Book Review : To Sell Is Human

The setting: A quintessential Mumbai local train. This particular coach was pretty much packed. As the train labored its way ahead, with its heavy burden – the crowd inside, rocked back and forth in their seats to its steady rhythm. Most faces wore a blank resigned look, perhaps contemplating their day ahead or perhaps catching up on a moment of quietness, amidst their bustling lives.

All of a sudden, a strapping young man gets up and starts extolling the virtues of his wonderful wallets. But wait! …Something’s wrong –seriously wrong –no one’s paying him any attention –this chap has a better than average carry to his voice, but he’s not even getting a cursory glance from the audience. The one-liners seem quite monotonous, dry n ‘filmy’ (for lack of a better word) –‘saalon saal chalne waale’..”badiyaa quality, maatr bees rupaye”. No energy, no passion…worse the salesman doesn’t seem to enjoy what he’s doing. He just hasn’t put his soul into the task and it shows big-time. After another 3-4 minutes of his listless monologue, Bandra station greets us boisterously and the young man promptly gets off, fast disappearing among the platform crowd.

Just when i think the only eventful aspect of this journey has come to a boring close, two gaudily dressed eunuchs hop on-board and begin enacting their script “aay raju, chikne, baabu–kuch dena”. The coach suddenly wakes up out of its stupor, a clutch of phones magically appear in some hands (never mind the poor signal network!), some get engrossed in a deep conversation with their neighbours, while others just close their eyes and go into a deep contemplative state – anything, just anything to not catch the eye of the newly arrived occupants in the coach. It’s almost as if the whole coach has come magically alive and in a flash put on the “do-not-disturb” sign on its forehead!

But the eunuchs know better, they keep ear-to-ear grins plastered on their faces and patiently they make it a point to contact every single person in the coach -tapping them on head (bestowing their unasked blessings…seat-to-seat, they coax the audience to reach out for their wallets and part with some loose change. They meet with varying degrees of success, even outright disgust in some cases – but they just keep moving on with enthusiasm.

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What a stark contrast!

One was selling without a soul, while these two were begging with pride!

Who do you think leaves an impression on the audience (needless to add, their pockets!) ?

To Sell is Human - Daniel PinkI felt compelled to narrate the above (real-life) incident after reading, “To Sell is Human”, where the author Daniel Pink talks about how one can effectively ‘move others’.

Among other attributes, Dan mentions two critical ones

A) Attunement
This is about acquiring ‘social cartography’ skills as well as mimicking strategically but subtly–for instance an intelligent waiter develops skills of “having eyes” & “reading a table” and thus, hones the art of sizing up the situation. Look at how well the eunuchs in the above incident could size up their train occupants and decide whether to spend an extra ten seconds or quickly move on to the next occupant. In our line of work as Facilitators, we necessarily have to take the pulse of the audience at regular intervals and attune ourselves to their current needs, or else risk facing a disengaged set of participants leading to a sub-standard workshop delivery.

B) Buoyancy
In the process of “moving others”, we must be ready to face an ocean of rejection and keep our chin up through turbulent times. As a Facilitator, if we let a stray comment from a participant or general audience lethargy to affect our morale and energy, it will certainly affect our grip & control of the situation. Again, coming back to the eunuchs, one can only imagine the sheer number of rejections they would certainly encounter during a regular day. And yet, they stay buoyant, brush off their failed interactions and cheerily clap their way on!

So how attuned are you to your customers’ needs and what’s your buoyancy quotient?

Do share your thoughts or any similar experiences.

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