Pink’s central thesis is that selling is not a segregated activity performed only by sales professionals; rather, it is a fundamental human behavior that is a part of everyone’s personal lives. He argues that in this modern world, where information is abundant and accessible, the traditional rules of sales have changed.
The book dissects this new landscape and provides insights into how individuals can better move others to take action.
To Sell Is Human Summary
Pink begins by dismantling the traditional view of sales, proposing that each person is engaged in “non-sales selling.”
He asserts that teachers, doctors, and even parents engage in persuasive communication and convincing others to part with resources, whether it’s attention, effort, or time, not just money. To support this notion, Pink draws upon social science, weaving together a range of studies that illustrate how pervasive and critical these selling skills are.
He replaces the old ABC (Always Be Closing) with a new set of ABCs: Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
- Attunement involves understanding another person’s perspective,
- buoyancy is about staying afloat amidst the ocean of rejection that is a part of selling anything,
- and clarity refers to the ability to distill and communicate the most important aspects of the product, idea, or service one is offering.
The Six Pitches
The book then shifts its focus towards the abilities and traits that enhance these new principles.
Pink argues that the classic elevator pitch is outdated in today’s society. Instead, he suggests six successors to the elevator pitch, including the
- one-word pitch,
- the question pitch,
- the rhyming pitch,
- the subject line pitch,
- the Twitter pitch, and
- the Pixar pitch.
Each of these new forms of pitching is adapted to how people process information and make decisions in the age of information overload.
They’re designed to be more engaging and to invite conversation rather than delivering a one-sided message. He emphasizes that the purpose of a sale is not just an exchange of goods for money but an act that can and should improve the world in some way.
In conclusion, “To Sell Is Human” proposes a refreshing, enlightened take on the act of selling.
Pink encourages readers to reconsider selling as an essential human activity that relies on honesty, transparency, and a focus on the mutual benefit of all parties involved. He successfully reframes the image of salesmanship, urging an approach that is adaptive, empathetic, and grounded in the service of others.
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1. The New ABCs – Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity
The ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and the context you’re in is vital. This involves understanding the perspectives, emotions, and motivations of others.
To achieve attunement, Pink suggests practices like mimicking (subtly copying the body language of the person you’re conversing with), spending time in the other person’s role (to understand their challenges and perspective), and exercising humility.
This skill is critical because a salesperson—or anyone in a position to influence—must connect on a human level before any transaction can happen.
This is about dealing with the ocean of rejection one faces in sales and other persuading roles.
Pink highlights the importance of staying afloat through positivity, which includes asking oneself interrogative self-talk questions like “Can I succeed?” instead of declarative statements like “I will succeed.”
This encourages a realistic assessment of the situation and preparation for the task.
After each interaction, whether a success or a failure, buoyancy is about learning from the experience, maintaining a positive attitude, and moving forward without getting weighed down by negativity.
In an age of information overload, being able to distill information into a clear and compelling message is paramount.
This involves not only curating relevant information but also identifying the right problems to solve. Pink suggests that the capacity to frame problems in a new light can open doors to novel solutions and opportunities.
He also emphasizes the importance of simplifying choices for others, making the process of decision-making easier and more effective.
2. Mastering the Art of Pitching via these Six Pitches
The One-Word Pitch
This approach distills a message or a brand into a single word that captures the essence of what’s being offered.
The aim is to carve out a niche in the listener’s mind with a word that is memorable and powerful enough to evoke a brand’s entire message.
For example, if you think of the word “search,” Google might come to mind, demonstrating the effectiveness of their one-word pitch.
The Question Pitch
Instead of making a statement, you ask a question.
The question pitch can be more engaging than the traditional declarative pitch because it prompts the listener to come up with their own reasons for agreeing.
For instance, instead of saying “Our product saves you time,” you might ask, “Would you like to do more with your time?” This makes the listener reflect on how the product might be beneficial to them personally.
The Rhyming Pitch
Pink notes that rhymes can increase the persuasiveness of a pitch because they are more memorable and pleasing to the ear.
A rhyming pitch makes the message more digestible, repeatable, and hence more persuasive. A famous example is the phrase “Woes unite foes,” suggesting that common difficulties can bring together unlikely partners in a memorable and rhythmic way.
The Subject Line Pitch
This is based on the idea that emails with catchy subject lines get opened, while those with dull ones do not.
Pink suggests that crafting a pitch like an email subject line can be effective. The subject line needs to generate curiosity or provide utility.
For instance, “3 Strategies to Improve Your Memory” promises the reader clear value, making it more likely that they’ll engage.
The Twitter Pitch
Twitter, with its original 140-character limit, has trained users to be concise.
A Twitter pitch necessitates that you express your pitch in a way that could fit into a tweet, focusing only on the essential elements of your message. This not only challenges you to be concise but also to be clear.
For example, if you were pitching a new fitness app, your Twitter pitch might be, “Our app is the 15-minute personal trainer for your pocket – fitness made fast, fun, and affordable.”
The Pixar Pitch
Pink refers to the narrative structure that Pixar uses for its successful films, suggesting that crafting a pitch that tells a story using this structure can be very effective. The Pixar pitch involves six sequential sentences:
- Once upon a time __________.
- Every day, __________.
- One day __________.
- Because of that, __________.
- Because of that, __________.
- Until finally __________.
This format compels you to create a story arc for your product or idea, with a beginning, middle, and end that captures the imagination.
For instance, if you’re pitching an innovative gardening tool, you might create a Pixar pitch that leads your audience through the story of a typical gardener’s challenges and how your product revolutionizes their experience.
Each of these pitch types is designed to be engaging, to stand out in a sea of information, and to get the audience to think or respond actively rather than passively consuming a message.
They are strategic tools in the modern seller’s arsenal, with each type of pitch being suitable for different contexts and objectives.
3. Servant Selling
The “servent selling” approach redefines the purpose of a sale from simply an exchange of goods to an act of improving lives.
Servant sellers prioritize the needs and well-being of the buyer over the potential sale itself. This ethical dimension is crucial because when sellers focus on serving others, trust is built, relationships are strengthened, and sales become a byproduct of the value they are adding. This lesson extends beyond professional sales roles; it is applicable to any situation where influence is necessary.
Pink’s servant selling is a long-term strategy that depends on the cultivation of empathy, a deep understanding of customer needs, and the alignment of products or ideas to serve those needs genuinely.
The book serves as a guide for anyone who wishes to influence and move others—essentially, for everyone—by providing them with the tools and mindsets necessary to do so in a deeply human and morally conscious way.
Pink’s work is an invitation to embrace the art of selling as a way of life, and his strategies are not only for business success but for better human interaction and communication.
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