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on 13 May 2013
Daniel H Pink's To Sell is Human traces how the world of marketing has changed with a consequence that the stereotypical image of a secondhand car salesman is a long way from best practice today. There has been a fundamental shift in power: in the past Salesman had knowledge of the product and of pricing creating a power imbalance between salesman and customer (hence caveat emptor); however, with the rise of the Internet and social media, consumers now have knowledge and the power to bite back if they are bitten (hence caveat venditor).
Central to Pink's thesis is the argument that to a greater or lesser extent we all employ marketing techniques as part of our daily work (selling ideas to others, exhorting others to do things that we want them to do, etc.) hence his assertion that we are all to some extent in marketing.
This is quite a practical book and one of the strongest examples of this is the section on "pitching" to others. Here Pink outlines six different ways to pitch. These would make an excellent brainstorming session for school marketing departments - How would sum up your school using the following six techniques?
The one-word pitch: e.g. Mastercard's "Priceless"
The question pitch: e.g. Ronald Regan's "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" in the 1976 US Election campaign.
The rhyming pitch: e.g. "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" from O.J. Simpson's lawyer at his trial.
The subject line pitch: A phrase that can fit into an email subject line (tip: utility and curiosity are the key to success here)
The Twitter pitch: Using 140 or fewer characters.
The Pixar Pitch: Employing the winning formula used by Pixar movies (Once upon a time . . . . Every day, . . . . One day, . . . . Because of that . . . Because of that . . . . Until finally, . . . . )
Pink provides an excellent summary of his book in the form of what he terms a "Pixar Pitch":
"Once upon a time only some people were in sales. Every day, they sold stuff, we did stuff and everyone was happy. One day everything changed: All of us ended up in sales - and sales changed from a world of caveat emptor to caveat venditor. Because of that, we had to learn the new ABCs - attunement, buoyancy and clarity. Because of that, we had to learn some new skills - to pitch, to improvise, and to serve. Until finally, we realised that selling isn't some grim accommodation to a brutal marketplace culture. It's part of who we are - and therefore something we can do better by being more human." p.172-3
Pink ends his book on a rather moral note arguing that selling needs to provide a service: he asks two questions, which all would do well to heed.
If the person you're selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?
When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began?
This sits firmly in the accessible business/psychology genre much loved by our colleagues across the pond. Pink writes well and this is an easy read with lots of good practical take-aways in the form of exercises at the end of the key chapters.
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on 2 August 2014
The book is so boring at the beginning that I put it down repeatedly and stopped reading it altogether for a year! That is until I read "Drive" by the same author and loved it so much that I thought there must be something in here. Low and behold, deeper into book there are some real perls of wisdom.

Don't be discouraged if you find the start slow. It does get better.
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on 6 March 2013
If I could give "To sell is human" another title, it would be, "Why you're in Sales now; and what you can do about it".

Chapters 1-3, under the Part heading "Rebirth of a Salesman", contrast the traditional concept of Sales with Pink's fresh, almost all-encompassing re-labelling of selling as any activity that involves persuading, convincing, or influencing others. In a series of light hearted but also, at times, poignant vignettes, Pink follows the last of the Fuller Brush salesman on his door to door journey of San Francisco; and this is really a swan song for a type of sales that has already died. (As a side note to the author, I would have loved to have seen a similar treatment of network selling which, despite its undoubted popularity in certain quarters, is tainted by the same awkward, embarrassing, and outdated mindset as traditional sales.)

Chapter 2 offers a dissection of the distinct trends in society towards entrepreneurship and the rise in education and health care, which extends and complements some of the themes found in his earlier books such as, 'A Whole New Mind', 'Drive', and 'Free Agent Nation'. I do love Pink's ability to spot and clarify in simple terms these medium-to-long term trends within society as they happen; almost like a historian writing in real time.

