Daniel Pink | To Sell Is Human (Episode 554)

Daniel Pink | To Sell Is Human (Episode 554)

Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) is the author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, which uses social science, survey research, and stories to offer a fresh look at the art and science of sales.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What’s the best way of dealing with an “off” day?
  • Learn why sales and a sales skillset are a part of our lives — whether we like it or not.
  • Understand the concepts of irritation versus agitation (and how to use both to motivate others).
  • Attunement: what it is and how it can make you more persuasive.
  • Tips for both introverts and extroverts to improve a social skillset and build better rapport.
  • And so much more…


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You probably already have an idea of what you think a salesperson is — and it may not be flattering. But whether you like it or not, understanding the techniques that make an effective salesperson will make you more persuasive. You might say you hate sales — just like people say they hate networking. But if you’re ignoring it, you’re either being willfully ignorant and oblivious to the secret game being played around you (and therefore losing it), or you’re just saying “I’m not a salesperson” and cutting yourself off at the knees.

On this episode of The Art of Charm, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others author Daniel Pink joins us to talk about how we can use the same dynamics used for sales to have an impact on how we influence others (and be aware of how these techniques are used to influence us).

More About This Show

Resist the notion all you like, but you’re a salesperson. Don’t fret! Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, says it’s perfectly natural.

If you’re an entrepreneur, independent contractor, consultant, or run a website as a side gig for extra cash, you’re in sales. If you’re a teacher, you’re selling your students on the idea of learning. If you’re in health care, you’re selling your patients on taking better care of themselves. If you’re a parent, you’re selling your children on growing up to stand up to the world — and, it can be hoped, make it better.

“If you actually go to the guts of what people do every day, a remarkable portion of it is some form of selling,” says Daniel. “Sometimes you’re selling a product or service. Other times, you’re basically asking someone, ‘Hey, you give something up; I give something up. We’ll make a deal and we’ll both be better off.’ Even though the cash register’s not ringing. Even though the sale is not denominated in dollars, but is denominated in effort or attention or commitment or zeal.”

Just about any time we interact with other people, we’re selling — or being sold to. So why do so many of us recoil in horror at the thought of this persuasion as sales? What makes this an almost unspeakable, dirty word among those of us who consider ourselves decent people?

“I think it has to do with information,” says Daniel. “Most of what we’ve known about sales — of anything — has come from a world of information asymmetry where the seller always has more information than the buyer. When the seller has more information than the buyer, the seller can rip you off! Basically, from the very beginning of commerce — the first time there was any kind of commerce among human beings — whether it’s some guy selling a goat in exchange for shells, the seller always had an information advantage. Almost everything we know about commerce from the history of human civilization has been a situation in which the seller had a lot more information than the buyer. This is why people think that selling is sleazy — because they’ve been buyers in a world of information asymmetry.

“But what’s happened in the last 10 years is that things have sort of flipped. Many, many markets are no longer information asymmetry, but are more or less information parity. That’s a very different world. And when buyers and sellers are evenly matched on information, the seller cannot take the low road. The seller will be found out! Forget about the moral side of it for a moment. It’s a bad strategy.”

Compare buying a used car 20 years ago to buying a car today. It used to be that the dealer knew every last detail about how much (or how little) he could get away with giving you for your trade-in — while you pretty much had to rely on your poker skills to determine if you thought he was giving you a fair trade or not. Nowadays, you can go into a dealership armed with the knowledge of not only what the value of your trade-in is worth almost to the nickel, but what every other dealership in a 50-mile radius will be willing to give you. If the dealer tries to get away with any shady business, you can show him a better offer right on your smartphone and walk out the door to his competitor.

When Daniel and his family recently attempted to buy a car at a fair price and were met with unsavory sales tactics from a prior century, not only did they walk out — Daniel tweeted about the experience for all the world to see. “And I got a call the next day from the head of the dealership, apologizing,” says Daniel. “With Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and all these other kind of networks, people can broadcast the unfair treatment. So mistreating me is not losing one customer. It’s threatening to lose 10 or 15 or 20 or 30.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn more about irritation (challenging people to do something they don’t want to do) versus agitation (challenging people to do something they actually want to do), how attunement gets us in touch with someone else’s wants and needs by seeing things from their perspective, why power can degrade our perspective-taking abilities (and how we can dial it down to be more effective and prompt better engagement), how to navigate by social cartography, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Daniel Pink, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Daniel Pink at Twitter!

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