Are You Old School or New School When Persuading Others?

Denise McMahan is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and is the founder and publisher of where nonprofit leaders devour Page to Practice™ book summaries, author interviews and sticky applications from the must-read books they recommend.

Bestselling author Dan Pink has dedicated his latest book to the study of how we move people in To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. You might ask why we’re recommending a book about sales to those of you in the social sector.

The answer?

Pink builds his argument for a “broad rethinking of sales as we know it.” You’ll see in his first-ever analysis of people’s activity at work: “We’re devoting upward of 40 percent of our time on the job to moving others. And we consider it critical to our professional success.”

He further shares that one in nine people are in traditional sales while the other eight are in “non-sales selling.” In other words, most of us are in the business of persuading, convincing and influencing others. When you put sales in Pink’s terms, we’re all in the business of moving others—especially those of us in the nonprofit sector.

Are You Old School or New School?

In our first post about Pink’s book, we mentioned the broad variety of strategies at play in the nonprofit sector when executives are in the midst of convincing, persuading or influencing their boards, staffs and constituents. Some may be using old school techniques, and perhaps others draw on intuition. No matter what the convenient tactic at hand, a strong case can be made for formalizing our approach to moving others and understanding what motivates. It is, after all, the (nonprofit) business we’re in.

How Do Successful Persuaders Keep Persuading?

Nonprofit leaders constantly find themselves asking how to move a donor to give, how to move a board member to lead, how to move the staff to act. Understanding today’s truths about Pink’s sales ideas such as Attunement, Clarity and Buoyancy is especially relevant due to the sector’s increased presence of competition and general misunderstanding of sales.

Three Truths of Moving Others

We discussed Attunement in our first installment about Pink’s three truths for nonprofit leaders who want to move others. In today’s post, we’ll address a second truth called Buoyancy. Remember, these are qualities of successful people who move others. In the face of resistance or objections, nonprofit leaders who exhibit Attunement and Buoyancy are far more accomplished at convincing and influencing others. Here are three underpinnings of Buoyancy:

Buoyancy Through Interrogative Self-Talk

In sales as in fundraising, the rejections and constant effort can get you down. Pink asserts Buoyancy, the “B” in the new “ABC” of sales, must be part of your strategy here. Before a sale, interrogative self-talk is more helpful than positive self-talk. Instead of just telling yourself you can do it, the author encourages you to ask the question, “Can I sell this?” This question allows you to go through your plan, discover holes and realize where you are good specifically. This interrogation goes deeper to prepare you mentally for a negotiation.

Buoyancy Through Positive Thinking

During a negotiation, he recommends a three to one positivity ratio. For every three positive thoughts, you will also think one negative one. Positive thinking, according to social science research by Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, broadens your options and makes you more creative. Negative emotions usually decrease your vision and possibilities. Fredrickson and Hall discovered this three to one ratio to be ideal because you are not bogged down by negative thoughts but you are also realistic and think enough negative thoughts to improve your performance.

Buoyancy Through Explanatory Style

During the ask, too, it is imperative to actually believe in your product. After a sale or lack thereof, your explanatory style is important. Pink draws on Martin Seligman’s research on “learned helplessness” here. If you can use optimism to see failures or negative occurrences as temporary vs. permanent, specific vs. pervasive, and external vs. personal, you will be more able to recover from setbacks.

Try These Exercises to Increase Your Buoyancy with Fundraising, Leading and Persuading

Dan Pink includes exercises in his book to practice interrogative self-talk (forming questions), monitor your positivity ratio, tweak your explanatory style, enumerate and embrace your rejections in order to improve and motivate yourself, write rejection letters to yourself to prepare yourself for the worst consequence and think through your strategies, and allow yourself to go negative every so often in order to improve.

If you’re in the business of raising money, persuading others or leading your team, consider Pink’s three truths about moving others: Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity. All three qualities are consistent themes in the author’s extensive research. As nonprofit leaders, we have an exhaustive list of persuading to-do’s. Dan Pink has identified what characterizes the most successful movers. Try on some of his Buoyancy strategies and get moving.

See also:
Seeing Through the Eyes of A Donor
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Are You Old School or New School When Persuading Others?

Denise McMahan

Denise McMahan is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and is the founder and publisher of Cause Planet, where nonprofit leaders devour Page to Practice™ book summaries, author interviews and sticky applications from the must-read books they recommend.

October 6, 2014

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