You are currently viewing Book Summary: To Sell Is Human, by Daniel H. Pink

Book Summary: To Sell Is Human, by Daniel H. Pink

Article reading time: 5 min

Book reading time: 3 hours and 13 min

Unfortunately, To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink is not recommended – maybe because it is too old. The author doesn’t have a point, or are making too many. He also writes in a painfully long style and doesn’t get to the essential.

The author is not specific, takes random examples to illustrate his claims, and makes them out of “one” study instead of an array of studies, or at least, a meta-study.

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.

Anyway, here’s the summary of To Sell Is Human, written 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.

We mean by sales the art of moving, of persuading others. According to the book, employees spend on average 24 minutes for every hour they work trying to persuade someone – without a monetary transaction.

As such, sales, the art of persuading, is today practiced by everyone. We do it at work, we do it on social media, we do it everywhere all the time.


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 to sell (salesman style) is over because of the Internet.

Today, buyers often arrive better prepared than sellers. As such, sellers don’t have as much room to scam buyers. This has transformed sales, which has 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 in-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 mimick 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 element of a product can increase sales
  • The potential to be good at something is more favorably perceived than…actually be 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 a 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 establishes 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 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.

Leave a Reply