Wednesday 22 November 2017

Business: Letting us in on the big secret to success in sales

To Sell is Human By Daniel Pink

DANIEL Pink knows something about sales. Two of his earlier books, after all, have been bestsellers. His latest is intended to let the rest of us in on the secret.

And he succeeds well enough. Mr Pink, whose works include 'Drive' and 'A Whole New Mind', is one of those amiable writers who artfully blends anecdotes, insights and studies from the social sciences into a frothy blend of utility and entertainment.

His new book, 'To Sell Is Human', follows this reliable recipe, complete with a reference to the Prisoner's Dilemma, a staple hypothetical without which no such work would be complete.

Mr Pink's main message is that we're all in sales now. One in nine Americans, and a comparable proportion of workers in other countries, is directly employed in selling.


Yet that's only the beginning; the rest of us also spend a huge proportion of our time trying to talk people into things. Mr Pink says that it's all sales, so we'd better get good at it. His other point is that today's selling landscape has changed radically.

The first point – that we're all in sales – is valid, but it's not as new as he seems to think. None other than Adam Smith observed that, as a result of capitalism, everyone "becomes in some measure a merchant". That was in 'An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations', which first appeared in 1776.

Changing nature

But as to the changing nature of sales, Mr Pink is on to something. He observes that the internet has swept away much of the information advantage previously enjoyed by sales people.

In place of the time-honoured ABCs of selling – Always Be Closing – Mr Pink suggests the New Age-sounding Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.

Sellers, he says, must focus on a buyer's needs – and not just the ones the customer knows about, but ones customers haven't even realised they had.

Effective selling means not just problem-solving, but problem-finding. It means not exploiting, but serving.

Like most of its Malcolm Gladwell-inspired brethren, this short book is a little too long. But the time spent with the last active Fuller Brush Man is a joy, and it's fun to read about how Elisha Otis gave the world's greatest elevator pitch – by cutting the cable on an elevator with himself in it to prove his version was fail-safe.

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