Summary of To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink

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  • Post last modified:September 18, 2023

Summary: 5 min

Book reading time: 4h18

Score: 4/10

Book published in: 2012

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  • Everyone is constantly trying to influence others. This is why you should absolutely learn how to sell.
  • Today customers have access to as much info as salespeople. Sales is no longer about forcing it, but about selling the best solution to the customer’s problem.

Table of Contents

What To Sell Is Human Talks About

To Sell Is Human is a book written by Daniel H. Pink. The book is a biographical account of how the author learned how to sell through talking to a wide array of people. It taught me that when selling, you should not say “but” when you encounter an argument from the buyer against a sale – you should say “yes, and”.

This book is not good. The author doesn’t have a point, or makes too many.

He is not specific, takes random examples to illustrate his claims, and draws conclusions out of “one” study, which is ridiculous.

Here’s the summary of the book if you still want to read it. To be honest, you’d be better off reading a book about copywriting, or reading Jordan Belfort’s Straight Line Selling.


If you want to help me make a living, you can buy the book here.

Summary of To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Officially, 1/9 people work in sales in the US. The same goes for the rest of the world.

Unofficially, everyone works in sales because everyone tries to persuade.


There are several reasons.

The first one is because a lot of people became independent. When you are independent, you have to do everything yourself, including sales.

The second reason is that people used to focus only on one thing when they were working in companies. Today, it is over. Everyone is doing different tasks that demand a certain level of persuasion.

The old way of selling (salesman style) is over because of the Internet.

Today, buyers often arrive better prepared than sellers -> sellers don’t have as much room to scam buyers. This has transformed sales, which have become much more transparent and human, and much less sleazy.

A New Way to Sell

The old way of selling used to be taught with ABC: Always Be Closing. Salesmen were using sleazy psychological techniques to get their customers to buy their stuff.

This is now over. ABC now means attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.

While it is said that extroverts make better salespeople, it has never been proven by science. In fact, the best salespeople are just between extroverts and introverts.


Attunement: means “harmonization”. It means psychologically being in sync with your buyer aka having empathy, thinking about what they think, and slightly mimicking them.

How do you mimic someone?

  1. Watch
  2. Wait: don’t mimic them right away
  3. Wane: be less conscious about mimicking them


Buoyancy is grit. It’s keeping on going despite rejection after rejection.

While most sales trainers (Tony Robbins, Grant Cardone, Jordan Belfort, etc) insist on confidence-boosting self-talk prior to starting any sales process, social sciences have found it to not be the most efficient way.

The best way is not to affirm you can do it, but to ask whether you can. There are two reasons for that.

  1. Asking a question demands that you seek an answer – hence, take action.
  2. Asking yourself a question demands that you seek an answer you chose to seek. Humans perform better when they do something they decided to do themselves.

Positivity is a second feature of buoyancy. Being positive broadens your point of view and helps you find solutions. Being negative does the opposite.

As long as positive emotions outnumber negative emotions with a ratio of 3/1, progress can be measured. However, this ratio should not be bigger than 11/1 as this is entering the realm of self-delusion.

The third aspect is explanatory style or the way you explain events to yourself. People going through a trauma where they have no control over their environment often remain in that psychological position even if they have regained some control.

They self-victimize, persuading themselves that there is nothing they can do against the bad things that happen to them.

On the opposite, people with a positive explanatory style – those that see rejection as temporary and specific, instead of universal and permanent – have much better sales results.

Next time something negative occurs, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is this permanent?
  2. Is this pervasive (universal)?
  3. Is this personal?


Problems exist everywhere nowadays, and often, it’s not about how to fix them, but which one to fix.

Solving problems isn’t as good as finding the right problem to solve.

Eg: you may try to solve the fact that you don’t have enough time by working harder.

But the right problem to solve may not be time, but that you are just doing too much stuff.

In a world where information is free and abundant, it’s not about finding the right info anymore – but about what you do with that info.

Information access has become trivial. Now, it’s all about information curation.

  • One of the ways to move others is to compare a certain piece of information to something else in order to give contrast to that piece of information.
  • We draw bigger satisfaction out of experiences than out of goods
  • Customers are likelier to buy when there is a restricted number of choices
  • Adding one negative element to a list of positive elements of a product can increase sales
  • The potential to be good at something is more favorably perceived than…actually being good at something.
  • Tell people specific instructions of what you want them to do

What to Do to Sell Better


Successful pitches don’t necessarily have to convince right off the bat. Instead, they must be interesting enough to the listener so that he feels pulled into the conversation he wants to have.

The author goes on to provide six successors to the elevator pitch.

Let’s say you want to create a fairtrade chocolate company.

  1. The one-word pitch: fair.
  2. The question pitch: don’t workers deserve fair retribution?
  3. The rhyming pitch: this chocolate today for workers’ fair pay.
  4. The subject-line pitch: why you need to buy fairtrade chocolate.
  5. The Twitter pitch: fairtrade chocolate is inherently sustainable.
  6. The Pixar pitch: think about it yourself.

Pixar movies follow a 6-part structure established like this:

Once upon a time……………………………….
Every day,…………………………………………….
One day,………………………………………………
Because of that,…………………………………..
Because of that,…………………………………..
Until finally,…………………………………………


There are three rules in improvisation.

1. Hear the offer: to do that, you need to listen, and not wait for people to stop talking. Once they finish speaking, wait for 15 seconds before saying something.

2. Say “yes and”: it enables you to build – hence accept – on whatever has been said before.

3. Make your partner look good


Serve is the last secret of sales. You should serve others first.

Messages saying “do this and it will help others” work better than “do this and it will help yourself”.

Don’t think about the money you will receive when you sell. Think about how much better your client’s life will be once they acquire your product.

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