(by Daniel Pink)

To sell is human

Q: What does a book on ‘Selling’ have to do with teachers?!?  A:  A great deal apparently! Pink starts by pointing out two facts: a) the fastest growing fields today are Ed – Med (Education and Medicine – ok, we sort of knew that) and  b) an incredible 40% of our time is spent in non-sales selling!! We sell clients on how great we are and we sell learners on English! That involves a lot of presentation, communication and persuasion skills. Pink can help us with all three of them.

Pink has studied communication extensively and he has lots of interesting things to say on how to write catchy e-mail titles (p. 167), tweets (p. 170) and why using visuals is so important (p. 180). But he also gives us the results of a number of studies on such fascinating topics as…

…Labelling (p. 138): In a Prisoner’s Dilemma type of game, 33% of the participants cooperated when they were told it was called ‘The Wall-Street Game’ but the number doubled when others were told they would be playing ‘The Community Game’. The same effect was found when some students were labelled ‘tidy’ as opposed to a controlled group (Moral: Label you students positively and they will live up to the label!)

…Facilitation (p. 142): In another study, students who had been singled out for their pro-sociality by their peers, were asked to contribute to a food drive for charity. The same was done with others classified as ‘selfish’. The results: 8% of the former but 25% of the latter donated food! Why? The ‘selfish’ students had been given clearer instructions about what to donate and when! (Moral: motivation aside, direct behavioural instructions [‘Do this!’] can go a long way towards ensuring compliance).

…Persuasion Techniques: Here is one: instead of asking students whether they have studied for a test which might trigger ‘Psychological Reactance’ we could ask them ‘How ready are you for the test? Say on a scale from 1 to 10?’ When they answer, we can then follow up with the fantastic ‘Why not a lower number?!?’ This forces them to focus on the positive (what they have done) and shows them what they still need to work on! Excellent!! (p. 213)

What makes the book so readable is that Pink also gives readers many real life examples. Here is my favourite one: On page 213 of the book there is a picture which hangs on the wall of an Italian restaurant. The picture is that of the owner and it reads: ‘If you had anything less than a great experience at il Canale, please call my cell: 703-624-2111’!! Now think: how many DOSs would be prepared to do such a thing? 🙂

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