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To Sell is Human, Applying Behavioral Sciences in Sales

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To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink is an instruction manual on selling based on research of the human behavior. The book is divided in three parts, Rebirth of a Salesman, How to Be and What to Do. What I found interesting was Pink’s description of the process of selling using human behavior as a tool.  In this essay, I will be explaining what I learned from Pink’s explanation of sales.

Throughout the book Pink justifies how selling is an everyday act, “We’re all in sales now”. What Pink actually does is to describe a combination of human actions, which re-enacted, can create a sense of comfort with another person. Understanding how humans behave allows others to be able to manipulate any kind of behavior. Re-enacting this behavior give us power over another person by predicting their reaction to our actions. Sales is all about manipulating someone else into doing what we want. Pink mentioned a study made on what people thought about the word “sales” and most people related it with the word pushy. The book is all about not being pushy but rather subtle in convincing people.

Few months ago I read the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Kahneman, which explains a lot of terms used in behavioral economics. In Pink’s book, I found a resemblance between both, Kahneman’s being theory and Pink’s being application of the theory. Behavioral economics is meant to understand human behavior in economics and decision making, however it is logical that this same knowledge could be used for other purpose. Apart from that it was good to understand how all this negotiation skills and strategies have a background in research studies.

The ABC of Selling described in the second part of the book are attunement, buoyancy and clarity. Attunement includes “strategic mimicry”, empathy and analyzing negotiations to find the “decision maker”. Finding a connection between our client and ourselves. Trying to make them trust us so that they start listening to what we have to say. Buoyancy contains actions that helps us confront the negative reactions created from sales that fail. Preparing our minds for failure so that we can succeed. I found very interesting the study on positivity, in which they mention that people that experience 3-positive emotions and 1-negative emotion where prone to succeed. Now that we started our own business, we have faced some negative answers, and we have to fight our way through.

Clarity is about how we present the idea to our clients, “the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways”. Framing the ideas in such a way that benefits us. Here is where Prospect Theory and loss aversion enters. All this behavioral economic concepts can be used to guide our client towards buying our product. I realized how much influence human behavior can have on negotiations. It seems so interesting to understand that we are not the perfect creature that we thought we were. We are biased and we are easily manipulated. It is important to recognize that this type of information can be framed and used every day to guide our decisions.

The third part of this book “What to do”, was the one that captured my attention and includes topics like pitch, improvise and serving. Knowing what to say and how to say it. Preparing pitches about our project, and knowing what’s the value you are offering compared to your competitors. With our own project this has been the hardest part of the process. Understanding what we really do, and how we are going to offer value into our customers, to be able to simplify it short enough. Pink talks about collaboration during a Pitch. Presenting and idea requires flexibility in the process. Allowing other people into the collaboration process can allow your idea to succeed. This is something I was able to apply during our work with few customers. Instead of pushing the product we would present the product in a way that could also improve and benefit the company to which we were selling. Out of all the sales we have had, the most positive ones were when we tried to collaborate, as our clients understood that we were there to find an answer to their needs. Pink also writes about making the job personal and purposeful. I believe that is very important in a business, what I found useful was his explanation of using the concrete and personal approach. If employees in a business understand that what they are doing has purpose their productivity will rise. Specially in this time, everyone is looking to make a change in the world. Why not give that sense of purpose from the workplace? Serve, which in my opinion is the best part of the book, talks about being empathic with the client, as well as “up serving instead of up selling”. Not only to clients but to the people beneath and adjacent to us.

In conclusion, using human behavior to shape our decision is something that has been done throughout the years. However, being able to recognize those patterns and actions applied to us, could help us make more rational decisions. As mentioned before, this booked helped me put into practice previous knowledge about behavioral economics that I only understood in the form of theory. After reading this book, my goal now is to include new practices presented by Pink, such as attunement, clarity and serving, into my studies and my career. Furthermore, I believe that these learnings could help me become a better leader while working at Jumble. Also, these learnings can make me a better and more informed consumer, which I think is the most important part. Avoiding asymmetric information created from one sided lack of knowledge, as mentioned in the beginning of the book, is the best teaching I could obtain.



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