Did you know I’m now a salesperson?

#15 – To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

A Dan Pink book is always a must-read. The man can write. He is thought-provoking, has great stories and backs his writing with a lot of social science. Having said that, I didn’t like this as much as his previous books. It’s still interesting. 596 Amazon customers rated this book 4.5 stars.

Why read it?

Pink argues that even if you’re not in sales, you spend 40% of your time in non-sales selling, convincing your colleagues to part with their time and resources. He calls this process “moving”. “Moving” is crucial for job success, so we need to get good at it.

The qualities we need are attunement (connecting and harmonising with others), buoyancy (positively dealing with rejection) and clarity (understanding what the real problems are and how to take action).

We need to work on three key abilities: pitching (make it compelling to start a conversation with the other person), improvising (dealing with the complex and unpredictable conditions) and serving (improving other people’s lives).

At the end of each chapter, Pink shares ideas and tips on how to express these qualities and abilities.

Interesting things I l learnt

The E-test

Take a short and simple test to determine how good you’re at perspective-taking: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/daniel-h-pink/8641925/Daniel-H.-Pink-Why-bosses-need-to-show-their-soft-side.html

The importance of perspective-taking

Perspective-taking is crucial to persuasion: it’s the ability to “step outside [our] own experience and imagine the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of another”.

Jeff Bezos at Amazon has a wonderful practice to enable perspective-taking. In his meeting rooms, he “includes one more chair that remains empty. It’s there to remind those assembled who’s really the most important person in the room: the customer.”

Ask: what’s in it for the person you’re trying to persuade and why should she care?

Perspective-taking is more effective than empathy

“Perspective-taking is a cognitive capacity; it’s mostly about thinking. Empathy is an emotional response; it’s mostly about feeling.” While both are important, one study has found that the former is more effective, producing “both greater joint gains and more profitable individual outcomes”. The study found that empathy impaired creative solutions and self-interest.

Mimicking others without being too obvious is rewarding

“…a Dutch study found that waitresses who repeated diners’ orders word for word earned 70 percent more tips than those who paraphrased orders—and that customers with servers who mimicked were more satisfied with their dining experience.”

Extraverts are not the best sale-people. Ambiverts are. 

“One of the most comprehensive investigations—a set of three meta-analyses of thirty-five separate studies involving 3,806 salespeople—found that the correlation between extraversion and sales was essentially nonexistent.”

Ambiverts are people who are “neither overly extraverted nor wildly introverted”. They strike a balance between knowing when to speak up and shut up.

What is the best opening question when talking to strangers?

Answer: Where are you from? Jim Collins said it. I swear every shopkeeper in tourist markets around the world know this.

The most effective self-talk is not declarative. It’s asking questions.

Lots of gurus recommend self-talk to boost your self-confidence and hence increase your self-effectiveness. Such self-talk includes, “I am nature’s greatest miracle” and that “I will be the greatest salesman the world has ever known.”

Pink recommends instead of making a statement, ask yourself a question. Instead of saying, “I’m the best. This is going to be easy”, say “Can I make a great pitch?” When you ask a question, you “provide yourself something that reaches deeper and lasts longer”. In answering the question, you “summon the resources and strategies to actually accomplish the task”.

In the context of moving others, problem finding is more important than problem solving.

In the PowerPoint workshops I conduct, many participants think they have a software problem. But the more serious problem they have is a communication problem. Today, you can solve most of your software problems through Youtube. But when you don’t even know that you have a problem, how are you going to solve it? A big part of my job as a facilitator is to help participants know what their real problems are and how to solve them.

“…a few years ago, the Conference Board, the well-regarded U.S. business group, gave 155 public school superintendents and eighty-nine private employers a list of cognitive capacities and asked their respondents to rate these capacities according to which are most important in today’s workforce. The superintendents ranked “problem solving” number one. But the employers ranked it number eight. Their top-ranked ability: “problem identification.”

Pink gives a good example of his vacuum cleaner problem. If he wants to buy one, he could easily find answers on the internet without the need for a salesperson. But his real problem is “clean floors”. And if someone can help him realise that and solve that problem, he wouldn’t need to buy a vacuum cleaner.

When selling yourself, talk about your potential accomplishments.

“People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment because it’s more uncertain, the researchers argue. That uncertainty can lead people to think more deeply about the person they’re evaluating—and the more intensive processing that requires can lead to generating more and better reasons why the person is a good choice. So next time you’re selling yourself, don’t fixate only on what you achieved yesterday. Also emphasize the promise of what you could accomplish tomorrow.”

What is the purpose of the pitch?

“The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.”

E-mail subject lines should provide information, invoke curiosity and ultra-specific.

“your e-mail subject line should be either obviously useful (Found the best & cheapest photocopier) or mysteriously intriguing (A photocopy breakthrough!)”

“I might use this subject line if I suspected your inbox was jammed: 3 simple but proven ways to get your e-mail opened. But if I thought you had a lighter e-mail load, and you already knew me well, I might use: Some weird things I just learned about e-mail.

The Pixar Pitch

“Once upon a time ______________________________. Every day, _______________. One day _________________________. Because of that, ___________________. Because of that, _______________________. Until finally ___________________.”

Once upon a time only some people were in sales. Every day, they sold stuff, we did stuff, and everyone was happy. One day everything changed: All of us ended up in sales—and sales changed from a world of caveat emptor to caveat venditor. Because of that, we had to learn the new ABCs—attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. Because of that, we had to learn some new skills—to pitch, to improvise, and to serve. Until finally we realized that selling isn’t some grim accommodation to a brutal marketplace culture. It’s part of who we are—and therefore something we can do better by being more human.”

The three key questions in preparing a pitch

“After someone hears your pitch . . .

What do you want them to know?
What do you want them to feel?
What do you want them to do?”

In competitive sales presentation, “Go first if you’re the incumbent, last if you’re the challenger.”

Don’t be in the middle. According to research from Virginia Tech University.

Say “up to 120 minutes” is more credible than “up to 2 hours”.

How to listen well – slow down and shut up; “Listen without listening for anything.”

Read Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone

Full text: https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-KIkLrSPi_3lzPl5v/Keith%20Johnstone-Impro_%20Improvisation%20and%20the%20Theatre-Methuen%20Drama%20(1981)_djvu.txt


I’m inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s annual projects and decided to have one of my own.  Read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter: http://tinyletter.com/isaiahlim



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