In all my experience in Sales, I have always been amused (and yes, sometimes irritated) by how everyone in the company has a view on how to run the Sales function, and lot of advice on how to “do” sales. I am not aware of too many occasions when salespeople were asked for views on what we should do with the obscene profits we make, or how we should cut costs in manufacturing. Those are considered ‘specialist’ functions, but Sales is something “anybody with a wee bit of common sense and loads of discipline can excel in”, as wise-cracked by a CFO millions of times in one of the companies I worked in. Obviously, this company was run by the Finance Department.
Daniel Pink’s book touches a raw nerve in organizations and in our societies in general. Selling is not mere Telling. When done consciously by following a structure and a few proven methods, you don’t have to sell. Your idea gets accepted. If selling is all about making the recipient see merits in your idea, there is hardly anybody on earth who does not sell. Human beings are inveterate sellers. We do it all the time, every single day.
The word ‘Selling’ has had its share of negative connotations, as Pink himself points out, in the context of used car salesmen. They are known to be “pushy, sleazy,…yuck!” as he puts it. Very few people put a positive spin to sales by calling them “fun, necessary, challenging”. This could be the reason why lot of us will recoil from the title of this book. A number of people I spoke to, actually said they wouldn’t call what they do as “selling”, but more of “convincing” or “influencing”.
Fortunately, Pink is not from a sales background. He is a MIT professor in Management, and his earlier books have been on Creativity and Motivation. To have this topic discussed credibly, in the light of such prevalent pre-conceived notions about the act of selling, we are blessed to have such a neutral commentator.
His ABC of selling comprising the three steps of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity is a recipe for making a persuasive case in any context. Getting the receiver’s attention, showing passion and commitment for the point(s) you are making, and displaying a well-thought out logic behind your idea – all of these are more in the realm of making an effective conversation. If anything, this book is about Basic Communication Skills for Everyone.
The components of a well-presented idea are equally unexceptionable – Pitch, Improvise and Serve, says Pink. The last step of Serve is interesting. If the listeners/recipients of your idea cannot see the benefits for themselves, all our efforts in communication are simply wasted.
Nomenclatures do not matter. If you want to convince, persuade or influence, you need to be prepared well to present your world view. These are life skills. It is rare to come across a Management book that will be relevant to every human being on earth. Here is one.