Thursday, December 20, 2012

“To Sell is Human”– The Secret To Saving the World

As a long time strategy advisor to Fortune 25 orgs, military, governments and the like, I continue to have a growing concern that we are just not “getting it” when it comes to embracing and promoting messages that are necessary to create a better world for tomorrow.

As someone who is kept awake by the projects I have been exposed to and is bound by a bazillion covenants of secrecy, I look at a world that is nowhere near achieving its phenomenal potential. 

I worry because in Life, as in business, if we are not purposely moving towards success , then we are more than likely destined to create failure.

Unfortunately, looking through rose-colored glasses, expressing or choosing ignorance of what’s happening around us or focusing only on the good stuff in the world is not getting it done.  Historically, such approaches have never produced much of any value.

Even when people seem to understand what their message should be, it gets lost in poor strategic intention and clumsy tactical execution. They rely on experts who tell them that the message needs to be blindly blasted out in social media campaigns, shoved down our throats in aggressive in-your-face messages or gently, lovingly soft-pedaled to the masses.

Even now, in the wake of the Newtown, CT. tragedy, the pro and anti gun movements are so intent on yelling and screaming at each other that the solution to guns and violence in America seems to be only a vague possibility limited to dreamers.

Unfortunately, many of these people have missed a key component:

If we don’t know what inspires the recipient of our message to take action as a result of our message, it doesn’t matter how often we hit them with it.  In fact, the more times we hit them in ignorance of how to move their head and heart, the more likely we will turn them away.

I’ve studied many complex strategies and listened to many experts over the years.  Truthfully, I had gotten bored with what I was reading and hearing, with everyone regurgitating the same old stuff.  If their stuff was of any value at all, we’d be using it effectively and many of our issues would be solved already.

I thought I had seen it all.

And then a powerful book crossed my desk.

To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” by Daniel Pink was a punch between the eyes. 

Mr. Pink’s assertion, as expressed in Chapter 1, “We’re All In Sales Now”, at first blush seems over-simplified.

After all, I’m not a salesman.  When I think about a salesman, I think about the stereotypical, in-your-face, slick, underhanded, Aqua Velva-bathed guy selling me a car that was only driven by grandma on Sundays.

My personal and professional Life is wired around directing influence, sharing knowledge and collaborating towards intentional outcomes.  In my industry, there is a common distaste for salesman and we can’t wait for them to shut up so that we can get on with the real stuff.

I am trying to move my clients in a specific direction that I believe is mutually beneficial.

I’m trying to sell them on the idea of …..

Ahhhhhhhh …. that was when I got hit between the eyes.

After I had gotten over my cranial defibrillator moment, Mr. Pink had me hooked.

To highlight the wisdom and insight that Mr. Pink harvested and shared in “To Sell is Human” would require me to cut and paste the entire book here.  I tweeted at one point that my greatest mistake in reading this book was that I didn’t have a spare highlighter in hand when my first one ran out.

This is not a feel-good book that says “Just believe in yourself and everything falls into place”.  People who follow my musings know that I believe that this advice in isolation of useful execution advice is one of the most worthless, disempowering things you can tell someone.

It is also not a highly technical book that causes you to fall asleep as you wonder if psychiatrists and other experts know any word shorter than 5 syllables.

It is not a Salesman 101 book either that encourages you to embrace a slick, inauthentic, opaque persona that so many people around us have embraced but which we tend to loathe when we are faced with it.

However, it is a book that grips your head and your heart with powerful insight and is backed by research that resonates with everyone regardless of where they are in Life.  It uses examples that are simple in structure but profound in impact and which can be applied immediately in every aspect of our Life.

For example, a friend of mine was struggling with the title for his new book and knew that the title would make or break the book’s success.  He reached out to me for advice and I passed on this nugget from Mr. Pink who described three questions that must be asked when defining a pitch:

1. What do you want them to know?

2. What do you want them to feel?

3. What do you want them to do?

My friend was blown away by the questions and in exploring them, unlocked the logjam in his head regarding the title.

Do you dare to be better?

Daniel Pink’s book dares us to explore the subtleties of how and what the other side “hears” (and needs to hear) instead of relying on our own ego that tells us “I already know what they need to hear”.

And perhaps if we dare to be open to learning new ways of moving others, maybe we can then dare to believe that we actually can manifest the world of unlimited potential that we like to dream and talk about.

Daniel Pink wrote a book that targets every person at the core of their personal and professional Life.  But on a larger scale, I think he has inadvertently (or perhaps purposely and covertly) written a book that has potential to transform our world.

If you believe that you are already a master of moving people and that there is zero room for improvement in your Life and in society, that all is perfect, then this book is not for you.  You are indeed a Master and should already be engaging the world at a higher level to help make it better.

For the rest of us, if you want to make your personal and professional Life stronger and you also feel that we can and must do better in our nation and around the world, then “To Sell Is Human” by Daniel Pink is a must-read.

I believe that the challenges of the world call us to do the best we can with our talents, knowledge, passion and purpose and that we must do it with a sense of urgency.  If you don’t believe me, go get an elevated security clearance and then I will show you.

I also believe that we have a shared responsibility to create a strong future for our children, enabling them to live a Life of stability, peace and promise.  We won’t get there alone – collaboration and knowing how to convince others how to help us get there is essential to success.

But that’s just what I believe.

What’s more important is ……

….. what do you believe …..

…. and what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,



  1. See what you've done?!?!? Now I have to go out there and get that book ;)

    Thanks Harry, I've personally met people or read books that have brought the HaHaa!!! Moments when Logic suddenly solidifies in your brain about a point I thought I had a jellied yet masterful grasp on. This was very enlightening, I am anxious to read Mr. Pink's Book

  2. I believe that you will find it to be a very powerful read - let me know once you've had a chance to read it.