Latish Sehgal's Blog

Book Notes: To Sell Is Human

Read On: May 2015
Reading Time: 7 hours
Rating: 7/10


Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now. To Sell Is Human offers a fresh look at the art and science of selling. Along the way, Pink describes the six successors to the elevator pitch, the three rules for understanding another’s perspective, the five frames that can make your message clearer and more persuasive, and much more.


  • According to U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 out of 9 Americans worker works in Sales. The Author did a survey, and people are spending about 40 % of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling (persuading, influencing and convincing others in a way that didn’t involve making a purchase).
  • A world of entrepreneurs is a world of salespeople.
  • The new ABC for moving/persuading people:
    • Attunement is the ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you are in. Effective perspective-taking/attuning yourself with others, hinges on 3 principles:
      • Increase your power by reducing it. Power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, insufficiently adjusting to others perspective. Start your encounters with the assumption that you’re in a position of lower power. That will help you see the other side’s perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you to move them.
      • Use your head as much as your heart. Taking the perspective of one’s opponent (cognitive aspect vs Empathy emotional aspect) leads to better outcomes.
      • Mimic strategically. Ambiverts (and not introverts or extroverts) are the best movers because they are the most skilled attuners.
    • Buoyancy: to stay afloat amid the ocean of rejection while trying to move others. There are 3 components:
      • Before - Interrogative self talk: Those who approach a task with questioning self talk outperform those who use the more conventional juice-myself-up declarative self talk.
      • During - Positivity Ratio: The broadening effect of positive emotions has important consequences for moving others. A ratio of 3:1 for positive:negative emotions lets people flourish.
      • After - Explanatory style: Sales people with positive explanatory style, who see rejections as temporary rather than universal, and external rather than personal, do better and last longer.
    • Clarity: The ability to help others see their situation in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had. Clarity depends on contrast. We often understand something better when we see it in comparison with something else than when we see it in isolation. There are 5 frames to provide clarity for persuading:
      • The less frame: Framing people’s options in a way that restricts their choices can help them.
      • The experience frame: People derive much greater satisfaction from purchasing experiences than they do from purchasing goods. Therefore, framing a sale in experiential terms is more likely to lead a satisfied customer and repeat business.
      • Label frame: Labeling a group, or an exercise influences the outcome and behavior of people.
      • The blemished frame: Adding a minor negative detail in an otherwise postive description of a target can give the description a more positive impact.
      • The potential frame: The potential to be good at something can be preferred over actually being good at that very same thing. People often find potential more interesting than accomplishment (because it’s uncertain).
  • Discussion Map: In a meeting, draw a diagram of where each person is sitting. Add a marker next to their name every time they speak and draw lines from speaker to recipient. You get a good summary of the discussion at the end.
  • People are more likely to move together when they share a common goal.
  • We humans are notoriously bad about wrapping our head around far-off events.
  • The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea, but to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrive at an outcome that appeals to both of you.
  • Six promising successors to the elevator pitch:
    • The one word pitch: Companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.
    • The question pitch: When a question is asked, you are compelled to respond, either aloud or silently. Deeper processing reveals the solidarity of strong arguments and the flimsiness of weak ones. Question pitches prompt people to come up with their own reasons for agreeing.
    • The ryhming pitch: Including a rhyme can enhance the processing fluency of your listeners, allowing your message to stick in their minds.
    • The subject line pitch: Email subjects with high utility, curiousity and specificity get opened.
    • The Twitter pitch: 140 characters or less.
    • The Pixar pitch: Pitch it like a pixar movie narrative.
  • 3 rules of improvisational theater:
    • Hear Offers: It’s based on attunement, leaving your own perspective to inhabit the perspective of another. Slow down and listen to what others say without thinking of a response.
    • Say “Yes, And”: Instead of saying “No”, or “Yes, but”, say “Yes, And”. This leads to a set of options, not a sense of futility.
    • Make your partner look good. It makes you look good too.


I read this with my work colleagues, and thought it was an ok read.

P.S I have moved all my Book Notes to Read My Book Notes.