To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

Part Three: What to Do – The Pitch

  • The success of a pitch depends as much on the catcher as on the pitcher. Catchers like to see signs of passion, wit, and creativity rather than slickness, trying too hard, and offering lots of different ideas. It also helps if the catcher can get drawn in as a collaborator in the conversation, so the pitcher needs to know when to pull back. Dan discusses six different pitches. The one word pitch: Forward seemed to work for Obama in 2012. The questions pitch: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago” worked or Reagan in 1980. The rhyming pitch: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” worked for OJ Simpson in 1995. Above all, if your argument is weak, the best pitch is unlikely to work. The subject of an email can be an effective pitch as can a Twitter message. Consider using questions and including a link in your tweets. Finally, the Pixar pitch features a story that summarizes a movie proposal. Dan gives several examples of how to use it along with a chapter of practice tips.


  • This chapter deals with the three essential rules of improvisational theater.
  • (1) Hear Offers: This one hinges on sharpening your ability to listen. Most people split their attention between what’s being said and what they plan to say next. If you want to hear offers in another person’s speech, you don’t listen for what you might expect is coming.
  • (2) Say “Yes and:” This is a good way to stay positive. The evil twin is “Yes but,” which results in stating why something won’t work rather than why it can.
  • (3) Make your partner look good: In an era where buyers and sellers have access to the same information, pushing for win-lose outcomes rarely leads to a win for anyone. Making your partner look good makes you look better. Today if you make someone look bad, they can tell the world. Don’t let competition be your starting point


  • Sales and non-sales selling are ultimately about service. It should be broad and deep with the goal of improving others’ lives and ultimately the world. Radiologists do a much better job of finding problems when they see a picture of the patient along with the patient’s films. The point here is to make your service personal by dealing with people as individuals. The second point is to make your pitch purposeful, which can tap the innate desire of others to serve as well. Ask “do the people you serve grow as persons?” Also ask “if the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve?” Your mantra should be serve first and sell next.

Upserve Instead of Upsell

  • Sales people are often trained to upsell. This is the process of trying to sell additional product beyond what they came in for. Dan recommends that you replace this process with upservice. This is where you do more for another person than is expected or what you initially intended to do. This is not only the right thing to do, it’s also more effective. The final piece of advice is to treat everybody you deal with as if they were your grandmother, and assume that Grandma has 80,000 Twitter followers. Your product and advice should improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. Good luck.

Daniel Pink

  • Dan is a best selling author and social science researcher. His other top books include Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Summarized here) and A Whole New Mind. His books have been translated into 33 languages and have sold more than a million copies in the United States. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.
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