February 20, 2013

To Sell is Human: a Review of Daniel Pink’s latest.

If you haven’t already heard about To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,  here’s a brief review of this exciting new book by Daniel H. Pink.

Pink is known for his previous work, Drive and A Whole New Mind.

His latest book (NY: Riverhead Books, 2012) challenges the cultural stereotypes about selling and sales people. He shares information from a Qualtrics survey called “What Do You Do at Work?” that explains how much selling is a part of any successful career.

He calls selling that doesn’t involve a product “non-sales selling”—which seems to beg the question to me, but he explains:

“1.  People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling—persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of professions, we are devoting roughly twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others.

2. People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success—even in excess of the considerable amount of time they devote to it.”

He redefines selling as “moving others” and supports the principles I espoused in Selling with Soul Version 2.0.

Selling is the lifeblood of business and deserves respect. He also points out how the internet has changed selling from caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) to cavet venditor (let the seller beware) because information can now be accessed by both parties equally and a buyer no longer needs a sales person to form a preference. This can happen between the buyer and the internet without a seller even knowing there’s an opportunity.

He also shares interesting research about the difference between being a problem-solver and a problem finder. The “finder” is skilled at finding the correct problem to address rather than accepting the surface view of what needs to be done. He tells a story about being in the market for a vacuum cleaner and how he doesn’t really want to buy an appliance; he wants clean floors. He can get product data and pricing from the internet. But what if he gets the “problem” wrong?

“Maybe my real problem is that the screens on my windows aren’t sufficient to keep out dust…(or) my carpet collects dirt too easily, (or) maybe I should join a neighborhood appliance coop (or) hire a cleaning service…”

You get the idea. Helping our customers understand the underlying problems and facilitating their analysis of alternative solutions is the real work of a seller. That’s why they value our knowledge of the market, product usage and environmental factors more than they expect us to be the product experts.

Daniel Pink says, “existing data shows that one in nine Americans works in sales. But the new data reveal something more startling:  So do the other eight in nine. They, too, are spending their days moving others and depending for their livelihoods on the ability to do it well.”

I’ve always said that sales is the only job that creates more jobs and sellers deserve to be treated with respect for their vital role in growing business.

Is the world starting to agree with me? It’s nice to know that at least this author does.

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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