Business Book Review from the MP Star Financial Bookshelf: To Sell Is Human

by | Small Business Consulting

We’re all in sales. Really, we are.

At least, that’s the premise of Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (Riverhead Hardcover. December 2012).

Sales titles have always performed very well in the business category. That’s fine except that with so many books, there’s always the risk of over-saturation and ho-hum indifference. Heck, if you don’t get around to that sales book, there’s always next month’s hot release, right?

But, be careful! You might miss something important! That’s certainly the case with To Sell is Human.

Daniel Pink came to national attention back in 2011 with Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In that book, Pink argued that the key to high performance is tapping into an internal, deeply-seated need to direct our own lives. Specifically, he referred to autonomy (people want to have control over their work), mastery (people want to get better at what they do) and purpose (people want to be part of something that is bigger than them).

While To Sell is Human may not be as broadly ambitious as Drive, Pink still manages to turn, inside-out, our conventional thinking about selling, buying and customer interaction.

He spends much of the book trying to balance his observations on how the modern work place is evolving with practical tips on influencing and “moving others.” That’s a tricky proposition and a tough order but, for the most part, he pulls it off.

Non-Sales Selling…and “What To Do”

Pink opens the work explaining that while only one in nine workers are technically in sales, the other eight are actually in “non-sales selling.” He contends that most of us spend 40 percent of our working hours “moving” others, and categorizes all this as a “rebirth” of the sales role in modern business practices.

His examples are convincing, and he points to high-growth industries like health care and educational services that place a heavy emphasis on persuading others.

The middle third of To Sell is Human focuses on the attitudes necessary to effectively move people. Pink spends considerable time on the three rules of attunement, the goal being to bring oneself into harmony with individuals, groups and context.

Not every reader will respond to this kind of, well…new-agey coaching, but some of the information offered (extroverts do not make the best salespeople…who knew?) is thought-provoking.

But by far the best material in To Sell is Human is found in the last pages, where Pink provides practical tips (What to do) for anyone trying to improve their selling – or moving – processes.

The information in The Six Successors of the Elevator Pitch will have you reevaluating the way you handle casual encounters with business associates. (For more, see MP Star Financial’s take on elevator pitches.) There’s also a section on how understanding the rules of improvisational theater can help you become more persuasive. File both under “must read.”

Overall, Pink is masterful on two counts:

1.) Explaining the repulsion (his term) most of us feel when being “sold to.” Think of the stereotypical used car salesperson. But he then cleverly repositions the sales role as a source of important information and genuine value-added for the customer and by the end of the book, you’re actually rooting for the salespeople among us.

2.) Emphasizing the importance of clarity and transparency in the Internet-era selling process. Everyone has access to the same information, so why fight it? Honesty is imperative. Others have drawn similar conclusions, but few have put it so well.

Ultimately, To Sell is Human is much like the blind man’s elephant, in that everyone can take something decidedly different – and compelling – from the experience.

But, for me, the most interesting part of the work was discovering how we all sell every day – whether we’re at work, or not – and whether we’re aware of it or not. Pink’s research and insights are impressive, and his advice is relevant and applicable. Hopefully, To Sell is Human will have some staying power in business circles.

Hopefully, too, it won’t be long before we hear again from Daniel Pink.

Watch for more business book reviews from MP Star Financial.

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