To Sell Is Human Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: To Sell Is Human shows you that selling is part of your life, no matter what you do, and what a successful salesperson looks like in the 21st century, with practical ideas to help you convince others in a more honest, natural and sustainable way.

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I’m really fond of Daniel Pink‘s work. What he did with Drive back in 2009 was a huge piece of the motivation puzzle, and I keep applying his autonomy, mastery and purpose framework again and again.

To Sell Is Human is his latest masterpiece, which explains how selling has become part of all our lives, and how we can do it well – which means in a sustainable and honest way, without becoming a pushy door-to-door salesman of the last century.

If you don’t believe selling is part of your job (yet), then I’m sure these lessons will help you see clearly.

Here are 3 lessons about what it means to sell in the 21st century:

  1. Almost half of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which is really just trying to move others.
  2. Honesty and service are taking over sales, because the internet has closed the information gap.
  3. Use “Yes, and…” when talking to customers to make sure they stay positive and engaged.

Ready to become a master salesman or woman? It’s time to sell!

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Lesson 1: Every job includes non-sales selling, which means you have to move others somehow.

Name a startup with a particularly large and aggressive sales team.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

I mean, does Facebook have any sales people? Evernote? Who sells those razor blades at Dollar Shave Club?

The reason it’s really hard to think of new companies with dedicated sales teams is that the line between sales and other departments is blurring, and it’s blurring fast. Daniel Pink’s example is software giant Atlassian, who generated over $100 million in revenues without a single sales employee in 2011.

This is especially true for startups, because they usually can’t afford to hire people just to sell stuff, especially in the beginning. Everyone has to sell – on top of their regular responsibilities. What’s more, even regular jobs require you to spend time selling.

40% of your time at work is spent in non-sales selling, which simply means moving others somehow. For example this could mean persuading them to help you with a project, convincing them of your idea, or influencing them to get on board with a particular strategy.

Medicine and education, the largest two job sectors in the US economy, rely heavily on this: doctors must get people to change their health-damaging habits and teachers must get students to spend time on their education.

So no matter what your job is – yes, you’re a salesperson!

Lesson 2: Honest is the new sleazy – thanks to the internet!

The reason we think of salespeople as sleazy and sales always has a negative connotation to it is that we’re still used to the old days, where sales consisted mostly of people abusing the information gap between buyer and seller.

When you bought a used car in 1990 and didn’t know a lot about cars, your dealer could tell you all kinds of good things about it, but leave out plenty of the bad stuff, and you’d end up overpaying. Simply because he knew more than you, he’d be the “winner” of this transaction.

Luckily, that has changed, thanks to the internet. At the click of a button you can find all dealers in your surrounding area, including reviews from people who have bought cars there, compare models online, get all the technical specs, average market prices, and find out if any dealers were involved in a scandal.

In 2016 and beyond, the only way to sell is to be honest and transparent.

To sell is no longer to guard information and hand out little pieces – it’s a service, helping people to navigate the wealth of information, explain it to them, and getting them to make the best decision, the one that’s right for them at the specific time.

Lesson 3: Always say “Yes, and…” to keep your customer optimistic.

One really cool way to stay positive and keep your customers engaged as you’re talking to them is to use this tactic from improv theatre: Always say “Yes, and…” instead of “No” or “Yes, but…”

I learned this from James Altucher, that’s why it struck me again in this book. In improv theatre it’s really important to keep the audience in a good mood, they have to stay optimistic at all times and not feel discouraged. Customers during a sales pitch are the same way. If they feel affronted or like you’re talking down to them, they surely won’t buy from you.

But every time you let on you’re disagreeing with them, it signals to them that you’re claiming you’re smarter. So instead of using words like “no” or “but”, agree with their ideas and add to them and then improve and improvise how you can further move the conversation along.

This way you’ll always be able to integrate opposing viewpoints, keep your talk constructive and have a great conversation atmosphere.

To Sell Is Human Review

So many great points about why sales is important and how you can start learning more about it, without falling for sleazy sales tactics. The world is louder and noisier than ever before. I 100% believe that you need a loud, clear and different voice to stand out, no matter what you do for a hobby or a living.

Whether you’re selling yourself to become the team leader at your local bowling club or BMWs at work every day, To Sell Is Human will put new lenses in your glasses and help see the world clearer, while making you better at navigating it at the same time.

Who would I recommend the To Sell Is Human summary to?

The 20 year old research assistant in her junior year in college, who thinks selling isn’t really that important for what she does, the 54 year old car dealer of the old school, who’s seen declining sales over the past 5 years, and anyone who often tells people that they’re wrong.

Last Updated on August 1, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!