If I’m selling you a great used car that has a minor nick, I’m going to be tempted to park the car in such a way that you won’t see the damage. But research by [Tel Aviv University professor] Danit Ein-Gar and [Stanford University professors] Baba Shiv and Zakary Tormala says that I should point it out, because the nick creates the context for everything else. It helps frame the valuation of the car. In some ways, you’re widening the frame when you do this. You’re saying, “Oh, there’s a nick there, but look at everything else. The totality of it is really good.”
Of course, this depends on how essential that nick is. There’s a big difference between a blemish and a scar. If it’s small thing, then widening the frame is actually helpful. If it’s a substantive defect, then you have to either explain that the defect doesn’t matter as much as customers think or lower the price.
S+B: In your final chapter, you propose extending Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership to sales. Why are service, purpose, and meaning such a pervasive theme throughout your books?
PINK: When you sit down and talk to people about their work, you realize that they’re spending at least half of their waking hours on the job. Their work is a window into who they are. And I think that as human beings, we aspire to do something meaningful. All of us ask ourselves, “OK, why does what I’m doing matter? What is my purpose?”
What’s exciting for companies is that appealing to a sense of purpose and meaning is very effective. [Wharton professor] Adam Grant has done some great research in this area. In a study of people in a call center raising money for a university, he found that employees who spent five minutes before their shift reading letters from people who were on the receiving end of the scholarship money they raised more than doubled their sales results.
S+B: To Sell Is Human is a pretty rare sales book. It doesn’t provide the reader with a sales process.
PINK: I did that consciously, because I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all process to selling Winnebagos, to asking somebody out on a date, to getting your kids to clean their room, or to pitching your idea to a book publisher.
I didn’t want to give people a set of custom Legos that builds only one particular castle, even if that’s an awesome way to build that particular castle. I’d rather give people a rich set of basic building blocks, which they can fashion into a process of their own and constantly evaluate. Sales processes tend to be very algorithmic. And when people get wedded to a process or to an algorithm, they miss all kinds of other clues and opportunities that could be really valuable.
Reprint No. 00204
- Theodore Kinni is senior editor for books at strategy+business.