To Sell is Human

Introduction ... To Sell is Human

In "To Sell is Human" Daniel Pink suggests that we're all salespeople, irrespective of our job titles. Surprised?

Think about it. When you're pitching ideas at a meeting, negotiating deals, or persuading your kids to eat their vegetables, aren't you selling something? Pink certainly thinks so.

He reflects, "When I stepped back to assess this welter of information – a pointillist portrait of what I do and therefore, in some sense, who I am – the picture that stared back was a surprise: I am a salesman."

This idea isn't new.
Arthur Miller, in his classic play "Death of a Salesman", penned the line: "The only thing you’ve got in the world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is, you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that." So, have you ever considered that, in a way, you might be a salesperson too?"

We've Moved to a New Sales Landscape

The traditional image of a salesperson was the pushy salesperson, always trying to close a deal?

Well, times have changed.

Pink emphasizes that the sales landscape has undergone a significant transformation. The modern era no longer tolerates the aggressive, self-serving sales tactics of the past. Instead, it demands honesty, fairness, and transparency.

Pink asserts, "We’ve moved from a world of caveat emptor, buyer beware, to one of caveat venditor, seller beware – where honesty, fairness, and transparency are often the only viable path."

So, what does this mean for you?
It means that the way you persuade and influence others needs to be rooted in integrity and respect.
Are you ready to navigate this new landscape?

Belief in What You Sell is Crucial

In this transformed sales landscape, there's one thing that stands out as crucial - belief.
Pink underscores the importance of genuinely believing in what you're selling. Whether it's a product, an idea, or a philosophy, having faith in it is no longer optional; it's essential.

Pink puts it succinctly, "Actually believing in what you’re selling has become essential on sales’ new terrain."

So, ask yourself, do you truly believe in what you're advocating for? Because your conviction could be the key to your success.

The Persistent Role of Sales

Contrary to the expectation that technology would displace sales jobs, Pink presents us with a surprising revelation. Despite the rise of broadband, smartphones, and e-commerce, the number of sales jobs and the proportion of the US workforce in sales have remained steady.

As Pink highlights, "Between 2000 and today, the very period that broadband, smartphones, and e-commerce ascended to disintermediate salespeople and obviate the need for selling, the total number of sales jobs increased, and the portion of the US workforce in sales has remained exactly the same: one in nine."

So, what does this mean for you?
It means that the art of persuasion, the essence of sales, is still very much in demand.
Are you ready to harness this skill in the digital age?

We're All in Sales

As mentioned before we're all in the business of sales. But wait, does this mean we're all selling products or services? Not quite.

In "To Sell is Human" Pink suggests is that we're constantly engaged in the act of persuading, convincing, and moving others to take action. Whether you're a teacher sparking curiosity in your students, a doctor encouraging a patient to follow a treatment plan, or a parent persuading a child to finish their homework, you're selling.

The New ABCs of Selling

Have you ever seen the film "Glengarry Glen Ross", there is an  iconic scene where Alec Baldwin delivers a fiery speech to a group of salesmen?The scene is often called "Coffee is for Closers" and Baldwin's character quotes playwright David Mamet, driving home the traditional sales mantra of "A – always. B – be. C – closing." This approach, once the cornerstone of sales tactics, has seen its effectiveness wane in the face of evolving market dynamics.

In the past, when customers had limited options and salespeople held all the information, this strategy thrived. But as Pink illustrates, the era of "information asymmetry" in sales is over. Today's buyers are informed, with a plethora of choices at their fingertips. They often know more about products and features than many salespeople.

So, what does this mean for you?
Pink offers a more contemporary and comprehensive ABC framework that takes these changes into account.
Are you ready to learn the new ABCs of selling and adapt to this new landscape?


Attunement is about understanding and aligning with the perspectives, emotions, and motivations of others. It's about stepping into the shoes of the buyer, considering their context and needs, and not allowing our desires or experiences to cloud our judgment.


Buoyancy refers to the ability to stay afloat amidst the ocean of rejection that is often part and parcel of selling. It's about resilience, staying positive, and bouncing back from rejection.


Clarity is the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and new ways.

In a world overloaded with information, being able to sift through the noise and provide clear, concise, and relevant information is a valuable skill.

