To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Published: 12/3/2013
To Sell Is Human offers a fresh look at the art and science of selling. As he did in Drive and A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink draws on a rich trove of social science for his counterintuitive insights. He reveals the new ABCs of moving others (it's no longer "Always Be Closing"), explains why extraverts don't make the best salespeople, and shows how giving people an "off-ramp" for their actions can matter more…

To Sell Is Human By Daniel Pink

Key Insights

Can you think of a job that doesn’t require you to sell something?

We didn’t think so.

Though you may not be treading door to door to sell people on a new product or candy bars for a baseball fundraiser, every job has some sort of selling element that’s necessary to the successful running of a company.

In “To Sell Is Human” Daniel Pink explains that as humans, we are all “in sales”. This rings especially true nowadays when most millennials are jumping on the entrepreneur bus and saying ‘buh-bye’ to the 9-5.

Persuading, convincing, and influencing all find their way into every job in the market. It’s not always about money. Sometimes, it’s simply selling an idea.

“The ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness.”- Daniel Pink

After reading these insights from Pink, you’ll understand that as humans, our job is to sell. And, he will teach you how to do it right in the modern world.

Key Points

  • Honesty and Service

Unfortunately, salespeople usually get a pretty bad rep. They are known for pushing and pushing until they finally get the customer to buy or walk away in annoyance.

The classic example we all think of is the used car salesman who tries to swindle the customer without the appropriate knowledge to buy. However, things have changed since we have the internet, an unlimited resource for information.

Because of the internet, sellers have followed suit and become more transparent with their information, as they know the customer could easily just ‘look it up’ online.

And, because everyone is so honest and forthcoming now, the classic motto “Always Be Selling” has become very outdated.

  • Understand Others

In order to successfully sell something, it’s important to see things from another’s perspective.

Sellers, to contradict popular belief, are not always outgoing fast-talkers. Someone who is fast-talking to their customers probably isn’t listening to their customer’s needs. The best salespeople are the ones who can be friendly and offer suggestions, yet also sit back and listen to what the customer is saying.

“Extraverts, in other words, often stumble over themselves. They can talk too much and listen too little, which dulls their understanding of others’ perspectives. They can fail to strike the proper balance between asserting and holding back, which can be read as pushy and drive people away.”- Daniel Pink

Attunement means understanding what others are thinking, not what they are feeling. Empathy is understanding how others are feeling. And, though, it is nice to be empathetic, being attuned to what others are thinking is much more important in selling.

People in power tend to stick to their own perspectives, which makes it harder for them to become attuned to others.

A powerful sales tool that helps people to know you understand what they are thinking is mimicry. This is the act of mimicking with small gestures what the other person is doing. Mimicry also includes repeating words and phrases back to the customer during the conversation to make sure they understand that you are both on the same page.

Of course, you want to be careful not to overdo it! Big gestures and overly repeating phrases will not help you to make a sale. It’s all about finding a middle-ground.

  • Overcome Rejection

Sometimes it can be hard for a salesperson to stay positive and motivated when they are constantly getting rejected. Because let’s face it, it happens more often than not!

That’s where the helpful trait of buoyancy comes in. The ability to bounce back from a rejection is one that must be learned over time.

Self-talk is a great method to overcome rejection. Saying “I can do this” to yourself is more beneficial than you may think. By making the decision that you can do something, you give them the power to yourself to actually do it.

During a sale, you must stay positive if you want the sale to be successful.

After a rejection, it is important to treat it like something external. Blaming the failure on yourself will not help you to sell in the future. For example, if you were selling umbrellas, you could blame the rejected sale on the fact that it wasn’t raining.

  • Help Them See Their Problems and Solutions

The best salespeople help customers to see their problems and solutions through a totally new angle.

A great way to do this is to find a problem, rather than focus on selling. For example, if a customer comes in to buy a washing machine and the salesperson discovers through investigative questions that the reason their old one broke is that they were overloading it, they become valuable because they are able to recommend the correct sized washer.

“In the new world of sales, being able to ask the right questions is more valuable than producing the right answers. Unfortunately, our schools often have the opposite emphasis. They teach us how to answer, but not how to ask.”- Daniel Pink

When presenting the new washers to the customer, it is wise to compare it to research that relates. This way you sound informative and able to diagnose a solution. It’s all about credibility!

Then, when you start to recommend washers that would work for larger loads, don’t give more than a few options. Overloading the customer (much like their washer) could cause them to break, or not be able to make a decision, which would result in you losing a sale.

When you give the customer a clear plan to fix their problem, they will feel at ease with making a purchase.

  • Modern Pitches

With all the hustle and bustle going on in the world nowadays, it’s hard to get people to listen. So, the modern pitch should be short and sweet and to the point.

However, this short and sweet pitch must also be engaging. That’s because we are exposed to so many pitches throughout our days. They come in all forms such as social media, on subways, on TV, on billboards, etc.

An expert tip is to use the rhyming technique, which says to make your pitch rhyme. It is said that it helps people remember it better! It’s almost like a song that is stuck on repeat in your head.

  • Improve

In the old days, salespeople would rely on conversational scripts in order to make a sale. But, in the market today, that pre-planned robot-toned script just doesn’t work.

That’s why it’s important for salespeople to keep an open mind, relate to their customers, and go off their energy. That is why listening to the customer is so important. You don’t know what they are going to say next, so you shouldn’t know what you are going to say next either!

Another thing to note is that you must make the customer feel good about the sale. You don’t want to just push the sale on them. Make sure that the sale is actually going to benefit their lifestyle.

And, always stay positive when answering questions or giving advice!

  • Have Purpose

In order to find success, you must have a purpose and make your sales personal.

To make it personal, you must see the sale as helping someone in need rather than just selling something to a customer. This will help you to find a purpose in your job. You must find a higher purpose in what you are doing to not only be happy, but to have success in the workplace.

To sell, you must be human and want to help people on a personal level.

The Main Take-Away

Selling is a part of all of our lives, no matter what field we work in. To successfully sell you must listen to customers, see things from new perspectives, and recover quickly from rejection.


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