Author: Daniel Pink
APA Style Citation
Pink, D. (2012). To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Penguin Group: New York, New York.
Daniel Pink argues in his fifth book that everyone is a salesperson despite only one in nine people in the current workforce reporting that they have a job in sales. Pink suggests that the sales people of today either have (or should have) moved past the traditional and often sleazy sales tactics of past eras. Nearly all respondents in a survey reported spending at least part of their day selling a product or service or trying to convince someone to do something even though only one in three of these individuals believe they work in sales. Pink contends that today’s sales force ranges from teachers who must convince their students to get excited about a new lesson to executives who must try to move their employees to a new technology platform to anyone who tries to convince people to align with their perspective are essentially in the business of sales.
Pink argues that more has changed regarding sales in the past decade than in the several decades prior, primarily these changes are the result of access to information via the Internet. For example, car salespeople in the past had much more information regarding the cost of the car and comparison sales than did the customer. This clearly provided a distinct advantage to the salesperson who could take advantage of their wealth of knowledge, leaving the customer feeling taken advantage of and swindled. The internet has shifted the knowledge base and therefore shifted how sales work, Pink sees this as an opportunity to make sales a win-win outcome for both parties.
Pink spends a couple of days with Norman Hall, San Francisco’s last Fuller Brush salesperson as he visits his long-time customer’s door-to-door and delivers their completed orders the following day. Hall served in the Navy and considers himself a failed actor who accidentally fell into a life selling Fuller-cleaning brushes. He has been going strong for 40 years but has cut his hours to a few days a week and plans on retiring soon. Hall wanted to quit four times in his first week but has found a way to put a positive spin on the many negative responses he encountered to his daily pitches. Instead of thinking that the person has said “No,” he reframes these responses, as “they have not yet said yes.” Pink explains that the ABC's to selling are no longer Always Be Closing but rather Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. Hall demonstrates attunement by listening intently to the needs of his customers, buoyancy by staying positive in the face of many negative responses and clarity by knowing all of his products specific details (central route to persuasion). While Hall has adapted to the time in a sense by adding to the products he sells and to the more contemporary needs of his clients, his laminated binder of products and miles of walking the hilly streets of San Francisco seem to belong to a bygone era. The technology revolution has passed him by, and many people simply search for the products they want on their own.
In addition to redefining sales, Pink offers recommendations on how to improve the modern-day sales force to move people in a positive and constructive direction. With the rise of entrepreneurs and small businesses (Etsy, eBay), there are no longer large divisions devoted to sales, but rather a single person or a small group of people who must wear multiple hats in small, homegrown businesses. This can be challenging, but as Pink argues, today, selling is everyone’s job.
In terms of moving people, Pink describes irritation as “challenging people to do something that we want them to do” while agitation is “challenging people to do something they want to do.” Good salespeople move people towards agitation and get more people to want to engage in the ideas the individual is selling.
Most people believe that extroverts make better sales people but data seems to suggest otherwise, while extroversion may serve salespeople in the sense that they easily interact with others, purchasers also want to feel as if someone hears their concerns to which introverts respond more adeptly. Those who score near the middle of the introversion-extroversion scale sell nearly twice as much as those on either end of the scale. Pink calls those in the center of the scale ambiverts. He contends that because of the knowledge shift from the salesperson to a more equal playing field, the modern-day sales force will need to move from power to empathy, ambiverts can empathize but also be assertive, both skills that serve salespeople well. Pink believes that sales need not be a combative, win-lose situation but a positive outcome for all parties involved. This approach may mean that the salesperson must put themselves in a low-power position by providing the purchaser with the power of choice. Instead of creating a competition versus cooperation situation, the salesperson can create a cooperation-cooperation situation.
Pink concludes the books with some recommendations for selling better in the modern era. He cites the often-referenced Jam study in which those who had six choices of jam purchased 30% more jam than those who had a choice between 24 options. As a seller choice is good, but too much choice can be paralyzing. Pink touches upon how efficient and clear pitches along with finely tuned improvising skills can improve sales. He encourages sellers to become better listeners so that they can better respond to the needs of the buyers for whom they work. He encourages sellers to “upserve” instead of “upsell”, give the customer more than they expected, give them your personal email or phone number and tell them to call if they have a problem, follow up after the sale is made to be sure they are satisfied, this is part of what he is referring to as a win-win. Finally, gone are the days of the seller taking advantage of the unknowing buyer, today’s leaders and sellers should serve those to whom they sell. The world has shifted since Fuller men knocked door to door, but now that everyone is in sales the game is no longer the same.
Other Related Resources
Interview at Wharton School of Business
Psychology Today: 6 Principles of Persuasion
Forbes: Foot-in-the-Door Technique: How to Get People to Take Action
Daniel Pink Website
Determine if you are an Introvert or an Extrovert
Take the strengths inventory: Martin Seligman
Take the brief strengths questionnaire (under questionnaires) to find out the areas in which you excel.
Psychological Figures and Concepts
Central Route to Persuasion
Competition versus Cooperation
Extraversion versus Introversion