Sales and leadership guru Daniel Pink recently recommended six of his all-time favorite books on the art of selling. Here's a brief look at three of his top picks, which he noted on business book site 250words.com:
1. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007) by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. For an idea to survive, argue the brothers Heath, it must elicit a "yes" answer to each of the following six questions:
Is it simple? Is it unexpected? Is it concrete (tangible, of this world, and not abstract)? Is it (or is its inventor) credible? Does it tap emotions? And is there a story you can tell around it?
An example of an idea that fulfilled all six criteria was President John F. Kennedy's 1961 call to put a man on the moon. Kennedy articulated it smoothly too. The goal was to "put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade." Note how basic this description is. It's one sentence, with a who, what, where, and when. There was no need, in 1961, for a why.
Had JFK been a CEO, joke the Heath brothers, he would've explained it like this: "Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives."
2. How To Win Friends And Influence People (1936) by Dale Carnegie. Don't let the prewar date fool you. Carnegie's advice remains especially relevant for our day and age. Social networks make it easier to "follow" friends and stay in touch, but getting through to someone's heart is still what matters.
And in many ways, Carnegie was ahead of his time. For example, he preached the importance of customer empathy, long before it became fashionable. He tells the story of a Philadelphia fuel salesman named C.M. Knaphle who hated the advent of chain stores. Why did Knaphle hate chain stores? Mainly because a chain in Philadelphia bought its fuel from out-of-town dealers, instead of him.
At Carnegie's behest, Knaphle agreed to debate other students in Carnegie's courses about whether chain stores were good or bad. The catch? Knaphle had to defend the chain stores. To prepare for the debate, Knaphle went back to the store that wasn't buying his fuel. He asked the buyer for advice that could help him make the case that chain stores were a good thing. "I must confess that he opened my eyes to things I had never even dreamed of," wrote Knaphle.
The buyer grew to like Knaphle personally--and ultimately became a customer.
3. Influence: Science and Practice (1984) by Robert Cialdini. "Anybody writing about persuasion and influence today stands on Cialdini's shoulders," gushes Pink. "If you've got time for only one book, this is it." High praise, and here's one reason why: Cialdini mixes academic rigor with real-world experiments.
For nearly three years, he writes, he enhanced his academic research by "systematically" immersing himself in the world of "compliance professionals--salespeople, fundraisers, advertisers, others." In other words, Cialdini studied how sales pros of all stripes practice persuasion.
His "most instructive" takeaway was that persuasion tactics typically fall into one of six categories, each of which is "governed by a fundamental psychological principle that directs human behavior and, in so doing, gives the tactics their power."
Those six principles are reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
On the heels of Facebook's tenth birthday, it's worth noting the presence of "social proof" and "liking" on Cialdini's list, all those years before The Social Network was born. Cialdini's book will remind you that, long before social media came to epitomize all forms of viral marketing, there was Tupperware. The principles that underlie today's leading technology companies are not new and trendy, but as timeless as human nature itself.