Daniel Pink has written several best-selling books on behavior, work, and motivation, including A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (2005); Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009); and his latest book released this year, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

In Pink’s book on sales/marketing, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, released in 2012, he shares an interesting take on how we should view sales. He puts forward the theory that in fact we are all involved in “selling” any time we try to convince others to do something; whether trying to persuade friends to join us in an activity, children to complete their homework, employees to get on board with a new program at the office, etc. 

Learning from history

Pink discusses the historical view of sales from the stereotypical car salesman to the door-to-door salesmen of the Fuller Brush era.  Amazingly, Pink managed to find a man in San Francisco in 2012 who was still selling Fuller Brush products door-to-door after 40 years – Norman Hall. Pink spent a considerable amount of time observing Hall and discussing the philosophy that had kept him going for so long. Hall’s basic premise was to focus on the customer; get to know them and what they needed; leave them on an upbeat note, and not take rejection personally.

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Pink notes that in the age of the internet, selling has changed significantly. The customer now has access to almost the same information as the seller, therefore the seller needs to be more of a curator and clarifier than an information provider. He dismisses the idea that extroverts make the best salespeople. Instead, he thinks that ambiverts (people with a balance of introvert and extrovert characteristics) are better at moving people because they know when to speak up and when to stay quiet and listen.

Necessary skills – the ABC’s

According to Pink, three skills are necessary to move people – attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. 

Attunement is the ability to look at things from another person’s perspective and to develop an understanding of their biases and preferences. 

Buoyancy is the ability to maintain a positive upbeat attitude, stay optimistic, and not think of rejections as personal, permanent, or universal. 

Clarity involves being able to listen carefully and ask the right questions in order to identify the real problem.

Pink provides detail on putting the skills into practice through pitching, the ability to improvise, and most importantly, being able to explain how the services being offered can positively impact and better the lives of the customer. 

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in businesses that provide either services or products, and I’ve hired and worked closely with various sales teams and individuals.  In retrospect, I can see that the sales people I worked with who were most successful naturally embodied many of the skills and practices outlined in this book, and they probably made good use of them in their personal lives also.

Pink provides thought-provoking ideas even for those of us who do not consider ourselves directly involved in sales. His ideas can be applied to everyday interactions both at work and in our personal lives.

Listen to Pink discussing the ABC’s and more here.