Daniel Pink is the author of five best-selling books on topics such as the changing workplace, business, and motivation. Before he became an author, he was the chief speechwriter for Vice-President Al Gore.
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Daniel Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others (confession: I actually gave the audiobook as a gift to my father-in-law, and then borrowed it from him to listen to). The book combines social science, research, and stories to give readers a new perspective on the craft of sales. Here’s a few of my takeaways from Pink’s book:
Everyone could Benefit from Better Sales Skills
A study that Daniel Pink commissioned showed that people spend 40% of their time at work selling something. While not every worker’s job directly involves convincing customers to make a purchase, people engage in what Pink calls “non-sales selling.” Regardless of one’s job title, people are found to be using sales skills in some shape or form, whether that be pitching an idea, negotiating terms on a contract, or persuading your team to eat sushi instead of burgers for lunch. Selling has always been a part of workplaces and is a helpful skill for everyone to have.
Sales skills also add value beyond the workplace. For example, I need to “sell” my 4-year old girl on eating her vegetables during dinner or wear her jacket before going outside to play. I’m also currently trying to “sell” my wife on watching the new Star Wars movie on opening night (which has not been successful, in case you’re wondering.)
Selling is about Serving
The image that comes to many people’s minds when someone mentions sales is the sleazy used car salesman trying to trick you into buying a busted car at an over inflated price. Pink states in his book that the old way of selling things (through deception) is only effective when the salesperson has more information than the buyer. In the car salesman example, the buyer can only be deceived into purchasing the car if he or she is uneducated on the condition of the car and/or the average pricing of the vehicle. However, in an era where information is literally at the buyer’s fingertips, it is much harder to use this old method of selling. Buyers can now look up reviews, ratings, and use comparative shopping tools on their smartphones even as they are speaking to a salesperson. This gives salespeople much more incentive to be honest when speaking with customers.
Pink states that one of the attributes of the best salespeople is an attitude of service. The most successful sellers honestly believe in the product they are selling and want to serve their customers by giving them relevant information. Successful salespeople help customers see the value of the product and help customers reach a decision they can be happy about.
The Most Successful Sellers Are Not Extroverts
A common misconception is that to be successful as a salesperson, you need to be outgoing and extroverted. However, Pink states that what makes a successful seller is “attunement,” or the ability to understand the customer. Good sellers can understand the reasons a person buys and the thought process behind their decision making.
On a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 is an extreme introvert and 7 is an extreme extrovert, people with a score of 4-4.5 has the highest success in sales. A person that is in the middle of the introversion-extroversion scale is called an ambivert. According to Pink, ambiverts have an advantage in sales because they can be “attuned” to both extroverts and introverts.
Storytelling is More Effective than the Elevator Pitch
You probably understand what an elevator pitch is. When I was attending business school, having an elevator pitch was a must. The origin of the elevator pitch paints a scenario where you’re inadvertently riding the elevator with the CEO of your company and you only have the duration of the elevator ride (30 seconds) to convince him or her to consider your idea for the company. While having an elevator pitch is handy, Pink introduces 6 better ways to pitch your ideas: the one-word pitch, the question pitch, the rhyming pitch, the Twitter pitch, the subject line pitch, or the Pixar pitch.
Out of these six, the one that caught my eye was the Pixar pitch. According to Pixar story artist Emma Coast, every Pixar film shares the same storytelling structure that involves six sequential sentences:
1. Once upon a time there was…
2. Every day…
3. One day…
4. Because of that…
5. Because of that…
6. Until finally…
For example, here is the Pixar pitch for Finding Nemo:
1. Once upon a time there was … a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
2. Every day … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
3. One day … in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
4. Because of that … he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
5. Because of that … Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
6. Until finally … Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.
Sellers can fill these sentences with any pitch or idea they wish to. By using this format, business owners can tell the story of their company, product, or brand in a short, effective, and memorable manner.