To Sell is Human. The surprising truth that Dan Pink’s new book is about Sales!

to sell is human2Expectations are running high for Dan Pink’s latest book, thanks to the worldwide success of his book ‘Drive’ and the wonderful animation video that went with it. During an interview in March 2011, I was able to wheedle out of him what his new book is about: Sales. He said about sales then: ‘I have discovered that, essentially, so many things we do are about sales. Not only the car salesman but also parents bringing up their children, entering into relationships in your private life, working as a consultant, learning processes: sales actually has an important role in all of these activities. That’s why I want to investigate the essence of sales and understand it better. I will be actively exploring various sales jobs – yes, even a second-hand car salesman.’ Now Pink’s book is ready: ‘To Sell is Human, the surprising truth about moving others’ and it is being launched in the US on the last day of 2012. Here is a sneak preview.

Everyone in Sales

Pink started looking into sales and determined that 1 in 9 Americans have an official sales position. But the other 8 are also involved in activities which he labels sales. It is not about selling ‘things’ but about selling concepts and ideas. The amount of conceptual work has increased enormously in recent years and all of these concepts have to be sold in one way or another. The web designer sells his design, the consultant her approach to the board, departments try and get the lion’s share of an organization’s budget and we try and get as many followers as possible through Twitter. Essentially it is all about influence, getting others to move. Pink’s theory is that everyone has sales tasks; also the 8 out of 9 Americans who don’t have a salesjob are involved in ‘non-selling sales’.

How Sales Has Changed

In part 1, Pink shows how the rise of the internet has changed two crucial things. salesmanFirstly, ‘things’ and ‘services’ are more often bought online. Electronics, clothes, airline tickets or insurance, things which used to be sold by salespeople are now sold online, without a salesperson. Secondly, the asymmetrical relationship regarding the availability of information about products and services is disappearing, or has even been reversed.  Whereas the seller used to have a lot more information about products or services, now it is often the buyer who knows just as much. When buying very complex products or services this leads to the role of the seller at a much later phase in the decision-making process and based on other expertise and competencies. He covers this in Part 2.

ABC’s of Sales

This new sort of sales asks for different expertise, qualities and competencies. The most important ABC for sales was always ‘Always Be Closing’, but Pink has come up with a new one: ‘Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity’. In chapters 4 to 6 he talks about these concepts. Attunement is about the ability to see the world through the eyes of someone else in order to be able to really understand their concerns and needs. Buoyancy means literally ‘staying afloat’ and is about resilience, perseverance, and optimism. In our attempts to influence others we are confronted with ‘seas of rejection’ in which we have to keep our heads above water. Clarity is about lucidity, brightness. This gives added value today: probably because in comples sales it is more about organizing and sorting abundant information to reach the core of a problem, than about the solution itself.

What can be done?

elevator gangnam stylePart 3 of the book is about what can be done: Pitch, Improvise, Serve. Pink promotes a new form of ‘pitch’ because the ‘elevator pitch’ is no longer good enough: everyone is checking their smartphone in the elevator, these days.  (Or has the elevator become an unsuitable location thanks to Gangnam style? – GD ponders). Also the importance of improvisation and how this can help the power of persuasion is dealt with. And lastly the importance of making (non-selling) sales personal and meaningful (Serve) and how that can be done.

I am looking forward to Pink’s new book and expect that it will also be an interesting source for L&D professionals in order to understand better the non-selling part of our work and apply it more effectively.  Apart from that I really hope another wonderful animation video based on this new book will be released. In the meantime we’ve got to be content with the book preview.

Ger Driesen

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