As part of his launch team, I introduced Daniel H. Pink’s new book, To Sell is Human, in a recent post (see Evaluators are humans, too!). Pink’s premise is that regardless of our chosen fields, we’re all in sales – even those of us in what he calls “non-sales selling.” As a matter of course, we must all move others.

Eagles Mere, PA

©2006 Photo by SheilaBRobinson

Especially engaging for an evaluator is Pink’s chapter on Clarity, one of the “new ABCs of selling” – Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. Pink sees clarity as “the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had.” What resonates with me is the notion of the value of problem-finding over problem-solving. The Information Age has given us access to all manner of solutions to our problems, but not necessarily to their identification. “The services of others are far more valuable,” claims Pink “when I’m mistaken, confused, or completely clueless about my true problem.” 

In the past, successful salespeople were especially adept at accessing information and answering questions, while today they must be skilled at curating information and asking questions.

Pink cites social scientist Robert Cialdini’s “contrast principle”: we understand something better when we see it in comparison with something else than when we see it in isolation. The critical question then becomes: compared to what?

The author offers five frames (with relevant social science research)  useful in providing clarity to those we hope to move:

  1. The less frame: Curation is important, so framing options and restricting choices provides clarity (as opposed to overwhelming people).
  2. The experience frame: Experiential purchases satisfy more than material purchases (emphasize benefits over features).
  3. The label frame: Assign someone/thing a label and they tend to live up to expectations associated with the label.
  4. The blemished frame: Add a minor negative detail to a description after it’s been described in positive terms (“a small blemish can enhance your offering’s true beauty”).
  5. The potential frame: When selling yourself, emphasize possibilities rather than achievements or accomplishments.

Finally, Pink provides the essential off-ramp: Give folks a clear call to action–what do you want them to do? “Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.”

Pink’s ideas can be broadly applied to evaluators, most obviously of course, to independent consultants selling evaluation services, but also to anyone engaged in identifying an evaluation’s focus and developing appropriate evaluation questions. Clarity is critical here. As for curating information, and making comparisons and calls to action (read: recommendations), it’s easy to recognize connections to evaluation. Can you identify other connections in Pink’s ideas?

Want more? If you’re interested in To Sell is Human, act now. Pink is offering a “first mover package” to all who order prior to December 30.DPfieldnotespreview-e1354080572749

*Many thanks to my TSIH Launch Team colleague Michael Gowin for drafting some of the notes on this chapter.