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Book Summary – To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others

To Sell is Human - Book summary

When we think of “sales”, most of us think of pushy door-to-door salespeople or slimy used-car salesmen. In this book, Daniel Pink shows how outdated this perspective is. In fact, everyone sells – as part of our work and lives, we constantly influence, sway or persuade others to take action. Whether you are in a sales role, or need to influence others at work, this book provides fresh perspectives and useful techniques to help you improve your ability to move and influence others. In this free To Sell is Human summary, you’ll learn how sales has changed, the difference between selling and moving, and what it takes to more effectively move and influence others to action.

Redefining Sales

Traditional selling is dead. Daniel Pink explains why and busts 3 important myths about sales.

1. Selling has shifted to MOVING

In today’s digital internet age, consumers are able to do their own research and comparisons, and get purchase advice from their social networks. In most cases, consumers have as much (if not more) information as the salesperson – cajoling or withholding information can no longer work, and the traditional way of selling is dead. Most people also spend about 40% of their workhours doing non-sales selling, i.e. convincing others to exchange their resources (e.g. expertise, time, effort, attention) for something they want. Such activities are a significant part of work, and are vital for one’s professional success. When we combine both sales and non-sales selling, everyone sells. However, instead of product pushing, we must now move people into action. In Pink’s words, we’re all in the “moving business”.

To Sell is Human summary_Intro

2. The 3Es Behind the Moving Business

How did so many of us end up as salespeople, or rather, movers? There are 3Es behind this trend – Entrepreneurship, Elasticity and “Ed-Med”.

• We’re seeing an unprecedented surge in the number of small and micro businesses. Such small business owners must wear multiple hats, including sales, hence more entrepreneurs means more salespeople.

• In today’s ever-changing landscape, “elasticity has become an essential skill for success, including cross-boundary roles, and skills that can be repurposed or applied in new ways.

• Education and Healthcare (Ed-Med“) are 2 of the fastest-growing industries, they are basically about moving people to take action, to achieve an outcome that’s good for them.

3. From Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor

In the past, sellers had more information than buyers, and the onus was on buyers to check the quality and suitability of the products, before making a purchase (Caveat Emptor). However, buyers today have almost equal access to information as sellers, and they also have the option to retaliate (e.g. share bad reviews on the internet or social media) if they’re unfairly treated. The new rule is now Caveat Venditor (i.e. seller-beware, with the seller being accountable for providing the necessary info to the buyer). Effective selling is no longer about being the most persistent or aggressive. It’s about being transparent and empathetic, and helping buyers to make sense of available facts and options, so they can make the best choices.

Becoming a Great Mover

Many successful salespeople live by this age-old adage, “Always be Closing”. They’re singularly focused on getting their prospects to say “yes” to what they’re selling.

The ABCs of Moving People

Pink proposes a new set of ABCs that are better suited for the new paradigm. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Attunement is about aligning yourself with others and the situation, stepping outside your own perspective and putting yourself in others’ shoes.
  • Buoyancy is about balancing determination with optimism, so you can successfully cope with the sheer volume of rejections that can be expected in the sales process.
  • Clarity is all about cutting through the clutter of information, to identify problems and present solutions clearly.

Feel free to check out more details, examples and specific tips from our full 13-page summary!

To Sell is Human summary - How to be a Good Mover

What To Do

Besides knowing the qualities required to move people effectively, you need to know what to do.  Daniel Pink breaks this down into 3 parts:

  • A pitch is not meant to convince others; it merely arouses interest and draws others into a conversation. Rather than use “elevator pitches” which are now outdated, we should learn 6 powerful, new tricks: the one-word pitch, question pitch, rhyming pitch, subject-line pitch, Twitter pitch, and Pixar pitch (more details in the full To Sell is Human summary).
  • Things don’t always go according to plan and we need to improvise.  Here, Daniel Pink provides 3 useful practices for improvisation.
  • Finally, focus on 2 principles to can serve others better, and you’ll learn how to genuinely move people and make selling/serving more meaningful.

Getting the Most from To Sell is Human

If you wish to learn more about the ABCs of moving people and the ways to do so effectively (including exercises to crytallize your thoughts), do check out our full book summary bundle. This comes with an infographic, a 13-page text summary and a 24-minute audio summary.

To Sell is Human summary_book summary bundle

This is an easy-to-read book, with many practical and relatable examples. In each chapter, Pink includes:
• Suggested reading and/ or useful links websites and free resources; and
• A set of exercises which you can apply to put the ideas to use.

You can purchase the book here or check out more resources at 

Want to hone your sales and influence skills? You might also enjoy our Presuasion summary and The Challenger Sale summary.

About the Author of To Sell is Human

To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others is written by Daniel H. Pink. Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from Yale Law School, but decided not to practice law. Pink worked in politics and economic policy, including being an aide to Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and being chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore.
In 1997, he quit his job to start out on his own. Besides Drive, he has
authored other books, including: Drive, A Whole New Mind, and Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself.

To Sell is Human Quotes

“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources – not to deprive that person, but to leave them better off in the end.”

“Most of us are movers; some of us are super-movers.”

“Whether you’re in traditional sales or non-sales selling… the high road – honesty, directness, and transparency – has become the better, more pragmatic, long-term route.”

“Each of us – because we’re human – has a selling instinct, which means that anyone can master the basics of moving others.”

“The key is to be strategic and human – to be strategic by being human.”

“While negative emotions help us see trees, positive ones reveal forests.”

“The ability to move others hinges less on problem solving than on problem finding.”

“One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not know they have.”

“The best pitches are short, sweet and easy to retweet.”

“Remember: Pitches that rhyme are more sublime.”

Click here to download To Sell is Human book summary and infographic

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