Daniel Pink‘s new book, To Sell Is Human, continues to move up the business bestseller list and for good reason. It clearly outlines a customer-centric approach to selling that’s relevant to each one of us (whether or not you’re in a formal sales position), and is backed up with a ton of excellent and fascinating research.
It’s a quick read, and I bet your copy will end up as highlighted, dog-eared and noted as mine is. As I did with The Challenger Sale earlier, below are several of my highlights from the book to both give you some of Daniel’s most prescient points plus ideally compel you to read the full book soon.
Highlights from To Sell Is Human
You are likely spending more time than you realize selling in a broader sense—pitching colleagues, persuading funders, cajoling kids. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.
We’re persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got.
We’re devoting upward of 40 percent of our time on the job to moving (selling) others.
Honesty, fairness, and transparency are often the only viable path.
What matters more today is problem finding.
One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not know they have.
Make it personal and make it purposeful.
One out of every nine American workers works in sales.
Non-sales selling is selling that doesn’t involve anyone making a purchase (and we’re all doing it, all the time).
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.
To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.
To move people a large distance and for the long term, we have to create the conditions where they can move themselves. It means trying to elicit from people what their goals are for themselves and having the flexibility to frame what we do in that context.
When buyers can know more than sellers, sellers are no longer protectors and purveyors of information. They’re the curators and clarifiers of it—helping to make sense of the blizzard of facts, data, and options.
Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity: These three qualities, which emerge from a rich trove of social science research, are the new requirements for effectively moving people on the remade landscape of the twenty-first century.
Attunement is the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.
The ability to move people now depends on power’s inverse: understanding another person’s perspective, getting inside his head, and seeing the world through his eyes.
Start your encounters with the assumption that you’re in a position of lower power. That will help you see the other side’s perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you move them.
It’s very important to not just have a good understanding of the key players involved in making a decision, but to understand what each of their biases and preferences are.
Synching our mannerisms and vocal patterns to someone else so that we both understand and can be understood is fundamental to attunement.
Top performers are less gregarious than below-average ones and that the most sociable salespeople are often the poorest performers of all.
Extraverts, in other words, often stumble over themselves. They can talk too much and listen too little, which dulls their understanding of others’ perspectives.
Selling of any sort—whether traditional sales or non-sales selling—requires a delicate balance of inspecting and responding. Ambiverts can find that balance.
Subtle mimicry comes across as a form of flattery, the physical dance of charm itself.
We’re more likely to be persuaded by those whom we like.
Similarity—the genuine, not the manufactured, variety—is a key form of human connection. People are more likely to move together when they share common ground.
How to stay afloat amid that ocean of rejection is the second essential quality in moving others. I call this quality “buoyancy.”
Declaring an unshakable belief in your inherent awesomeness inflates a sturdy raft that can keep you bobbing in an ocean of rejection.
Mere affirmation feels good and that helps. But it doesn’t prompt you to summon the resources and strategies to actually accomplish the task.
The effects of positivity during a sales encounter infect the buyer, making him less adversarial, more open to possibility, and perhaps willing to reach an agreement in which both parties benefit.
Inserting a mild profanity like “damn” into a speech increases the persuasiveness of the speech and listeners’ perception of the speaker’s intensity.
Some negativity—what Fredrickson and Losada call “appropriate negativity”—is essential.
Levity is that unseen force that lifts you skyward, whereas gravity is the opposing force that pulls you earthward. Unchecked levity leaves you flighty, ungrounded, and unreal. Unchecked gravity leaves you collapsed in a heap of misery. Yet when properly combined, these two opposing forces leave you buoyant.
The salespeople with an optimistic explanatory style—who saw rejections as temporary rather than permanent, specific rather than universal, and external rather than personal—sold more insurance and survived in their jobs much longer.
Optimism, it turns out, isn’t a hollow sentiment. It’s a catalyst that can stir persistence, steady us during challenges, and stoke the confidence that we can influence our surroundings.
Negativity and negative emotions are crucial for our survival. They prevent unproductive behaviors from cementing into habits. They deliver useful information on our efforts. They alert us to when we’re on the wrong path.
Thinking through gloom-and-doom scenarios and mentally preparing for the very worst that can occur helps some people effectively manage their anxieties.
The ability to move others hinges less on problem solving than on problem finding
The quality of the problem that is found is a forerunner of the quality of the solution that is attained.
His best salespeople think of their jobs not so much as selling candy but as selling insights about the confectionery business.
The premium is now on “the ability to hypothesize,” to clarify what’s going to happen next.
Today, they must be skilled at curating it—sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces.
Today, they must be good at asking questions—uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems.
Clarity depends on contrast.
We often understand something better when we see it in comparison with something else than when we see it in isolation.
Reducing consumers’ options from twenty-four choices to six resulted in a tenfold increase in sales.
Framing people’s options in a way that restricts their choices can help them see those choices more clearly instead of overwhelming them.
People derive much greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences than they do from purchasing goods.
Framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead to satisfied customers and repeat business.
When individuals encounter weak negative information after already having received positive information, the weak negative information ironically highlights or increases the salience of the positive information.
Being honest about the existence of a small blemish can enhance your offering’s true beauty.
In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers.
The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the typical American hears or reads more than one hundred thousand words every day.
Questions can outperform statements in persuading others.
By making people work just a little harder, question pitches prompt people to come up with their own reasons for agreeing (or not).
When people summon their own reasons for believing something, they endorse the belief more strongly and become more likely to act on it.
Rhymes taste great and go down easily and we equate that smoothness with accuracy. In this way, rhyme can enhance reason.
For many of us, the opposite of talking isn’t listening. It’s waiting.
If each party looks past the other party’s position to its actual interests and invents options for mutual gain, negotiations could end with both sides better off than when they began.
The only way to truly influence others is to adopt “a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.
“To win an argument is to lose a sale.”
In both traditional sales and non-sales selling, we do better when we move beyond solving a puzzle to serving a person.
The most effective leaders weren’t heroic, take-charge commanders but instead were quieter, humbler types whose animating purpose was to serve those nominally beneath them.
Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. It begins with the idea that those who move others aren’t manipulators but servants.
If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?
The successful seller must feel some commitment that his product offers mankind as much altruistic benefit as it yields the seller in money.
It means doing more for the other person than he expects or you initially intended, taking the extra steps that transform a mundane interaction into a memorable experience.