Dan Pink – To Sell is Human

"Whether you are peddling cars in the lot or ideas in the meeting, increase your effectiveness by decreasing your power."

Dan Pink is the author of five provocative bestselling books about the changing world of work. I highly recommend his work, as it is easy to get through and extremely informative.  His talk at the conference was around His book, To Sell is Human, about the art of selling: what has changed, what no longer works, and how to sell in a world of information parity.  Check out the video after the break of the core concepts of his book!


Dan Pink

Data parity is a powerful concept in today’s interconnected world. It used to be that you had to rely heavily on the salesman to provide you with information pertinent to the product you were purchasing.  Where consumers gave power, sellers abused it.

When you ask people to think of a salesman, thousands will respond with words like, “Scum”, “Sleazy”, “Pushy”, and “Evil”.  This is in no small part because of thousands of years of buyer beware conditioning. It is no small surprise, either, that none of the thousands of participants are ever thinking of a woman. Huh.

Now when we buy a car, we do hours of research online before we even walk into a dealer. There is no obscurity, we know the market value and all the options and all the tricks, and in some cases have already made our decision long before we walk in to buy.

Dan talked about a few studies done that I thought were really eye-opening. The first was on the correlation to sales and extroversion. The data showed that extremely extroverted people, the people that you think get promoted in sales, have sales numbers as bad as the extremely introverted people. The highest performing Sales agents are identified as Ambiverts, or a mix of extroversion and introversion.  They know when to pressure, and when to listen.

How do you know who feels they have power in the room? Dan shared a simple test. With an auditorium full of listeners, he asked, “Please trace the captial letter ‘E’ on your forehead.” After we all traced our E’s, he explained the second study, run by Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.  See respondents either draw the E backwards from their perspective, so that others can read it, or from their own persepctive, which is backwards to everyone else.  The study found that the more power an individual possessed, the more likely the person was to draw the letter from their perspective — making it appear backwards to others. In fact, individuals assigned to a high power group were three times more likely to draw a self-oriented “E.”

Knowing that you identify as a power person can help you identify whether you are really listening to the needs of those around you. This skill is paramount in the modern Sales world, where the seller isn’t the only one with all the answers.

With regards to selling ideas, Dan gave some really interesting insights.  He spoke of presidential debates between Reagan and Carter, in which Reagan ran on the question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?“.  Dan explained that this method of selling someone your idea by asking a question is only possible when the facts are on your side. You will ask people, and they will say, “You know what, four years ago we had more, four years ago my friends had jobs, and we could afford to take that vacation etc.”  When the facts are on your side, people will come up with their own reasons why they support you, and they will believe them more fervently then any reason you could provide, simply because it will not hit home as hard.

The inverse is also relevant. In the last presidential debate, Mitt Romney, as a tribute of sorts, asked Reagan’s famous question earlier in the campaign.  Interestingly, after it was mentioned, it was never asked again by him in all subsequent debates and speeches of the 2012 presidential campaign. This question in this context was never going to be as effective, because 2008 with its financial crash was “in point of fact” worse than the 2012 economic situation. Therefore, if you have the facts, lead with questions, and if you don’t, make new facts!

Dan was vibrant, entertaining, and incredibly relevant.  I really enjoyed his talk. I highly recommend you read some of Dan’s work, if you have a spot on your reading list.  Other titles include:


Posted in Inspirations, Life Lessons, Shifting Perspectives, Work. Tagged with , , , , , .

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