To Sell Is Human Part 02

To Sell Is Human Part 02

How do you sell in the Connection Economy (where trust matters)?

Answer: by finding problems, and solving them. And not just any problem, but the right problems.

In 1964, Jacob Getzels and Mihali Csikszentmihalyi began studying creativity. They brought in 3rd and 4th year art students from the Art Institute in Chicago. On one table they placed twenty-one mundane art tools the students were used to seeing. They asked the students to create a still life scene (see photo above) on the second table using the tools from the first table, then produce a drawing of the scene.

The psychologists sat back and watched. Some students examined the tools on the first table quickly and moved to get to work on their painting. Meanwhile, others thoughtfully handled various tools, examining them carefully, rearranging the still life scene several times, and needing much longer to complete the drawing.

As the psychologists watched the students, they discovered there were two approaches—the first group was trying to solve a problem, while the second was trying to find a problem.

The psychologists then held an art show with all of the students' paintings. A panel of art experts evaluated the works (these experts didn't know the story behind them, they were judging the art at face value). The experts deemed the problem finders' work far more creative than the problem solvers'.

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi followed up with the students 15 years later. He discovered that the problem finders were two decades more advanced and far more successful on average than the problem solvers.

The quality of the problem that is found is a forerunner of the quality of the solution that is attained. It is in fact the discovery and creation of problems rather than any superior knowledge, technical skills, or craftsmanship that often sets the creative person apart from others in his field. —Dr. C

Reaction vs Creative Instigation

Solving the problems is not always the hard part, but it's finding the right problems to solve that will allow you to be leap years ahead of the reactionists.

Here's a question to ask when looking for problems: how can I move you? Taking away the fundamental sales person—throwing him out and creating a culture where everyone sells based on looking for the best problem to solve. It looks like this:

  • The problem? We need to create more trust and connection that can be established in our client relationships.
  • The solution? What would this particular relationship want more of to gain that trust? Then we creatively work at getting it to him/her.

Another question I like to use: what can I give you that would make your day? This completely takes the traditional sales feeling out of things and instead creates a giving and receiving situation rather than a value diminishing free for all.

95% of people think about themselves 95% of the time. It's important to immerse yourself in your customer's 95%, and not stay in your own.


This post's concept was gathered from Daniel Pink's new book To Sell Is Human. A great read with engaging stories and lots of practical selling advice in the Connection Economy.

Thanks for reading!