To Sell Is Human2019-04-04T09:41:32+00:00


The one-sentence summary

Selling is no longer solely the domain of salespeople, because we are all trying to move each other in some way or another.


  • One in nine Americans work in sales, but so do the other eight. We are all in sales now – trying to ‘move’ others to our point of view.
  • ‘Non-sales selling’ involves persuading or convincing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got, and we now spend 40% of our time doing it. The forces behind this are:
    • Entrepreneurship: ironically fuelled by the very technologies that were supposed to destroy salespeople (so-called ‘disintermediation’ never happened).
    • Elasticity: most of our skills now stretch across many boundaries
    • Ed-Med: the fastest growing industries around the world are education and healthcare – both require constant selling
  • The ABC of moving others is no longer ‘Always Be Closing’ – it’s now:
  • Attunement: being in harmony with groups, individuals, and contexts (taking another person’s perspective)
  • Buoyancy: grittiness of spirit and ‘sunniness’ of outlook equals resilience
  • Clarity: finding problems and defining them to make sense of murky situations is more important then just solving them


  • If you want to succeed at sales, you need to pitch, be prepared to improvise, and serve (you are serving your customer).
  • Try the “Pixar pitch” (named after the animation company), by telling your story in this formula: “Once upon a time A. Every day B. One day C. Because of that D. Because of that E. Until finally F.”
  • The best salespeople are neither extraverts nor introverts – they are ambiverts* – a bit of each. *This is not a made up word – it has been in the literature since the 1920s.
  • Try using the Jeff Bezos’s “Pull up a chair” philosophy – he insists on having an empty chair at every meeting to remind everyone what the customer view might be.
  • The way things are framed influences the likelihood of a sale: try offering less, labelling options differently, pointing out the pitfalls rather than just the benefits, explaining the potential, and offering an easy launch pad to get the thing done (something the author calls an ‘off-ramp’).
  • The old asymmetry, whereby the salesperson knew more than the customer, no longer applies. Instead of caveat emptor, it is now a case of caveat vendor – seller beware.