Book Summary

To sell is human By DANIEL PINK

Like it or not, we’re all in sales. Just take a look at the emails and the text messages that you sent last week. If you look closely enough, you’ll realize that in many of your messages you are convincing someone to take a specific action. You may have tried to get a friend to help you, a family member to agree with you or a boss to listen to you. Sometime this week you might try to get someone to share your Facebook post, help you clean the house or help you complete a project at work.

We human beings are social creatures who need to work together to achieve certain goals therefore selling: the act of persuading someone to take a specific action- is a fundamental human skill. But that doesn’t mean that we’re naturally good at it. Unless you take the time to hone a few sales skills, you’ll be met with wave after wave of rejection and frustration.

So let me show you two proven sales skills from the book ‘to sell is human’ that you can use when trying to complete a sale.

The first skill is attunement. You can think of the two men as the adjustment of a radio dial in your mind. Just as a radio needs to be adjusted to be in tune with a specific radio station, you need to adjust your thinking to attune to the person that you’re trying to persuade.

In 2008, researchers at a top Business School in France had 152 full-time MBA students negotiate over the sale of a gas station.  The students were randomly put in either the seller or the buyer position. The negotiations were complex since the maximum amount the buyer was authorized to pay was lower than what the seller was willing to accept.

One day before the negotiations, the buyers were told one of three things. One group of buyers were told to focus on how the seller was feeling, another group of buyers were told to focus on what the seller was thinking and the last group of buyers was simply told to focus on their role.

After all the negotiations, the researchers gathered the results. They discovered that the students who reached the most agreements and had the highest satisfaction scores from the buyers were the students who took the time to adopt the buyer’s perspective. In other words the prospective takers were the most persuasive deal makers.

However, researchers have also found that you are less likely to accurately understand what another person is thinking if you don’t adjust the perceived power dial on your mental radio. To understand the importance of perceived power, consider the last time you tried to get a younger, less experienced person to do something for you like a child or subordinate at work. Did you really take the time to adopt their point of view or did you just assume that they would listen to you because you were in a position of higher power?

A 2006 Northwestern University study revealed that when people are primed to feel powerful through a series of power inducing exercises, they were 3 times less likely to consider another person’s point of view. If we feel smarter or more powerful than the person we’re trying to persuade we will fail to attune to their way of thinking and be less likely to persuade them. Therefore the first step in trying to persuade anyone is taking a moment to lower your perceived power.

A renowned saleswoman in the book says that we should quote take the attitude of “I’m sitting in a small chair so you can sit in the big chair.”

One way that I’ve learned to do this is to silently recite a quote by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates once said, “I am the wisest man alive for I know one thing. I know nothing!”

If knowledge is power and I assume for the moment that I know nothing, I can turn my perceived power dial way back. By operating from a position of lower power, I ask more questions, I listen more carefully and I try to align my thinking more precisely. When people take the time to attune to our perspective, we like and trust them more and when we like and trust a person were more receptive to what they’re selling. Attuning to another person’s perspective also allows you to understand what motivates that person to act.

This leads to the second skill of sales: clarity.

Think of something that you should do but you’re not ready to do it right now. Consider a mess in your house that you could clean up but you’re not up for it at the moment. Now answer this question: on a scale of one to ten, with one being not the least bit ready and ten being totally ready how ready are you to start cleaning? Take a moment to really ponder your answer and come up with a number.

Now why didn’t you pick a lower number? Michael Pantalon, a psychologist at Yale School of Medicine says this question catches everyone off guard. It’s part of a technique called motivational interviewing and it helps identify hidden motives for action. If you picked a readiness of three instead of two you may have found yourself justifying why part of you is ready to act.

This self-interrogation reveals hidden inner motives. Your primary goal as a salesperson is to find and clarify these inner motives. Author Daniel pink says the best way to clarify a desire to act is to make a comparison.

Pretend for a moment that you wake up every day having to worry about money. Now compare that feeling to winning the lottery and never having to worry about money again. Or consider a field that you’re competitive in either a sport a school program or a business industry. Now compare where you are with where your nearest competitor is. Did these comparisons spark a desire to maybe get a lottery ticket or to do something to one-up your competitor?

This is the emotion you want to trigger at the beginning of every sale. Don’t jump straight into your sale. Instead, start by making a comparison. Compare their current experience with what they could experience. Compare what they have with what they could lose.

By attuning to one’s perspective you start to understand what motivates them and by asking questions and providing comparisons you verify those motives and raise ones willingness to act from a 2 to a 10. When someone is ready to act, they’ll be more receptive to what you’re selling.

If You enjoyed this reading, check out our other book summaries.

our other services

How can we Help you?

Personal Development

Customized personal development plans to help you transform your life and build the future you want for yourself and your family.



Build a thriving business in any market by learning proven skills and techniques to survive, thrive and grow. 



leadership training

 Creating a brand that thrives - instead of one that merely survives by becoming a great leader.


public speaking

Gain effective presentation skills and ultimately elevate your career using our tailored public speaking courses. 

sales training

Move from simply being passionate about sales to closing the sale. Reach your desire sales targets with our unique sales training program


time / resource management

In business, time is your most precious resource. Learn effective time management techniques to help increase your productivity