Traditional Salespeople Are Obsolete, & 5 Other Takeaways From "To Sell Is Human"

Jordan Benjamin
Jordan Benjamin




Even if you're not in sales, you're in sales.

No, this isn't an oxymoron. In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Othershe argues that the business world has shifted over the last decade to a point where everyone -- regardless of job title -- is a salesperson. Everyone is working to persuade, negotiate, or pitch others on ideas, approaches, products, and so much more.

But as a person in traditional sales, the book appealed to me as a way of doing my job better. As Pink points out, the internet has empowered everyone to have access to information, so salespeople can no longer rely on product knowledge as their value proposition. Instead, today's salespeople need to focus on customer wellbeing in order to experience lasting success.

Pink makes a plethora of great points in this book. Here are six that stood out to me as being especially helpful.

1) Selling well means making things better for your customer.

It isn't about "making the sale" anymore -- it's about finding a solution for someone that will help them long-term. Pink writes, "To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources -- not to deprive that person, but to leave them better off in the end." Carefully listen to the specific needs and goals of a buyer in order to connect them with a solution that will improve their situation. 

2) Traditional salespeople are obsolete.

According to Pink, todays’ technologies have flattened organizations and made traditional salespeople irrelevant. Consider that patients often come into their doctors' offices already having researched all of their symptoms and possible treatments. Because most people will ask their questions to Google before ever picking up the phone and calling a salesperson, in order to stay relevant in sales, you need to share helpful information that goes beyond product features. Think business insights and expertise.

3) Salespeople must move from being protectors of information to content curators and clarifiers.

Buyers can go out and find most of the information they need before making purchases. So instead of being sources of information, salespeople must transform themselves into information curators and disseminators. Salespeople need to help their prospect remove all of the noise vying for their attention (and there's a lot of it), and focus on what is most relevant for their situation. Stay on top of industry trends and competitive news to help buyers identify the best and most important solutions to solve their challenges (or bring to their attention challenges they didn't even know they had).

4) "Buyer beware" is now "seller beware." 

Pink writes that the sales environment has shifted from "caveat emptor" (buyer beware) to "caveat venditor" (seller beware). In the past, it was very hard for buyers to determine if a seller was being honest. After all, the salesperson was their sole source of information -- without the internet, corroborating claims or performing independent research was difficult. But today, the reality is much closer to "caveat venditor." Buyers have easy access to a wealth of information, and can easily sniff out a shoddy seller or product. This is why it is so important to find solutions with an eye to your buyer's benefit -- snake oil sellers need not apply. If you can truly help your customers, they will repay you with positive reviews and could even turn into a promoter for your product or service.

5) ABC doesn't mean "Always Be Closing."

In order to be effective within the buying ecosystem today, you need to be able to practice Pink’s new version of "ABC:"

  • Attunement: The ability to empathize with or bring your outlook into harmony with other people.
  • Buoyancy: “The combination of a gritty spirit and sunny outlook,” according to Pink.
  • Clarity: The capacity to help others see their situation in new ways and identify problems they didn’t know they had. 

6) Service selling is the future of sales.

The new ABCs of selling align closely with Pinks’ observation that “the time is ripe to move towards service selling.” What does service selling mean? It's when salespeople focus on serving their customers better (upserving) as opposed to selling them more (upselling). If you can find more ways to help your customer be more successful, the dollars will flow. If you can continually solve for the customer, you will be in a prime position to flourish in sales.

Those salespeople who can most effectively help their prospects make beneficial decisions will own the future of sales. As Pink notes, “Salespeople are no different from engineers, architects, or accountants. Really good salespeople want to solve problems and serve customers.” Keeping this in mind will pave the way for better relationships and communication between buyers and sellers.

These are only a few of the takeaways that stuck with me after I finished To Sell Is Human. There is a lot more in the book which I didn't even begin to cover. If you can feel the shift in sales, take a look at this book.

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