According to Pink, a positive and optimistic way of explaining things is much more effective than a neutral approach. Successful salespeople possess the ability to not only solve problems but also have the insight and perception to identify a client's problem, even when the client is unaware of it. To help clients gain clarity, it is recommended to present them with fewer options, as this typically increases the probability of making a purchase.

The Art of the Pitch

In "The Art of the Pitch," Daniel Pink introduces six distinctive models for delivering compelling pitches, each tailored to meet the demands of the modern world:

The "One-Word" Pitch

Have you ever considered the power of a single word?

Pink champions the idea of crafting a pitch centered around one impactful word that captures the essence of your product or idea. He points to Barack Obama's 2012 presidential campaign strategy, which revolved around the word "Forward." The goal of the one-word pitch is to be both concise and powerful.

But here's the challenge: finding that perfect word for your pitch. It's not always easy, but when you nail it, it can be incredibly effective. So, what would your one-word pitch be?

The "Question" Pitch

The "Question" Pitch is exemplified by Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign question, Pink encourages using thought-provoking questions in pitches. Questions engage the audience actively, compelling them to formulate reasons to agree.

Unfortunately, Pink provides just one historical example, leaving us yearning for more guidance on creating our own question-based pitches.

The "Rhyming" Pitch

Pink references Johnny Cochran's famous rhyme during the O.J. Simpson trial, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," as an illustration of the rhyming pitch. While rhymes can be memorable and impactful, they demand a level of creativity that may not always be easily attainable, making this pitch style less universally applicable.

The "Subject-Line" Pitch

Ever struggled with crafting the perfect subject line for your emails?

Pink offers some advice. He suggests using a specific, utilitarian, or intriguing subject line to capture the recipient's attention. It's about cutting through the clutter with something useful or curiosity-driven.

But how do you craft such a subject line? Pink provides illustrative examples to guide you. So, the next time you're writing an email, consider your subject line carefully. Could it be more specific, more useful, or more intriguing? How can you make your email stand out in a crowded inbox?

The "Twitter" Pitch

In the world of Twitter, brevity is king. Pink introduces us to the "Twitter" pitch, a format that thrives on succinctness, making it perfect for platforms like Twitter. But how do you craft a compelling pitch in just a few characters?

Pink suggests using questions, offering data, or providing useful information. It's about grabbing attention and sparking curiosity in a limited space. So, the next time you're crafting a tweet, consider this: How can you make your message concise, compelling, and packed with value?

The "Pixar" Pitch

The Pixar pitch model originates from Emma Coats, a former Pixar Animation Studios story artist.

It involves constructing a cohesive pitching paragraph with six fill-in-the-blank sentences:

  • Once upon a time...
  • Every day...
  • One day...
  • Because of that...
  • Because of that...
  • Until...

By using this structure, nearly any narrative can seize and retain the audience's attention. Pink exemplifies this approach with the movie "Finding Nemo," demonstrating how a story can be succinctly summarized using these sentence templates.

With these six pitch models, Pink provides you with a toolkit of diverse approaches. Each model is designed to help you tailor your pitches to various contexts and platforms. But remember, it's not just about understanding these models - it's about experimenting with them.

So, why not give them a try? Play around with these methods, see what works for you, and discover the most effective way to present your ideas and messages. After all, isn't finding your unique persuasive voice a powerful way to make an impact?

Improvisation and Service

IN "To  Sell is Human" Pink brings two more crucial elements into the mix - improvisation and service. But what do these mean in the context of sales?

Improvisation is about adaptability. It's about responding effectively in the moment, rather than sticking rigidly to a script. It involves being fully present, listening carefully, and responding in a way that keeps the conversation flowing. So, how can you incorporate more improvisation into your interactions?

Finally, Pink argues that the ultimate goal of selling should be to serve others. 
( I have been writing this before, often citing the origins for the word selling ... "Selje" = "to serve")
It's about making the sale personal and purposeful. As Pink puts it, it's about improving someone else's life or situation, rather than just closing a deal. This shift from upselling to up-serving can lead to more successful and fulfilling sales interactions. So, how can you shift your focus from simply making a sale to truly serving others?


"To Sell is Human" offers a fresh, science-based take on the art of selling. It provides valuable insights and practical tools for anyone involved in the process of persuading, convincing, and influencing others.

Further Reading

SalesBlink ... To Sell is Human

Graham Mann ... To Sell is Human