HR is Sales: A Lesson from Dan Pink SHRM13


This report is on Dan Pink and his talk on HR realizing they are in sales.
This report is on Dan Pink and his talk on HR realizing they are in sales.

I will admit up front that I like Daniel Pink’s work. I don’t always agree with him, as you can read here in his discussion on changes in motivation. However, I agree with him in the premise that he based his speech on at SHRM13. HR is sales and we need to understand this lesson.
To Sell is Human
That is the title of Pink’s most recent book. I have a copy of it sitting in my reading pile. So I listened to him with great interest as a preview. He has a broader definition of sales than what most of us think of. To Pink sales includes the act of persuasion and his research has revealed that people typically spend 41% of their time trying to persuade others. He said he felt that HR professionals probably spend much more time than that in their jobs. I agree with him. A great deal of our day is spent in this type of “sales” process. So it helps to understand the science of influence. In his book he recommends that everyone read Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini. (Also in my reading pile.)
Impact of technology
Pink also told the audience that because of technology the nature of the sales process has changed. In days past the seller held all the information about their “product” and it was “buyer beware.” Not today. Due to the Internet consumers research topics and often have as much information as does the seller. Thus we have changed to a “seller beware” world. I know I have experienced this. Often when people call me they have done some research and may question the advice I am offering as a result of their research. The days of being the HR expert because you hold all the knowledge are over with.
Pink said that in today’s sale world people have to possess three qualities:

  • Attunement– the ability to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Buoyancy– the ability to deal with “an ocean of rejection.”
  • Clarity– the ability to distill and manage information which will allow you the ability to see problems before they occur.

Five action items
Pink ended his talk with five action items to be used in order to be better at “sales.”

  1. Increase your effectiveness by reducing your feeling of power. Reducing the perception of your power in a situation allows you to step back and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  2. Don’t be a glad-hander. Strong-extroverts are not effective at sales in reality because they are seen as being too pushy. He says “be yourself.”
  3. Give people an easy way to make a choice. Don’t push too hard for a decision, allow them to make a choice.
  4. Engage in some self-talk, but not of the usual positive affirmation type. He suggests that asking yourself questions, such as “Can I do this?” will generally activate responses that will result in positive actions.
  5. His last suggestion was to “make it personal.” He suggests that putting yourself on the line works for you and your “buyer.”

Pink is indeed correct. I have learned over a long career of the importance of sales in HR. I experienced it in every position I have ever had, be it as a trainee, a plant HR manager dealing with union employees, dealing with supervisors, as a recruiter (especially as a recruiter) and finally as a consultant. So follow Pink’s advice and brush up on those “sales” skills.

1 thought on “HR is Sales: A Lesson from Dan Pink SHRM13”

  1. I just put Pink’s book on my reading list last week, so it was nice to get a little preview. Based on your observations on his SHRM talk it sounds like a useful read. I have read Cialdini’s book on influence (a while ago) and highly recommended it as well. For those who don’t know; Cialdini is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State. So when he lays out his 6 principles of influence, he backs them up with solid (and fascinating) research.

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