To Sell Is Human, by Daniel H. Pink, Riverhead Books, 2012, 253 pp., $16.00 U.S., $17.00 CAN, ISBN: 978-1-59463-190-0.
Daniel Pink combines research, interviews, and observation to ask the reader to consider that we are all selling all the time by moving people to part with resources, “whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention” (p. 20). Pink points out in Part 1 of To Sell Is Human that the fastest growing industries in the world are educational services and healthcare. These jobs require “non-sales” selling, and we (as social workers) are in this group. Social workers spend a great majority of our time on the job to influence or persuade others.
I liked the information supporting Pink’s ABCs that reveal the most valuable qualities in moving others: Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. Pink writes that leading with your ears instead of your mouth can move others through attunement to someone else’s point of view. The author’s research about buoyancy shows that asking yourself, “Can I do this?” and answering specifically is more effective than telling yourself, “I can do this.” Clarity is the third quality necessary to move others. This quality is described in the book as a conceptual shift and as “the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had” (p. 125). “Problem-finding can be more important than problem-solving,” he adds on page 127.
Pink believes that to sell yourself, it is important to emphasize the promise of what you can accomplish tomorrow instead of fixating only on what you achieved yesterday. Research shows that people most often find potential more interesting than accomplishments. The uncertainty of what is possible forces deeper thinking that leads to better reasons why the person would be the best choice and also shows promise of what can be accomplished in the future.
The ABCs of moving others has a familiar ring and is important to social work as we work to empathetically understand our clients’ perspectives. To Sell Is Human promotes using positivity or, in social work lingo, client-centered care to provide a context that perhaps the client has not considered. Pink’s final chapter on “servant selling” makes me think that Daniel Pink has been a social worker in a previous life. Mr. Pink thoughtfully defines servant selling as “improving another’s life and, in turn, the world” (p. 206). Pink informs the reader that service is not only about sales and non-sales selling, but service “can move people to achieve something greater and more enduring than merely an exchange of resources” (p. 207).
To Sell Is Human offers social science research to show insights about how to be persuasive and good at sales. Pink offers fascinating stories about human behavior. The book was an easy read.
Reviewed by Karla J. Beaman, LMSW, 2016 graduate of Texas Christian University.