Sales is considered base, low, and sleazy by many. We tend to avoid those kiosk salesmen in malls. Yet, it is also widely recognized as an important skill. Those who can persuade us to buy their products, marry them, or even help them with a business idea seem to posses a magical ability. This magic power is more commonly known as persuasion— which is to a salesman what biology is to a medical doctor; it can be learned by anyone with the patience and tenacity to acquire the necessary knowledge and apply it. In the books below the authors argue that this skill is achieable by anyone, it is critical to individual success, and it is essential to inspiring action.
The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your ideas by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa (Shell is the author of Springboard: Launching your Personal Search for SUCCESS).
Persuasion is viewed to be as mysterious as wooing a woman. Perhaps this is one reason the authors chose the title, though, they do make a clear distinction between romance and strategic persuasion within an organization. In this book, you will learn the techniques of persuaders such as J.P Morgan, Sam Walton, Andrew Carnegie and Bono—Yes, Bono in fact did not win political aid for his humanitarian efforts purely on his good looks, he is also a world class salesman of ideas. You’ll hear the incredible tale of how a mail carrier with no money, no friends, no credibility and no plane became the first man to cross the Atlantic non-stop. Besides the cornucopia of stories, there is a step-by-step plan to help you clearly formulate your ideas, find the right allies, and then navigate the heady political waters within all organizations.
It was once mandatory for all young students to learn Rhetoric, which is the ancient concept of selling ideas (i.e., the art of persuasion.) Aristotle claimed that Rhetoric was the crowning intellectual discipline, for it taught not merely armchair philosophizing but how to engender action and secure commitments for one’s ideas. After all, it does no good to have a world-changing idea if no one can understand what you mean, and everyone opposes you and your idea.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things can Make a BIg Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
On April 1775 two men rode out to warn the American Colonists that the Redcoats were coming. Their message was identical, yet only one man set the countryside afire, which led to the defeat of the British troops at Concord, while the other man did not succeed. What separated these two instances? One set of towns was not more or less pro-British than the other; both men carried the same sensational news, and both men were equally fervent in their exclamations to arm. Yet one man sparked a flame and the other did not. The main difference, according to Gladwell, was that one man, Paul Revere, was a “connector,” while the other, William Dawes, was not. The Tipping Point is filled with dozens of such tales along with the latest studies in psychology and sociology. The book presents the story of “that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
It is not money or external rewards that fundamentally motivates human action, claims Pink. It is an innate drive to understand, to be challenged, and to learn that does. In fact, money can become a de-motivator in the long-run. When someone is offered big pay increases they certainly will become excited and thus work harder—but this jolt of energy wears off and then requires another and another. A less expensive method, and one more aligned with human nature is to present employees with novel experiences, as well as challenging and rewarding work which exercises their capacity to learn, explore, and grow. This book should be on the shelf of anyone seeking to inspire employees to work hard for them.
Though this book is primarily about strategies to attain mastery in your craft—whether writing, sales and persuasion, accounting, engineering, or managing—it offers important insights on the art of persuasion too. Greene stipulates, for instance, that the most critical persuasion tool at one’s disposal is mastery in one’s craft. Moreover, there’s an entire section of the book dedicated to “Social Intelligence.” If you enjoy historical anecdotes that illustrate a simple lesson, this book draws stories from almost fifty different historical figures from Davinci to Google’s Larry Page. You will learn the Benjamin Franklin method of Winning Friends and Influencing People, Darwin’s method of persuading the captain of the HMS Beagle to allow him the freedom to collect samples as he wished, and more.
Assumed by many literary critics to be a commentary on the materialism of Wall Street, I believe there is more of the intriguing nature of human drive presented in the story. Bartleby, a copyist hired by a lawyer in the 19th century, is a prodigious worker—at first. Soon, however, he stubbornly refuses to do any work, asserting whenever commanded to take on a task that “I would prefer not to.” How does one motivate a worker who would prefer not to? By carrots and sticks, by pleading, by cajoling by acquiescing and eventually by jailing or worse? Whatever your interpretation of this little tale, it is a fascinating portrayal of human behavior, even if exaggerated.
Aristotle explained that the most powerful persuasion weapon in anyone’s arsenal is their character. Here is a poem that I think shows this idea beautifully:
Free Audio Book Tales:
Mastery by Robert Greene
Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
I hope you find these recommendations useful and that whether today on Amazon or in six months while perusing a book store you will purchase whichever book catches your eye. I told myself long ago that I would ascribe to the Benjamin Franklin method of valuing learning above all else, as this is greater than any stock or 401k investment. His method was that no matter how poor or broke he was, he would spend his last dime on books. It served him well, perhaps it will you, too.