Dan Pink To Sell Is Human

A Sales book in the number one slot? I gotta read this! That’s what I was thinking in a recent airport bookshop I went through. Dan Pink’s latest was the business bestseller. Having enjoyed his TED talks, I was ready to roundly applaud anyone bringing proper selling to the fore.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. For whilst a good book, it is not quite a great one.

I later came across a string of unenthusiastic reviews. Here’s just one;

“Daniel Pink’s ideas on selling, the internet and human nature are well presented but obvious … one wonders whether shifting this book is, perhaps, the best sales trick of all”

Using his pitch tips as a guide, a twitpitch to sum up the premise;

We’re all in Sales now. Whatever our job title. A little study proves it. & here are 3 new ABCs by which we must now frame our selling.

We’re all in Sales now. Hallelujah! Whilst reading this book, I was preparing to lecture at Cambridge Uni business school, entitled “selling is not a dirty word”. So, as you can probably guess, Dan was pushing at an already wide open door with me.

His ‘new’ ABCs are Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity. The delicious scene in which Alec Baldwin as superstar rep Blake castigates the wash-outs in Glengarry Glen Ross seared the selling ABC of Always Be Closing into the public mind.

It’s not that the phrase is wrong. It’s just that this central structure began to grate.

If you’re trying to forge new ground, then rather than three random words, adapt instead. Always Be Challenging sprang to mind (although that’s kind of been taken recently by another selling school).

How about extending it a little? And still manage to incorporate your trio of new ‘words’? An ABCDE cropped up; Always Be Clear, Dexterous, Empathised

But then, hey, why bother with just another ABC? What about an XYZ? X-ray, Yearning, Zeal?

I think you guess my state of mind, so time to move on from this.

Dan Pink is one of the good guys. His style is fresh. Many of his steers are in the right direction. Yet they suffer from what is so often the malaise of someone preaching about something at which they’ve never really practiced. The continual and misguided quoting of the last pavement brush salesman irritated me witless. Be aware that though a starting point on a quality selling journey, here is not the glamorous Sales destination.

My main gripe is that he focuses too much on tactics over strategy.

He talks of the fabled win-win mentality which must be central to any worthy rep’s cause. Yet there is precious little on how to turn that into a reality. He hasn’t been in the hundreds of sales training sessions or live sales calls that I have where the disconnect between words and actions becomes so painfully apparent.

Still, there is a lot to like. I chuckled to myself at many of his wonderful neologisms. Upserving, Servant Selling, Problem Finding over Problem Solving.

Let’s take that last one. He certainly spots a major development in post-dotcom solution selling. Yet we must travel further. It’s another example exposing the lack of personal field knowledge. Phrases like ‘uncover pain’ and ‘identify problems’ are long-living. His proposal doesn’t fit with how those that consider buying a solution actually talk. They rarely frame what they want to do in terms of ‘finding’. They express rather how they’ll improve. They visualise the results. They feel the outcome. Indeed, the term ‘problem finding’ I feel can fly in the face of his idea of Attunement. It is not the full story. We must understand where someone wants to go and get on the same train. Unfortunately, a phrase like ‘plan alignment’ is uglier than his syntax. Must be why he earns the big author bucks rather than me, hey. Yet it is the origins of the real winning idea, to which he’s only halfway towards.

There were plenty of delicious lines that I myself will be applying in the field, sharpish. Here’s just one, from early doors, page 4, “if you buy these arguments, or if you’re willing just to rent them for a few more pages…”

But at rapid intervals I was reminded of where I wanted more. For those who also read with regularity the likes of the HBR sales blogs, Wiseman and Cialdini, there’s not much truly ‘new’. But again, as he states late on with reference to ‘curation’, it is the people that collate such intel that often win big.

It is a relatively quick four or five hour commitment. And one I would recommend. Like all books bought in an airport, when you pay your ten dollars promise yourself you will take at least one key point and integrate into your daily selling. On that score I’m sure this book ought give you a decent enough return.

For my part, on a purely tactical level, I’m determined to try out a pair of tips. The first on email subject lines from pp167-8. The second a delightful qualifying routine from pp145-6. And make sure I get my money back from those alone.

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