

In sales, ABC used to mean, “Always be closing.” This is no longer the case. Buyers now have a plethora of options and enough information to understand those options. The new ABC, as introduced by Mr. Pink, stands for “Attenuation, Buoyancy and Clarity.” What this precisely means is one should exit his/her perspective and enter another’s (Attenuation); one needs to lift oneself up when life offers a rejection (Buoyancy); and, finally, one should coax others by understanding their perspective (Clarity).

Furthermore, the book also talks about the personality types of people and whether or not a particular one makes for better salespeople, including “Extroverts.” While there is no evidence to this, psychologist Adam Grant has discovered that “Ambiverts” are the most effective salespeople. Mr. Pink presents this idea in the book with research and examples that explain how “Interrogative Self-Talk” helps give motivated reasons to pursue a goal and how it’s more productive than “Declarative Self-Talk.” The book also talks about how different people handle rejections, with observations by Martin Seligman. People who consider bad events as permanent, pervasive and personal are more likely to give up easily. However, those who indulge in explaining negative events in a flexible and optimistic manner are more likely to overcome adversity.

Coming back to sales, the book introduces different “Framing” methods.  The one I like the most is “The Experience Frame,” in which you frame your sale in experiential terms. This is key because it has been proven that people derive much greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences than they do from goods. This is more likely to lead to a satisfied customer and repeat business, and I personally can relate to this as COPC Inc. considers satisfactory experience as a crucial priority.

Later in the book, Mr. Pink introduces “Pitch.” A pitch plays an important role in moving and influencing people. Elisha Otis influenced many people in a mall by his pitch and what we today call an “Elevator Pitch.” Six example elevator pitches are introduced in the book. These can be learned and used by anyone to help motivate and influence others.

In conclusion, the book is a great read, not only for salespeople but for anyone who interacts with others. The book includes history, depth, clarity and a lot of wisdom as expressed through case studies and research by individuals like Joe Girard, Alfred Fuller, Adam Grant, Norman Hall, and Cathy Salit. I recommend this book as a must-read and thank Mr. Pink for his insights.

Author Himanshu Choudhary

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