Have you ever convinced your colleagues to change their strategy based on your input? Did you design a new mailing that your boss incorporated in the next donor drive? Have you given a vote rec to a Legislative Director who passed it on to the legislator?
“We’re All in Sales Now” Daniel Pink trumpets at the beginning of his book, To Sell Is Human. “Physicians sell patients remedy,” he argues. “Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. Entrepreneurs woo funders, writers sweet-talk producers, coaches cajole players.” Every day you and I attempt to move, cajole, and sell to those around us. Everyone deals with other people every day, and ultimately, they must be moved in what Mr. Pink coins “Non-Sales Selling.”
Sales is no longer limited to sleazy car salesmen or selling vacuum cleaners door to door. Many things have changed; the internet has changed sales from caveat emptor to caveat venditor—or, buyer beware to seller beware; the old world of moving people is not focused on “closing”; and organizations have flattened from the corporate structures of the 1960’s (think IBM black suits).
As a result of the internet, an asymmetric shift in information has occurred and is applicable from everything to car salesmen and Congress. Think car salesmen: the “pushy” “sleazy” guy trying to sell you a lemon. In a post-internet world, Mr. Pink sings the praises of Carmax, one of the best performing car companies. Carmax is so dedicated to transparency that they offer computers in-store to browse their car selection. No longer can the car salesmen hassle the buyer with higher prices for a lemon car (or similarly hassle an honest car seller who suspects it is a lemon). If someone goes car shopping today, they likely know the car history and the competitor’s prices before they ever step on the lot.
Car dealers aren’t the only salesmen affected by the internet age. How did Congress react post-internet? Just as the car industry did: they became more transparent (to some extent) by posting bills online for certain amount of calendar days before being brought to the floor; they banned earmarks; Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., posts explanations of his votes on Facebook. American citizens can now read proposed legislation even before some lawmakers get to it.
Beyond the cultural shifts Mr. Pink expounds upon, the most interesting part of his book are his tips on how to move others—what we all want to do. Mr. Pink advocates for changing the mantra of sales from the old ABC of “Always Be Closing” to the much more zen-ful “Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.” Even though I am very much the stoic, macho-man and have a visceral rejection to most anything applying “feelings” to “people”, Mr. Pink sheds some quality daylight on how to achieve your ends.
“Attunement” means to bring “oneself into harmony with individuals, groups, and contexts.” Mr. Pink relies on a “rich trove” of social science to create his three best practices for attunement success: 1. Increase your power by reducing it. 2. Use your head as much as your heart. 3. Mimic strategically. For those of us who have overzealous interns, Mr. Pink also explains why “extraverts rarely make the best salespeople.”
“Buoyancy” helps you have a sunny disposition, to roll with the punches and to take a ‘no’ as a price signal in the transaction of moving others. In his book, you’ll learn from a band of life insurance salespeople and “some of the world’s premier social scientists what to do before, during, and after your sales encounters to remain afloat.”
His section on “Clarity” is “the capacity to make sense of murky situations.” Mr. Pink again defies logic and stating that “top salespeople—whether in traditional sales or non-sales selling—are” better at problem finding rather than problem solving. “One of the most effective ways of moving others,” he writes, “is to uncover challenges they may not know they have.”
Alas, I am still skeptical that Mr. Pink tries too hard to fit his narrative within some of the social science experiments he cites. For instance, in one study linking positivity to “flourishing”, a few social scientists that used “mathematical models and complexity theory to analyze team behavior” had a group of participants “record their positive and negative emotions each day for four weeks.” The scientists then “calculated the ratio of positive to negative emotions of the participants’ scores on a thirty-three-item measurement of their overall well-being
“What they found is that those with an equal—that is, 1 to 1—balance of positive and negative emotions had no higher well-being than those whose emotions were predominantly negative” Pink stated, “Both groups were generally languishing. Even more surprising, people whose ratio was 2 to 1 positive-to-negative were also no happier than those whose negative emotions exceeded their positive ones. But once the balance between emotions hit a certain number, everything tipped.” The “certain number” was “round up to 3” and, “once positive emotions outnumbered negatie emotions by 3 to 1,” people generally “flourished.”
A question for the scientists and Mr. Pink: what is the definition of “flourishing”? Material success? Mental well-being? Relationships with others? What of bias, in the study, to over-emphasize your good feelings so you don’t stand out among your peers as a grouse.
Overlooking the overreach of this specific example, there are some very useful tips in this next section. He provides powerful tips on how to succeed at your current job or entrepreneurial venture. Have a chance encounter with a high-dollar donor? The elevator pitch is SO 1880’s. How’s your Pixar pitch?
The “Pixar Pitch”, ie, developing a story line for your product or proposal is among the other pitches Mr. Pink highlights. He also has the twit-pitch, the question pitch, subject line pitch, one word pitch (think “Forward”), and rhyme pitch (think, “I like Ike,” but I’m also a fan of alliteration).
Do you need more click-throughs on your organization’s weekly newsletter? In that case, perhaps you should try subject line pitch. A well-paid Carnegie researcher has determined the principles that get the most e-mail views are utility, curiosity, and specificity. Utility works the best when “recipients had lots of e-mail.” However, curiosity “drove attention to email under conditions of low demand.” Still thinking of sending your catchy but mushy e-mail with “The Latest from Us is Shocking” to a busy hill staffer? You should probably try “New Study Highlights Citizens Affected by Regressive Effects of Regulation.”
Cumulatively, there are some great lessons in this book for a young professional. One stands out most of all: You need to be nimble. Web designers create content; legislative correspondents draft press releases; development associates design mailings. This is a fact of the labor market now. The more skills you possess, the better.
To Sell Is Human won’t teach you how to do a different job, but it will open your eyes and ears to opportunities within your organization to expand your skills, improve your impact, and to move others. The stories told and skills taught in the book are worth the price.
Sam Pfister serves as Membership Director for America’s Future Foundation. Sell Yourself image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kathlyn Ehl
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin