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‘Irritation’ is challenging people to do something that we want them to do. By contrast, ‘Agitation’ is challenging them to do something that they want to do. Irritation might be effective in the short term. But to move people fully and deeply requires something more – not just looking at the student or the patient as a pawn on a chessboard but as a full participant in the game. It’s about leading with ears instead of mouth.

                                                                                                        – Daniel Pink

If you have read my posts over the last two weeks, you might have liked the experiments, tests, insights that I have shared from this book. If you are curious but still need some more solid reasons to buy this book, this post is for you. Before you read, I request you to not judge the book by its title. I know that the word ‘selling’ has always had a negative connotation. In fact, I myself have a problem with it and that’s the reason why I picked it up (read about my experiment here). Actually, that’s not the complete truth. Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive’ is a brilliant book that challenges all our conventional wisdom about motivation and it was his authenticity that made me buy this book. Somehow, I could never see selling as ‘authentic’ but if there’s one person who could bring integrity into the idea of selling, it’s Pink.

I want you to imagine yourself in this situation: Let’s say that your best friend calls you up at 3 A.M in the morning. Her voice is shaky. She tells you that her boyfriend wants to commit suicide. Many people (including her) have tried to convince him but he is not listening to anybody. People are holding him, so that he doesn’t run away and kill himself (I understand that there are suicide helplines and mental health professionals, but let’s be illogical for a moment). She wants you to talk to him. You are her last hope. Everything depends on you. Just imagine: somebody might live or die because of you. I know that I sound very melodramatic but you get the picture! Now, think about what you are going to do here. What you will be doing is, convince a human being to live. What you will be doing is, convincing a human being to do something: to give something (in this case, you might ask him to give his patience, time etc) in return of something that will benefit him (in this case, you might promise him a bright future). Basically, you are selling an imaginary idea to somebody. Every night, when you are telling a story to your child, you are not just reading out the story. You are selling your ideas to your child. When you, as a doctor, are trying to convince an elderly person that exercise is good for them, you are actually selling an idea. If you are teacher, you have to convince your students to give something (attention, time, etc) so that they will get something in the future. You ARE selling.

What Pink says is that we are basically selling something or the other to somebody. In fact, Daniel also talks about selling yourself to yourself: Self talk that you use to motivate yourself is nothing but selling something to yourself (he even has some awesome ideas on self talk: instead of saying “I am the best”, ask, “How can I be the best?”) He wants us to think about selling in a broad sense. Before I go further, I will give you the definition of selling as per Pink:

To sell is to convince someone else to part with resources – not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.

Now, I know that this is not what we generally think about selling. For us, selling has become synonymous to manipulating. Daniel admits that in the past, selling was indeed about manipulating the buyers (he admits that even now, some salespersons believe in manipulating). The reason was that buyers didn’t have enough information and knowledge. But in modern times, anybody can google. The power has shifted. If you manipulate your customer now, he/she will tweet about you and you might get defamed in an hour. In this age, we require a fresh approach to selling. Customers don’t just buy products now..they buy experiences. If you provide an authentic experience, if you truly serve with genuine love and care, people will respond. In the old days, sales was all about “What am I getting.” Now, it’s about “What are we both getting.” What we normally think about sales is ‘irritation.’ Bug people to buy a product or else you won’t get commission. But sales is much more than that. Sales is communication. It’s going beyond your little world and reaching out to somebody whose world is different from yours. To do that, you have to put your ego aside and become a empathetic. Are you shocked? All along, we equated sales with selfishness! Sales is a bridge between two subjective worlds. It is an art. All along, we thought that sales was just about commerce!

Daniel also challenges the biggest belief of sales: that only extroverts are good at sales. Ironically, he has research that shows that those are very extroverted people perform poorly at sales. However, the research also says that being too introverted is also not good for sales. The ideal salesperson is an ambivert. If you want to convince somebody to take care of their health and if you are not an extrovert, you don’t have to worry. If you are an introvert, be a little outgoing and if you are an extrovert, direct your attention inwards and slow down a bit.

You don’t even need to have a salesperson to sell. Daniel gives us an example of one of the best software companies in the world: Atlassian. There is no sales department in Atlassian and yet, their software sells. That’s because engineers go out in the field and talk with customers. They want to know their needs and values.

What if we see selling as the core of all human life? Our brain sells us something or the other everyday. After you finish reading this, your brain might convince you to stop reading my blog. Or maybe, your brain might convince you to buy this book. Your brain might suddenly start selling to you the idea that you are not living your life. You might get convinced and go on a road trip. Your brain might also sell to you an idea that you are worthless…and you might buy that idea. Or maybe, you are selling something to your brain. You are selling the idea of meditation and your brain needs more coaxing. Maybe, your maid does not working properly. How will you convince her? How will you tell your friend that her constant negative talk is poisonous for you? How will you convince your child to go to school? How will you convince your grandmother to take care of her health? If you can do all this successfully, without threatening and humiliating, you are a great salesperson. And you should be proud of that. Even if you deny and say that you are not a salesperson then I’m sorry to say this but here’s the truth: WE ALL ARE IN SALES.


One thought on “Subjective Book Review: To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

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