Summary: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink
Summary: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Summary: To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Selling or at least moving others is part of almost every job today. The traditional line between sales and other departments is rapidly diminishing. All employees from the frontline to CEO should interact with the customers and help bring in sales. Take Atlassian, the enterprise software company, for example where the company generated revenues of just over $100 million in 2011 without a single salesperson.


When sellers know more than buyers.

In the past, one side is fully informed, the other is at least partially in the dark. Asymmetrical information creates all sort of headache. If a seller knows much more about a product than the buyer, the buyer understandably gets suspicious “if the car is too good, why is he getting rid of it?” As a result, the buyer might be willing to pay only very little or perhaps forego purchasing the car altogether.


What happens when buyers know as much as sellers do?

Stop imagining that world, you’re living in it. Internet has radically changed the history of information asymmetry. Nowadays from used car to new smartphones, you can go online and pull information including technical specifications, customer reviews and product prices. You can also expose a dishonest dealer online, doing serious damage to their business and for that matter possibly yours.

Same trend applies to non-sales selling. Teachers and doctors are no longer gatekeepers of knowledge as students and patients can find information online for themselves.

In modern selling, you must shift your value from information to service and curation.


Selling usually becomes more specialized as organizations grow.

A 2-person company doesn’t need HR department. A 2,000-person company doesn’t survive without them. In bigger companies, selling is often a specialized function, a department, a division, a task that some person does so others can specialize in something else. But the founders of small companies do not have that luxury. They must wear several hats often at the same time, and one of these hats is the selling hat.


Tech is a double-edged sword.

The same tech that renders certain type of salespeople as obsolete has turned even more people into potential sellers. For instance, the existence of smartphones has birthed an entire app economy that didn’t exist before 2007 when apple shipped its first iPhone. Now the production of apps itself is responsible for nearly half a million jobs in the United States alone. Once again, the net effect is more creative than destructive.


The new ABC stands for Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.

Attunement means understanding what others are thinking. Buoyancy means staying afloat in a sea of rejection and keep selling day after day without losing faith. Clarity means finding the real problem rater than solving the surface problem.


When extroversion backfires in sales.

The idea that extroverts make better salespeople is far from the truth. One sort of personality doesn’t hold all the cards when it comes to selling. It’s the person’s ability to attune themselves to customers’ perspectives, stay afloat in a sea of rejection and solve the real customer problems that wins them the sales.


Rejection is often temporary, specific and external.

People who see rejection that way (e.g. Today was a bad day to sell because this merchant had a full stock already) will likely sell more than those who see rejection as permanent, pervasive and personal (e.g. I’ll never sell anything to anyone since I’m a horrible salesperson.).


Limit the number of choices.

The paradox of choice explains why people make better decisions when fewer choices are presented.


Sell ‘experience’ over ‘product’.

People tend to derive greater pleasure form buying experiences than just material possessions.


Pitch short and simple.

When Elisha Otis took an axe and severed the cable of the open elevator he was standing in, some three stories off the ground. The audience grasped in fright, but the elevator barely budged. Otis had just proven his new automatic safety break worked. Both his invention and his method of moving people with a short, simple and effective pitch proliferated rapidly.


Know your pitches.

Twitter pitch – Pitch across in just the length of a Twitter message or the subject line of an email.

One-word pitch. – Boil down the pitch to just one word, like Obama’s 2012 campaign ‘Forward’.

Question pitch – Ask questions to make people think and find ways to agree with you. Before Roland Regan defeated Jimmy Carter, he asked voters to consider whether they were better off now than they were 4 years ago.

Pixar pitch – Every Pixar film shares the narrative DNA, a deep structure of storytelling that involves six sequential sentences.

  1. Once upon a time, there was ____
  2. Everyday ____
  3. One day ____
  4. Because of that ____
  5. Because of that ____
  6. Until finally ____

Take for example, the plot of finding Nemo.

“Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish name Merlin who is protective of his only son Nemo. Everyday Merlin warned Nemo on the dangers of Ocean and implored him not to swim far away. One day in an act of defiance, Nemo swims away from his father. Because of that he is captured by a diver and ends up as a pet in a fish tank of a dentist in Sydney. Because of that Merlin sets out on a journey to recover Nemo enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way. Until finally, Merlin and Nemo found each other, reunite and learnt that love depends on trust.”

Rhyming pitch – People subconsciously think rhyming statements as more accurate and stickier than non-rhyming ones.


Listening shouldn’t be waiting for your turn to speak.

Surveys have shown doctors usually interrupt their patients within first 18 seconds of them speaking. On the other hand, ‘improv’ encourages actors to listen to what other people say and prepare them to work with what the other person offers.


Harness the blemishing effect.

What you say positive about your product is taken with a grain of salt, but what you say negative about your product is almost immediately accepted. Adding a minor negative detail in otherwise positive description of a target can give that description a more positive impact. So, list all the positives and add a mild negative.