Stacks of books | BCBusiness

Stacks of books | BCBusiness
While there are many business tomes that discuss persuasion, Arlene Dickinson's new book offers advice on how to bring honesty and authenticity to a business.

Boss Lady Emira Mears plays up the power of persuasion when applied to small business success.

Arlene Dickinson, lone female on Dragons' Den, has a new book titled Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds, which focuses on how persuasion can create a thriving business.

I found myself trying to put my finger on exactly why this book stood out for me; unlike so many business tomes, which feel like they’re coming as the author rides a first wave of success, this one reads like words of wisdom from someone able to draw on a varied body of experience.

Perhaps it’s also because Dickinson doesn’t offer any quick formulas for success. In fact, her long-tail approach to building a successful career and reputation – not just chasing after a quick buck – left me feeling like I was reading advice that was different from the usual business how-to chatter. To quote the author: “Never forget that whatever you do for a living, you’re playing a long game, and your reputation is your most valuable asset.”

It was in the second section of the book, “Principled Persuasion,” where I found myself scribbling the most notes in the margin. She addresses the value of honesty, authenticity and reciprocity in building trust in business relationships – trust that will help you persuade, pitch and ultimately build your business. And, from her perspective, result in the most sustainable success. She’s both humble and frank about the successes and failures she’s experienced in her career, and isn’t offering any quick tips. She advises while honesty may cost you a short-term sale, the alternative will likely cost you your reputation.

As someone who didn’t come to the world of sales out of a real hunger, but rather out of the necessity to build a business I’m passionate about, I find Dickinson’s advice both sage and applicable. Much of what she’s advocating – approaches such as listening to client needs instead of wowing people with your brilliance, and managing expectations during the pitch process – resonates with how I’ve built my own business.

And, while it’s tempting to admire others who support your own opinion, what I found most valuable was hearing that this approach leads to long-term success. So much of the business world, and business advice, is about flashy delivery and the latest trend. Dickinson sees building a business as an extension of building relationships, and that's a sales approach in which someone who isn’t a born pitcher can find comfort.

Dickinson does, in fact, seem a bit wary of the latest trends, a value I can admire, but the one area I would fault her is her mistrust of social media. Reading between the lines, I’d say she’s less concerned about the medium itself than some of the hype suggesting it will solve every business’s problems.

That said, I do think social media, if approached from Dickinson’s theory of persuasion, can move businesses to the same kind of relationship building she’s advocating. She has a quote that sums up the real power in social media, when talking about the role of listening in pitching: “A pitch is not a sales spiel,” she writes. “It’s a conversation, and the purpose is to engage and learn, not to talk and sell.”

I couldn’t agree more, and when applied to all avenues of business, including online communications, you’ll have a winning approach to building long-term business success.