Insights on Sales and Presenting from Dan Pink’s New Book, To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink - Renovate Communication Design, LLC blogYou’ve probably found that a good part of your day is spent persuading others. Bosses persuade (or tell) their employees to get things done. Workers cajole their colleagues. Parents implore their children. My kids seem to possess a persuasion gene when they want something from me. If I had that gene, it’s apparently recessed over the years.

If you present or speak regularly, you already know this because you’re in the persuasion and marketing business. That’s the perspective we take in our Presentation Renovation approach.

So if we’re all attempting to influence those around us, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to do that well?

Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human, is like a toolbox packed with the stuff you need to effectively persuade and influence others. The key here is effectively.

Like Dan’s other books, TSIH is built on loads of interviews, observation, survey data, and social science research. He convincingly makes the case that, while 1 out of every 9 workers in the U.S. is “in sales,” the work environment has changed enough over the years that many of us spend up to 40% of our days in “non-sales selling:” persuading, influencing, and convincing others in non-purchase situations.

So you may not be Willy Loman but you’re still likely selling–whether you sell for a living or not.

TSIH is divided into three parts. Part One explains how this new world of selling/persuasion came to be. The second and third parts, briefly summarized in the video below, help equip you with the tools you need to work effectively in the new world.

Although the book won’t be available for another week, I’ve read a pre-release copy and it’s full of good stuff. (By the way, if you preorder before December 31, 2012, and send Dan your receipt, he’ll send you a nice little bundle of goodies for free.)

Here are just a few of the surprising insights you’ll find (with a view especially toward presenting).

Extraverts don’t make the best salespeople (or speakers)

It seems to be one of those unspoken truths: you have to be outgoing to sell or speak. If you beat yourself up because you’re not a back-slapping glad-hander, relax. In fact, research shows that people who ride the fence between introversion and extraversion—ambiverts—do better than either group because they can both listen (which introverts do well) and respond (which extraverts do well—see TSIH, chapter 4).

This results from what Dan calls attunement, the ability to see things from a point of view other than your own. It’s about getting inside the head of your audience–something that good speakers and presenters do even before they hit the stage.

Pumping up with positive self-talk is less effective than peppering yourself with questions

If you’ve felt stage fright before a talk (we all have and do), maybe you’ve given yourself a little pep talk: “I can do this, I’ll be great, they’ll love me!” Instead, interrogative self-talk—asking yourself questions—may be more effective.

When you ask questions, you automatically start seeking solutions (see TSIH, chapter 5). This is the quality of buoyancy, the ability to keep going in the face of rejection—an essential skill for salespeople and presenters alike.

Next time you prepare a talk, don’t give yourself a pep talk (“This is going to be a great talk!”). Rather, ask, “How can I make this a great talk for my audience?” Then figure out how to do that.

Uncovering problems for your audience/client may be more valuable than offering solutions

A good speaker (or salesperson or consultant) should be an expert at asking questions. Why? When you’re awash in information and data, what you really need is someone to help frame the problem you’re trying to answer. Asking good questions reveals the problem that ultimately needs to be addressed. Clarity is the quality that helps you do just that (see TSIH, chapter 6).

Some compelling research shows that creativity is really about finding problems, not finding solutions:

[the] people most disposed to creative breakthroughs in art, science, or any endeavor tend to be problem finders. These people sort through vast amounts of information and inputs, often from multiple disciplines; experiment with a variety of different approaches; are willing to switch directions in the course of a project; and often take longer than their counterparts to complete their work. (TSIH, 129*)

If you regularly present or train on a certain topic, incorporate ways to ask your audience questions–not necessarily for the sake of providing answers, but for provoking and gaining insight. Let your audience work a little bit.

Learn to persuade with the new ABCs

To Sell Is Human contains a number of practical exercises and tools to help you learn attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. In addition, presenters and consultants will find a great deal of application (not to mention thought-provoking ideas) in the last three chapters which cover pitching, improvising, and serving. For example, instead of a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch, can you pitch your business or idea with just one word? And could studying improv help you with your persuasion skills? Interestingly, speaker Scott Berkun and coach Nick Morgan have recommended improv lessons/workshops as well. And, at its heart, selling is really about serving: making the world a better place. Isn’t that why we present as well?

Treat yourself and your team to Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human. Highly recommended.

*Page numbers based on the pre-release copy. The published page numbers may differ.

%d bloggers like this: