Let me first say that I received an advance copy of Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, in exchange for an honest review. Having read A Whole New Mind and Drive, I was really looking forward to reading this book.
I give to Sell Is Human four stars because who you are will determine what you think of the book. If you are one of the eight out of nine people in America who does not formally sell for a living, then it is a five-star book and this first half is for you. If you make your living in sales, it’s a three-star book and you can skip down to the second half.
The majority of readers will definitely enjoy and profit from the book. Pink writes engagingly, and fills the book with fascinating research findings and compelling stories. It also provides a much-needed explanation and perspective on the profession and practice of selling. If you think you don’t sell for a living, take a close look at how much of your day is spent trying to convince others of your point of view. And if you think selling is somehow beneath you, remember that what Plato said about politics is what Pink tells us about selling: those who refuse to participate in it end up being led by their “inferiors.”
The theme of the book can be summarized as follows:
If you’re a “non-sales seller”, you will certainly pick up a lot of useful insights and tips from the book.
If you are a sales professional, especially one involved in complex corporate sales, you will probably also enjoy reading the book and will learn some new things, but don’t confuse it with a complete book on the art of selling. You might also be put off a bit by some of the statements that are pronounced as great discoveries. For example, he tells us that the three qualities of attunement, buoyancy, and clarity “are the new requirements for effectively moving people on the remade landscape of the twenty-first century”, as if we did not know that we’re supposed to listen, keep an optimistic attitude, and frame our messages properly. And, did you know that when you’re mapping the customer’s decision process you’re engaging in “social cartography”? In addition, the book rightfully pans manipulative sales techniques, but then fills the book with many suggestions to do just that, such as mimicking the other person, touching them, even occasional swearing and rhyming. I’m afraid that some of the good will the book creates towards the sales profession may be erased when readers come across these embarrassing suggestions.
On the plus side, Pink has come up with some interesting insights from social science research that even experienced salespeople can profit from. For example, we learn that salespeople who are neither too introverted or extraverted are the most successful, and I like his suggestion to use interrogative self-talk to conquer nerves before a sales call or presentation.