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Selling is Human by Daniel H. Pink – Discover How Improv Skills Can Help You Move Others

Daniel H. Pink’s new book is “Selling is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others”. Pink is the best-selling author of “Drive” and “A Whole New Mind.”

Pink says that today, we are all in sales regardless of our career or role. Parents cajole children and lawyers sell out verdict to juries, as examples.

The old ABCs of selling (“Always closing”) are reinvented as Tuning, Buoyancy and Clarity. They show you how to be, but you also need to know what to do. Perfecting your tone, learning to improvise and serve, complements the new ABC of sales; and help you move others.

Below are three methods to hone your improv skills; which ultimately teaches listening skills and the art of listening to offers, which are fundamental to anyone who wants to move others …

1. Listen to offers. The belief is growing that salespeople who are good at improvising can generate ideas, inject change quickly and easily, and communicate effectively and convincingly during sales presentations.

Pink says estimates spend a quarter of our waking hours listening, but we deeply neglect this ability. For many of us, the opposite of talking is not listening, but waiting. While others speak, we usually divide our attention between what they are saying now and what we are going to say next; resulting in a mediocre job on both.

The changing face of sales discourages sales scripts and the mindset of overcoming objections only. Today, the idea of ​​changing people may be less valuable and perhaps less possible than ever.

The improvisational theater is not based on overcoming objections, but on listening to offers, which depends on the tuning, leaving our own perspective to embrace the perspective of another.

The exercise “Amazing Silence” demonstrates the concept well. Here, one person reveals something important to him to another. The person receiving the message must maintain eye contact the entire time and can only reply after waiting fifteen seconds before uttering a single word.

Those fifteen seconds can seem long and eerily intimate; what is the purpose of the exercise. Pink says, “Listening without a certain degree of intimacy is not really listening.” It is passive and transactional vs. active and committed. “

Once we listen in this new and more intimate way, we begin to hear things that we might otherwise miss. Listening in this way during our efforts to move others helps us realize that what seem like objections are often offers in disguise.

To master this aspect of improvisation, we need to rethink our understanding of what it means to listen and what constitutes an offering.

2. Say “Yes and”. Improvisational theater urges actors to say “Yes and” vs. “Yes, but”, which is ultimately a “No.” This second principle of improvisation depends on buoyancy, in particular on the quality of positivity; a positivity that is more than avoiding a no, and that goes beyond simply saying yes. “Yes and” is a powerful force. It’s a more inclusive approach vs. “Yes, but” that acts as a barrier. “Yes and” anticipates possibility, providing a set of options, not futility. “Yes and” is not a technique, but it becomes a way of life.

3. Make your partner look good. Today’s information equality means that buyers and sellers are even (thanks to the Internet). Pushing to win-lose rarely produces a victory for someone and results in mutual defeat.

Pink honors Roger Fisher (famous co-author of 1981’s “Getting To Yes” based on principled negotiation), and Stephen Covey (author of 1989’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – Habit 4: “Think About win win”); both men died in 2012.

Improvisation provides new thinking and a way to share Fisher and Covey’s worldview. He updates it for the time when many of us are numb to “win-win”, because we have heard it excessively and rarely experienced it.

Improvised theater is all about making your partner look good. Helping your partner shine helps both of you create a better scene. Improvisation breaks the zero-sum mentality of one or the other; and you replace it with a culture of generosity, creativity, and possibility.

Making your partner look good requires clarity, which enables the ability to develop solutions that no one ever imagined before.

Pink participated in an exercise called “I’m Curious.” Here, partners choose a controversial topic, which fosters opposing pro-con positions (i.e., should marijuana be legalized?). Each one takes sides and tries to convince the other of their point of view. The other person can only answer with open questions (not veiled opinions).

The idea is not to win, but to learn. When both people see their encounters as learning opportunities rather than a desire to defeat the other side, the results are better. The conversation becomes more of a dance vs. a wrestling match. Improv never tries to get someone to do something. It is creativity, not coercion.

Train your ears to listen to offers, respond to others with a “Yes and” and always focus on making your partner look good. Pink says opportunities will arise.

Author Daniel H. Pink endorses the classic book. “Improvisation for the theater”, by Viola Spolin, which has more than two hundred improvisation exercises. To help master your improv skills; and learn more about Viola Spolin, visit:

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