To Sell Is Human

The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

Reviewed by Alex Lawrence, Vice Provost at Weber State University

April 8, 2013

I often read and hear about the incredible value associated with hiring technical talent. The people that code, design and otherwise create the products used online, in software and as the driver for most modern technology are the focus of many organizational recruiting efforts. This is terrific and I’m glad to see it.

However, I feel like sales, and those that are responsible for sales, are sometimes overlooked as lesser contributors to a technology company’s success. This book tackles the perception that selling is somehow dirty and beneath the great majority of us—the domain of used car salesmen and those that simply don’t know when to stop pushing stuff on others.

While sometimes true, it often is not.

Selling does have a bad reputation. Pink writes, “To the smart set, sales is an endeavor that requires little intellectual throw weight—a task for slick glad-handers who skate through life on a shoeshine and a smile”—and deception, of course.

But deception was only possible because buyers lacked information or expertise. Now, since buyers have reviews, ratings and comparison-shopping at their fingertips, sellers have more incentives to be fair and honest.

In addition to sales in a company or job, Pink asserts that we humans spend considerable energy each day trying to get others to do what we want them to. Namely, to comply, agree and even obey. A favorite quote of mine from an executive interviewed in the book often rings true: “Almost everything I do involves persuasion.” Whether you directly sell products, participate in team efforts, attempt to direct the behavior of others or run your own business, you are selling, or more specifically, moving others to do something. This is Pink’s point.

This book highlights what Pink does best (and what I really enjoy): examining empirical research for applicable, and sometimes counterintuitive, insights. For example, Pink outlines six replacements to the traditional elevator pitch and even shows why the belief that extroverts make the best salespeople doesn’t prove true. There are many, many more interesting stories like these laced in with the data.

The result is a book steeped in enlightening research, which also proves to be incredibly entertaining.

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