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We constantly consume new thought leadership, so I was excited when Dan Pink announced the release of a new book on Sales—To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. Pink has established himself as a thought leader in the business world. His previous book, Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is a fantastic read. It denounces the concept that motivation is driven solely by compensation. Every front line manager, HR Employee, and Sales Executive should read it. There are fascinating details on how to motivate your employees.
So is Pink’s new book on Sales as thought provoking?
Unfortunately not. The first few chapters are solid. With advent of the internet, power has shifted to the consumer. Instead of Caveat Emptor, Pink labels our era Caveat Venditor (seller beware). Furthermore, he outlines the key character traits of a successful sales rep. This material is good, but well-traveled. The last chapters are where the book falls apart. Pink cites studies and experiments that seem to have little in common with the sales profession. Many of the tactics he recommends wouldn’t work in today’s sales environment.
Here are the highlights:
Two Things I Liked About To Sell is Human:
Growing Power of the Consumer: Pink thoughtfully addresses the current shift of power to the consumer. As access to information has increased, the power of the seller has diminished. Pink demonstrates this by vising two car dealers—a traditional dealer and CarMax. The traditional seller operates in the old world. Sales reps rely on ill-informed buyers and strange financing to increase deal profitability. The other is CarMax, a no-haggle dealership. At CarMax, “customers are clutching printouts…and pecking at smartphones”. Computer monitors are turned to face both the Sales Rep and Client. CarMax recognizes the disappearance of this “information asymmetry”. While this isn’t a revolutionary insight, it’s a nice contrast between old world and new world. In an age where the consumer knows all, be transparent.
Refuting the Extrovert Sales Rep Myth: Pink does a nice job of destroying the notion that Extroverts are the best sales reps. There’s a great study of an Inside Sales Force who were given personality tests. The Conclusion: Individuals balanced between introversion and extroversion produce the most revenue. Our talent assessments and sales ride alongs confirm this finding. Reps who possess great listening, analytical AND communication skills have the highest probability of achieving quota. Kill the “Extroverts are Best” mentality.
Two Things I didn’t Like About the Book:
Following a Dinosaur: After coming to realization that the old school method of selling was dead, I was hoping to see an innovative approach to this new landscape. Instead, Pink spent his time following around Norman Hall. Normal Hall is the last remaining rep from the Fuller Brush company. The company is dying with an outdated business model: He sells Door-to-Door. Why would we want to follow this? Pink draws parallels between Norman and the historically successful salesman traits—positive outlook, ability to take rejection, etc. However, it’s clear Norman is a relic. Besides the character traits, there are no tactics to learn from. Why couldn’t we follow a modern day Sales Rep who continues to excel despite the power shift? What’s working today?
Teaching Poor Sales Tactics: Most generalizations of successful sales reps Pink writes about are true. However, many of the tactics Pink suggests are awful. In one he suggests mimicking customers’ mannerisms. “When he leans back, count to fifteen, then consider leaning back too”. In another, he suggests using a rhyming mechanism to make your message more believable. “Cochran’s seven word rhyme ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’ is one reason OJ was exonerated.” Ugh. If a sales rep did these things he’d instantly be the cheesy sales guy. For every solid piece of advice about aligning to the buyer, there is an equally cringe-worthy tactic.
Overall, the book does a nice job on the macro-picture of how to be a better Sales Rep. However, towards the end Pink trails off into case studies that don’t translate well to the real world. In an interview, Pink mentions wanting to title the book “To Sell is Swell” based on the rhyming study. However, the title didn’t test well. It’s valid proof that not every case study translates well to sales reality.
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