Chapters 4-7 under the Part heading "How to Be" focus on the new ABC of selling (Attunement, Bouyancy, and Clarity) and offer pertinent and practical discussions, but I am not sure whether they could be classed as a 'surprising truth' which is the promise of the title page. Anybody with a background in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) will instantly recognise attunement as 'rapport' which has been part of the core literature for many, many years. The "Mirror, Mirror" and "Watch. Wait. Wane.", for example, are what would commonly be called "Matching and Mirroring" and the "Pull up a chair" example from Amazon is really just a single example of "perceptual positions" which, again, is long standing within the core body of NLP literature and harnessed widely within sales training. Finally, "bouyancy" and the associated techniques described are, to me, again, really a restatement of NLP "reframing". This does not detract from the power of the techniques, or the advice that Pink offers you as the reader, but I did not feel that they necessarily needed to be relabelled.

Chapters 7-9 under the Part heading "What to Do" intrigued me most, and has challenged me to rethink the way that I interact with my own clients (I am freelance project manager, so the concept of different 'pitches' (e.g. one-word pitch, question pitch, rhyming pitch, subject-line pitch, Twitter pitch, and Pixar pitch) is genuinely arresting, and something that I have applied with immediate results in my working life. I also think that pecha-kucha should be enforced as mandatory across all organisations!

My wife and I have one bookshelf at home, and we have one shelf each on that bookshelf; the idea being that it forces us to evaluate every book that we read to decide whether it is either a fiction book that we would want to read again, or a factual book that we would want to refer back to in the future. So, will I keep a space on my bookshelf for, "To sell is human"? The answer is, 'Probably not.' However, I will be taking a lot of notes before I pass it on to a friend; and that reflects the fact that "To sell is human" is a book about the here and now; and it is something that you need to read and act upon, rather than something to be left languishing on a bookshelf.
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on 17 February 2013
Daniel Pink`s wonderful hands-on book is full of wisdom and anecdotes that have the added value of being backed by research from some of the top academics in their fields. His work is eye opening an refreshing, this tricks and tips he provides work, they really do. Read this. and the world will be a better place.
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on 14 July 2016
Q: What does a book on ‘Selling’ have to do with teachers?!? A: A great deal apparently! Pink starts by pointing out two facts: a) the fastest growing fields today are Ed – Med (Education and Medicine – ok, we sort of knew that) and b) an incredible 40% of our time is spent in non-sales selling!! We sell clients on how great we are and we sell learners on English (or maths, history, etc.)! That involves a lot of presentation, communication and persuasion skills. Pink can help us with all three of them.
Pink has studied communication extensively and he has lots of interesting things to say on how to write catchy e-mail titles (p. 167), tweets (p. 170) and why using visuals is so important (p. 180). But he also gives us the results of a number of studies on such fascinating topics as...
...Labelling (p. 138): In a Prisoner’s Dilemma type of game, 33% of the participants cooperated when they were told it was called ‘The Wall-Street Game’ but the number doubled when others were told they would be playing ‘The Community Game’. The same effect was found when some students were labelled ‘tidy’ as opposed to a controlled group (Moral: Label you students positively and they will live up to the label!)
...Facilitation (p. 142): In another study, students who had been singled out for their pro-sociality by their peers, were asked to contribute to a food drive for charity. The same was done with others classified as ‘selfish’. The results: 8% of the former but 25% of the latter donated food! Why? The ‘selfish’ students had been given clearer instructions about what to donate and when! (Moral: motivation aside, direct behavioural instructions [‘Do this!’] can go a long way towards ensuring compliance).
...Persuasion Techniques: Here is one: instead of asking students whether they have studied for a test which might trigger ‘Psychological Reactance’ we could ask them ‘How ready are you for the test? Say on a scale from 1 to 10?’ When they answer, we can then follow up with the fantastic ‘Why not a lower number?!?’ This forces them to focus on the positive (what they have done) and shows them what they still need to work on! Excellent!! (p. 213)
What makes the book so readable is that Pink also gives readers many real life examples. Here is my favourite one: On page 213 of the book there is a picture which hangs on the wall of an Italian restaurant. The picture is that of the owner and it reads: ‘If you had anything less than a great experience at ‘il Canale’, please call my cell: 703-624-2111’!! Now think: how many DOSs would be prepared to do such a thing? :-)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 September 2013
This is my second Daniel H. Pink book (the first one being Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) and while the topic - influencing, convincing and in essence (non-sales) selling (whether a product, idea or oneself) - is different, much in the way of how the book is written, is not. This means you get a compendium of research on various facets of the topic, with some easy to remember acronyms (the author's own contribution) thrown in. It may also be a good way to learn about the topic if you are hopelessly harried and cannot devote more than a short flight's worth of time to it, although this works less well for this book than for 'Drive' in my opinion.

