The Next Book You Need to Read: To Sell is Human

To sell is human dan pink

I'm a fan of the author Dan Pink. I interviewed him more than 10 years ago for eMarketer about his book Free Agent Nation. A Whole New Mind was revelatory. Johnny Bunko didn't do much for me, but I do remember reading it and recall the gist, so that's something. Despite loving his work overall, I still had no interest in reading his recent book To Sell is Human. And yet, for whatever reason, I wound up buying it and, in some moment of weakness, I read it.

I'm so glad  I did.

The introduction of the book talks a lot about non-sales selling – namely, how 40% of our workday is usually trying to persuade people, outside of a typical sales context. Not surprisingly, that applies to my job too. Granted, my job is at a marketing agency that is trying to sell its clients on ways that they can sell more of their products (whether or not the product is tangible). For me, a lot of my day is more on the so-called buy side, where so-called vendors are constantly pitching me, so I deal with dozens of salespeople in a typical week. (Note: I'm not a huge fan of the whole buyer vs seller / vendor distinction, but its simplicity sometimes works, such as in the recent post The Biggest Red Flag from a Vendor).

I digress though.

To Sell is Human is a marvelous book. The best thing about it is that odds are no matter what your profession is, you will wind up doing at least one thing differently (ideally for the better) after reading this. If you can get just one thing out of it, to paraphrase Alan Patricof of Greycroft Ventures, it will be a good use of your time. And you might do or think about far more differently after reading it.

Here are a few highlights from my notes I highlighted. There are some other GREAT ones, but you'll have to read the book yourself, as it won't work to quote him entirely out of context without some of the longer stories involved.

Select quotes:

  • "Since Kickstarter launched in 2009, 1.8 million people have funded twenty thousand projects with more than $200 million. In just three years, Kickstarter surpassed the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts as the largest backer of arts projects in the United States." [This is more of an aside in the book, but fascinating nonetheless.]
  • "Start your encounters with the assumption that you’re in a position of lower power. That will help you see the other side’s perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you move them."
  • "Amazon, like most organizations, has lots of meetings. But at the important ones, alongside the chairs in which his executives, marketing mavens, and software jockeys take their places, Bezos 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."
  • One of the most meaningful sections for me was Pink's look at problem finding vs. problem solving, where problem finders tend to perform better than solvers. He noted, "The Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, now offers a course called 'Problem Finding, Problem Solving' because, as its instructor says, "part of being an innovative leader is being able to frame a problem in interesting ways and . . . to see what the problem really is before you jump in to solve it."'"
  • "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."

These aren't even the best parts. If that moved you in the slightest, then I just performed that very human act of selling. Now go and buy the book already.