EdTech People Know That 'To Sell Is Human'

Value, sales and relationships in higher ed.

May 5, 2013

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

Published February of 2013.

To Sell is Human should be required reading in every Master's in Instructional Design program. CIO and Directors of Academic Computing should pass the book out to your staff. Computing and Information Technology departments should invite Daniel Pink to campus to speak.   

I'm talking book clubs people!   

Who's with me?

To Sell is Human is Pink's best book since - well - since his last book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

If I didn't know any better I'd say that Pink is a secret wannabe educational technologist or learning designer - or at the very least he loves loves loves our annual EDUCAUSE conference.

What Pink sets out to do is to prove to us that software has not swallowed the world (as Marc Andreesen has tried to convince us), but sales. 

How much of your professional life is spent trying to get other people to do things?

Learning designers spend lots of thought and time trying to think up ways to persuade, convince, enable, and facilitate instructors to collaborate with them on course design. The goal of "selling" learning design services is not to have instructors do something they do not want to do, but rather to help instructors do more of the things that they like best.   The best learning designers understand and speak the language of faculty, and are able to help them utilize teaching strategies and technologies that play to their strengths while diminishing pain points.

This co-creation of value is central to why Pink sees as emblematic of the best sales people.  

The web has eliminated disparities in information between buyer and seller. Today, a good sales person resembles more a trusted consultant and guide, and less the smooth talking aggressive alpha males of Glengarry Glen Ross.  

This tracks well with my experience with colleagues that work in edtech sales - as my most successful relationships (and ones that have resulted in the most shared business), are with people who are first interested in solving whatever edtech challenge that I face and only secondarily in closing another deal.

Where do we flex our sales muscles in edtech?

Do you ever need to persuade your colleagues, bosses, or other departments to devote time and resources to the projects that you are championing? Are their learning applications or platforms that you are working to have adopted on your campus?   

Perhaps you are trying to get your team to focus on a set of specific challenges. Or you are working to convince others on a search committee about the wisdom of making an offer to a particular candidate.

These are all sales tasks.   

The irony that Pink points out is that we are never really taught how to be effective sales people. Business schools don't usually offer classes in sales, much less less PhD programs (or whatever degree prepared you for your current position).  We learn sales as we go, with varying levels of success.   

Pink believes that all of us could stand to learn a thing or two from today's most successful sales people.

What are you reading?


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