Mini Book Review: To Sell is Human

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

It used to be that 1 out of 9 people were in sales. These days, Dan Pink argues, the other 8 are also in sales. Obviously, he's using a much wider definition of "sales" here. His argument is that we're all trying to convince people of things or ideas all the time. So while we don't exactly expect to get money in return, we still want to influence others to change their habits or their life in one way or another.

Daniel Pink looks at why sales has such a sleazy image and what could be done about it. He's giving lots of examples of "sales" approaches that work and analyses why that is so. In trying to summarise his findings, he wants us to replace the old sales adage of ABC - "Always Be Closing" - with a new ABC of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. Explaining what he means by these three terms takes up the second part of the book.

In the third part, What To Do, Pink then explains what it takes to be a successful "sales" person (in his wide sense) these days.

The chapters in the second and third part are accompanied by what the author calls "Sample Cases", in which he gives more concrete tips on the topic discussed in the chapter, e.g. after explaining buoyancy, the sample case section gives advice to practise interrogative self-talk, to monitor your positivity ratio and on how to tweak your explanatory style. In these sections, the book switches from analysis to giving practical advice.

In my opinion, the book does have a few problems. First of all, I'm not subscribing to the very wide definition of "sales". I don't think I would consider convincing your child to clean up their room as a form of "sales", not even of an idea or concept. Also, the new ABC - Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity - doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, especially if you're not a native speaker (I had to look up "buoyancy" and I'm still not sure how it's pronounced). I think it would have been better to find a new, more memorable slogan.

Having said that: Overall, Daniel Pink is right. We do have to convince people of our ideas all the time, so this wider definition of sales is influencing our lives every day - and we need to get better at it. Maybe he shouldn't have insisted on calling it "sales", because I'm sure (and I'm extrapolating from the reactions I got from people who saw me reading the book) that word will turn off some of the people who should be reading this book.

So in trying to sell people on reading this book, try pointing them to its subtitle; it's really about moving others.

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