on 6 March 2013
If I could give "To sell is human" another title, it would be, "Why you're in Sales now; and what you can do about it".
Chapters 1-3, under the Part heading "Rebirth of a Salesman", contrast the traditional concept of Sales with Pink's fresh, almost all-encompassing re-labelling of selling as any activity that involves persuading, convincing, or influencing others. In a series of light hearted but also, at times, poignant vignettes, Pink follows the last of the Fuller Brush salesman on his door to door journey of San Francisco; and this is really a swan song for a type of sales that has already died. (As a side note to the author, I would have loved to have seen a similar treatment of network selling which, despite its undoubted popularity in certain quarters, is tainted by the same awkward, embarrassing, and outdated mindset as traditional sales.)
Chapter 2 offers a dissection of the distinct trends in society towards entrepreneurship and the rise in education and health care, which extends and complements some of the themes found in his earlier books such as, 'A Whole New Mind', 'Drive', and 'Free Agent Nation'. I do love Pink's ability to spot and clarify in simple terms these medium-to-long term trends within society as they happen; almost like a historian writing in real time.
Chapters 4-7 under the Part heading "How to Be" focus on the new ABC of selling (Attunement, Bouyancy, and Clarity) and offer pertinent and practical discussions, but I am not sure whether they could be classed as a 'surprising truth' which is the promise of the title page. Anybody with a background in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) will instantly recognise attunement as 'rapport' which has been part of the core literature for many, many years. The "Mirror, Mirror" and "Watch. Wait. Wane.", for example, are what would commonly be called "Matching and Mirroring" and the "Pull up a chair" example from Amazon is really just a single example of "perceptual positions" which, again, is long standing within the core body of NLP literature and harnessed widely within sales training. Finally, "bouyancy" and the associated techniques described are, to me, again, really a restatement of NLP "reframing". This does not detract from the power of the techniques, or the advice that Pink offers you as the reader, but I did not feel that they necessarily needed to be relabelled.
Chapters 7-9 under the Part heading "What to Do" intrigued me most, and has challenged me to rethink the way that I interact with my own clients (I am freelance project manager, so the concept of different 'pitches' (e.g. one-word pitch, question pitch, rhyming pitch, subject-line pitch, Twitter pitch, and Pixar pitch) is genuinely arresting, and something that I have applied with immediate results in my working life. I also think that pecha-kucha should be enforced as mandatory across all organisations!
My wife and I have one bookshelf at home, and we have one shelf each on that bookshelf; the idea being that it forces us to evaluate every book that we read to decide whether it is either a fiction book that we would want to read again, or a factual book that we would want to refer back to in the future. So, will I keep a space on my bookshelf for, "To sell is human"? The answer is, 'Probably not.' However, I will be taking a lot of notes before I pass it on to a friend; and that reflects the fact that "To sell is human" is a book about the here and now; and it is something that you need to read and act upon, rather than something to be left languishing on a bookshelf.