Book Review: To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

Dan Pink’s latest bestseller, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others, follows the usual Dan Pink mold, mixing academic research, anecdotes from personal experiences and well-known business cases in an attempt to encourage the reader to rethink their views on “sales.”

This approach makes Pink’s arguments seem so obvious once you’ve read them, with a number of “why didn’t I think of that?” moments throughout.

For those who’ve read Pink’s past best sellers, Drive or A Whole New Mind, you’ll be familiar with the format. For those new to Pink’s work, To Sell is Human provides a great introduction.

In terms of the content itself, To Sell is Human starts with the argument that we’re all in sales now, either in a traditional sales role (as roughly 1 in 10 Australians are, according to ABS data) or in what Pink calls “non-sales selling.” That is, trying to move others to do something. Whether that be to convince someone of our argument or get that promotion at work, Pink claims that we could all benefit from better understanding how to sell.

He then goes on to define the new ABCs of sales, challenging the old sales catch-cry of “always be closing” with his new model of attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.

Astute readers may pick up on the parallels between these areas and other popular business constructs that have emerged in the last few decades. For instance, Pink’s attunement bears resemblance to Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence, the ability to align with and understand others’ motivations. In this chapter, for instance, we hear about extraversion/introversion preference, the advantage of being ambiverted and use of strategic mimicry.

This is not to say these ideas are bad. In fact, nearly everything Pink discusses in To Sell is Human resonated with me quite well. What he’s done, in typical Pink fashion, is bring together a bevy of scientifically-backed business principles and package them up in a way that makes them easy to understand and even easier to implement, and that can’t be a bad thing.

I also found his section on buoyancy particularly pertinent, as it backed up scientifically what I’d anecdotally seen myself, that positivity in the right ratio with down-to-earth reality (or in some cases negativity) is a key to sales and business success.

Ultimately, what this boils down to is a book that I believe provides some really useful tips and thought-provoking ideas that challenge long-held assumptions about sales and its place for the “average” person. Having said that, those that will get the most out of it are those who can apply it in their everyday work, customer service staff, managers and business owners, technical staff and of course, salespeople.

As with most of Pink’s books, a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read that won’t leave you disappointed.

Craig Somerville is the Managing Director of Reload Consulting, having worked extensively on the strategies of leading companies within Australia and around the world. With a background in marketing and economics, Craig's unique experience offers great insight into how the world of strategy and digital is changing in today's rapid marketplace. He also regularly consults on all aspects of digital marketing through Reload Media.