Book Review: To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Putting little sticky notes in books as I read them so I can refer back to interesting parts seems to be a habit I’ve gotten into lately. As you can see from the figure in this post, I found quite a bit to pique my interest in Daniel H. Pink’s latest book, To Sell is Human.

I’ll mention a few of those sticky notes in a minute, but why was I interested in this book in the first place? I have enjoyed Pink’s other books (Drive, A Whole New Mind and The Adventures of  Johnny Bunko) and have found their content influential. But in this case, it seemed obvious at the outset that this was a book a teacher could use. As Pink explains, when you get right down to it, about three-fourths of all people are involved in “sales” in some way. By “sales” he doesn’t necessarily mean it in the way that comes to mind when picturing a Fuller Brush Man going door to door pedaling his wares  (although, as it turns out, the very last Fuller Brush Man has something to teach us). Sales is not only about selling in the traditional sense. The subtitle “The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” captures his theme perfectly. If at any time during the day you find yourself in a position to convince someone you have a point, that things should be done your way, or that perhaps a new idea or approach to a problem should be considered, you are in sales.

Who is more in the sales game than an educator? Every day we are tasked with convincing a group of kids that there is value to be had and something to be gained by showing up at your door at 0800 (or whatever your start time is) to participate in what you have lined up for them that day. Some are willing and some are not and it is up to you to get them engaged and at least try to get the skeptics to the point where they just might be willing to think “hey, maybe there is something here for me after all.”

Actually, I forget why I put the first sticky note in my copy (obtained from the local public library) so let’s see what it’s there for. Ah yes, it’s in the chapter entitled “Entrepreneurship, Elasticity and Ed-Med” where Ed-Med refers to education and medicine.

“Health care and education both revolve around non-sales selling: the ability to influence, to persuade, and to change behavior while striking a balance between what others want and what you can provide them. And the rising importance of this dual sector [Ed-Med] is potentially transformative.”

Some of the other take-home messages (dutifully marked with sticky notes) I got out of it include:

  • The importance of taking the perspective of others
  • Subtly mirroring the movements of others tends to make them more receptive to you
  • The quality of a solution depends mostly on the quality of the problem
  • Clarify the motives of others with a simple seemingly irrational question
  • Don’t feed people reasons to agree with you, guide them to find their own reasons for doing so

And many others.

As usual, Pink’s easy going and self deprecating style is a pleasure to read. This is all the more impressive since he manages to back up what he says with high quality research from psychology and the cognitive and behavioral sciences. No dry academic droning here.

Is there a change you’d like to see take place at your school? Is there a parent who is not too sure about your methods? Got a colleague who is not on board with your approach to running meetings? Got an administrator who just never gets around to signing that purchase order you have been pushing the last six months? Maybe it’s because you are on the wrong side of things on all accounts. More likely you are on the right side of most, or at least some of them. In either case, check out To Sell is Human, and give some of the tips it contains a shot.  It won’t hurt to try and you might find your private and local Klout score starting to tick up a notch or two.


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