Sales — the Art of Moving People

Notes on “To Sell is Human” by Daniel H. Pink

I grew up thinking sales was sleazy. Sales was for greasy boys and girls who possessed a silver tongue. I believed that only those who enjoyed tricking others for a living could possibly enjoy sales. What a terrible profession!

I was wrong.

After a few months in sales, I’m surprised to find how intimately sales links with personal development, health and wellness. Sales is the art of moving others. We are always selling whether we like it or not. I’ve been selling the last three paragraphs to you, “keep reading”.

If you’re anything like me, you probably think (or used to think) sales is about return on investment, $$$ and the whole practice is a blurry line between “legitimate business” and “scam”.

Daniel H. Pink’s book To Sell is Human flips these negative sales stereotypes right on its head. In this new age of selling, sales belongs to the empathetic, the humble, the learners, the listeners — sales belongs to people who genuinely care and give a shit.

“Salespeople are no different from engineers, architects, or accountants. Really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers. They want to be part of something larger than themselves.”
— Daniel H. Pink

A global shift from Buyer Beware to Seller Beware.

Prior to the internet revolution, we lived in a world of Caveat Emptor — Buyer Beware.

Now we have information everywhere. Sales transactions used to be full of information asymmetry. A salesperson could simply lie. How would a buyer know better? Times have changed. With a quick Google search you’ll see what’s up. In a world of information parity, anybody can call bullshit.

We now live in a world of Caveat Venditor — Seller Beware.

In this new social and business landscape, two primary traits of a quality salesperson are persistence and empathy. The future belongs to salespeople who possess antifragile mindsets, apply what they learn and care about their customers.


We are always selling.

We sell others on why they ought to show up to the meeting at work. We sell our friends on why they should join us for brunch. We sell ourselves on why hitting the gym is better than Netflix-ing till we die.

Sales is natural. It’s normal. It’s not Good. It’s not Evil.

Sales is neutral.

It’s a tool we use all the time. Even if we’re not professional salespeople. Learning to swim is still better than not knowing.


Sales is all about the process.

“He encouraged Hall, telling him that the nos he was piling up were just part of the process, and he should “keep going, keep going.””
— Daniel H. Pink

Salespeople face an ocean of rejection everyday.

There’s nothing magical about sales. It’s not like the movies where everything salespeople touch turns to gold. Those in the trenches know this best. We spend all day getting rejected.

Nothing personal, just business.

It sucks.

It’s awesome.

Daniel H. Pink describes cheerful grit as buoyancy. It’s the ability to stay afloat, stay positive and keep going despite hearing “no” all day. Focus on the process, not results. That’s how you get through rejection. Focus on the sales activities themselves. Prospecting, presenting, follow up. That’s all there is to it. By focusing completely, we immerse ourselves in the challenge of sales and create optimal conditions to enter flow states.

The strangest part of sales is that it’s not really about the sale itself.

Sales is the process. The hard work that goes into setting up a deal. The persistence to power through no after no. The only way to do that is by believing in what you sell. Believing that it brings value to customers’ lives. Believing that it makes a positive difference. Believing that the process is worth it.

The process is all there ever is. Win or lose, the process remains.


Starting is the hardest part of sales. It’s mental.

“Just getting myself out of the house and facing people” is the stiffest challenge, he says. “It’s that big, unknown faceless person I have to face for the first time.”
— Norman Hall

Getting over our ego is the hardest part about sales.

Who are we to think we are mighty and important?

Who are we to think we deserve to be paid attention to?

Who are we to believe just because we have the greatest-software-as-a-service-Earth-has-ever-seen that we deserve to make money and get paying customers?

Newsflash! Nobody. Gives. A. Shit.

That’s a good thing.

Salespeople are human and we fear rejection just like everybody else. Nobody is going to be as terrible as we fear. Nobody thinks twice over rejecting us either. Even if customers are rude, so what? Their negative reaction reflects more about their mental state and mindset than your worth as a person.

Everyone has the capability to be kind, polite and professional.

“If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.”
— Yogi Bhajan

Keep going.


Empathy & humility: listen.

We listen by being humble.

We learn by listening.

We improve by learning.


The pitch.

“The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you. In a world where buyers have ample information and an array of choices, the pitch is often the first word, but it’s rarely the last.”

Look for win-win solutions.

Simple equation: Sales = Creative Collaboration


Decisions are based on two factors — utility and curiosity.

Both are useful. Both work.

Utility works better.

Usefulness trumps intrigue. Specificity helps.


Be human.

Don’t adopt a sales persona. Be real and vulnerable. When you treat people as “prospects”, “numbers” or “marks”, you’ve de-humanized the experience.

People are people. They’ll respond better when you treat them as such. Humans are a lot kinder to fellow humans than to soulless sales-bots. When customers attack you, breathe and let go. Don’t let the spiteful words and negative energy get to your ego. Easier said than done.

Speak with a purpose. Look for solutions. Advance the conversation forward.

That’s what sales is all about.


1. Serve first.

2. Sell later.