The basic premise - namely that everyone is selling something some of the time, be it ideas, concepts, oneself or more conventionally actual products - is of course sound and in the meantime very well known. The author also does not go on a trailblazing mission of applying cutting edge research to the topic; it is more a collage of what has been done in the field in previous decades and while most of it is absolutely correct, it is also relatively well known to people who follow management literature.

The author also continues with an ample use of acronyms, which are supposed to help people remember the concepts and tries to apply the lessons of chapter sections immediately through a more or less corny finishing statement most of the time. The risk of course being that he may turn off a part of the readership with the approach, and have another part remember the wrong meanings of the acronyms - the ABC a reader may recall some time afterwards may well be the unwanted 'always be closing', rather than the 'atunement, buoyancy & clarity' the author preaches.

My other criticism is that too many concepts are introduced in too short a book, leading to many of them being dealt with in a fairly superficial manner - research often gets a sentence or a paragraph, which does not do it justice, nor will it allow an unseasoned practitioner to form a balanced opinion on what is likely to help in their own situation.

As it is the book provides you with lots of ideas on how to sell more successfully but because of its brevity requires follow-up reading to be truly useful. While knowing some more innovative pitch methods to complement your standard elevator pitch, changing the attitude to how you see the roles of vendor or purchaser in different information environments, or the advice to engage in improvisational theater are all correct, you will need separate sources to teach you more on each one of those. In essence more a directory of what is out there (with fairly useful sources in the back), than a solid executive summary on how to apply (even a fraction of) it.
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on 23 February 2013
It may only be February but this is probably the best business book of 2013. If your work involves selling ideas to or moving others, and as explained here most job now do, this books offers ways to get much better at persuasion.

If you liked Drive or A Whole New Mind you will enjoy this audiobook too. It's better as an audiobook because it's read by Daniel Pink himself, an engaging an entertaining speaker, and you get all the added emphasis and meaning he intended. The Fuller Brush mans interaction with Beth is an amusing interlude really brought to life in the audiobook. Daniel Pink puts forward the new ABC of selling everything from product to ideas to motivation. The ideas of Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity are then explained with a sound evidence base and links to the latest research for each. The research is brought to life with practical examples in the real world away from the lab.

For me the most useful part of this book is the 'Sample Case' or activities given to practice and increase effectiveness in each of the 3 key behaviours. Which is where I will end my review because I'm off to sharpen my improvisation skills.
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on 20 August 2016
This is brilliant. Lot of American references I found hard to relate to.
Skim through and pick out the relevant paragraphs. For me it was all in the last 40 pages.
This applies to all, a mum who's trying to get kids to do house chores, an employee who's struggling with the boss, or a owner of a company whose staffs won't stick.
Perhaps Pink could have sold the book better! It isn't about selling- it's about getting your way, every time, by being appreciated by people, which is rather nice and good to realise there's a nice battle no one fights in.
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on 19 January 2016
Dan Pink's excellent book on selling and salespeople, should be read by everyone who wants to be a more effective persuader/influencer. Not just by salespeople who are selling products and/or services.
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on 7 March 2014
Not like other sales books I've read before. Actually there are many interesting points to reflect on like upserving versus upselling, and the importance of information rebalance in sales today, the one word pitch. As I read the Kindle version of this book sometimes I even forgot I was reading a sales book. A very thoughtful read with solid references and research.
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