To Sell Is Human. To Sell Awesomely, Divine. Here’s How.

Three steps to master the modern method of selling from Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human

Sales can be a dirty word, especially for those who consider themselves creative.

People often associate the word “sales” with words like sleazy. Our dislike for the word is rooted in the past: the days when salesmen had more information than the buyer. It was hard not to feel tricked, or like you were getting the short end of the stick — and often you were.

But today, working in sales is different. When you’re buying a car, you often have as much information, or access to as much information as the seller. And you have much more choice than you did in the past. So what is the relationship between seller and sellee like now?

That’s one of the reasons why I picked up Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human, in which he dives into what he calls “the surprising truth to moving others.”

In a study of over 9,000 respondents, he finds that across a range of professions we’re spending nearly 40% of our time, or 24 minutes of every hour, engaged in what he calls ‘non sales selling’: persuading, influencing and convincing others in ways that don’t involve a direct purchase.

So how can you master the new art of non-sales selling?

1. Be a problem finder, instead of a problem solver.

In the book, Pink offers an example of a man seeking to buy a vacuum, and evaluating the various vacuum choices. But the problem isn’t that the guy needs a vacuum, it’s that he has too much dust in his house. The solution could be a vacuum, but it also could be a housecleaner. Or windows that better protected the house from the elements.

Finding a hidden problem is more persuasive than simply solving the articulated problem.

2. Use subtle mimicry to enhance your negotiation game.

Pink suggests to act as if you’re the person without power. Empathy is important, but he is quick to point out that “perspective-taking” is a cognitive task whereas empathy is an emotional task.

One way to enhance your brain’s perspective-taking is through subtle mimicry. We are naturally good at this, and quickly adapt to the people we’re with. When you pay attention to people’s posture, mannerisms and even word choices, and the more you’re able to reflect those, the better you’ll be when it comes to understanding their perspective. Plus, a study from the University of Kent says that when you subtly mimic others, they subconsciously feel more empathy for you.

3. Ask more questions.

Questions are more effective in persuading people than statements.

Asking questions means you’re showing your clients that you value their opinion.

But they’re also a way to persuade, as you craft the questions. As Diana Booher confirms, “By the very phrasing of such questions, you’re encouraging the other person to consider the merits or probability of a situation. The secret to being persuasive in any given situation may mean posing the right questions.”