Daniel Pink: To Sell Is Human—Book Exercises

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Are you looking to further your knowledge of Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human? How can these exercises help you become a better salesperson?

To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink examines the traditional sales methods and explains why many of them don’t work in the modern day. This book is designed to help you become a better salesperson without using the pushy and manipulative methods of the past.

Here are exercises designed to help you evaluate your sales style and improve your skills.

To Sell Is Human: Book Exercises

Selling is an intrinsically human skill that has evolved with us over the course of time. Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human explores how deeply embedded this skill is in our lives and shows you how to harness it as a tool for achieving results in sales, as well as other areas of life where the skill can apply.

Below are a series of exercises and discussion questions that will help improve your selling abilities.

Make “Moves”

Consider the description and examples of “non-sales selling” in Chapter 1. Are you a non-sales salesperson?

  • Think about your own job. What kinds of tasks do you complete? What kinds of general skills do you use? 
  • Which of the tasks require moving others? Which of the skills helps you to do so?
  • What percentage of your time at work do you spend engaging in non-sales selling? How do you think this contributes to your success at work?

Shift From Self to Other

Think about how the concepts of caveat emptor and caveat venditor relate to sales and selling in your life. 

  • Think about the last experience you had with someone trying to sell you something. What strategies did they use to “move” you to purchase? 
  • Did these strategies demonstrate caveat emptor, caveat venditor, or both? Write some examples here.
  • Were the strategies effective? Why or why not?

Look in the Mirror 

Consider your own natural inclinations when communicating with or expressing yourself to others. 

  • Are you more extroverted? More introverted? One of those who fall somewhere in the middle? Describe the ways in which you fit into one of these categories.
  • What are some aspects of your personality you would consider natural strengths or skills? How might these be helpful in a sales context?
  • If you lean more towards extroversion, what are some ways you can practice skills of introversion? If you lean more towards introversion, what are ways you can improve extroversion skills?

Practice Optimistic Explanatory Style

Recall a recent experience of rejection (ideally in a sales context). Use the optimistic explanatory style to reframe the experience. 

  • Think about how you felt after the rejection. How would you have honestly answered the question, “Is this permanent?” If you believed this negative experience would permanently impact you, what was the reason? If you believed the negative experience was temporary, why?
  • Consider again how you felt. How would you have answered the question, “Is this pervasive?” If yes, how so? If no, why?
  • How would you have answered the question, “Is this personal?” If yes, how so? If no, why not?
  • Using the guidelines for flexible optimism, how can you reframe this experience? (In other words, how can you optimistically describe it to others?) 
  • Using interrogative self-talk, how might you prepare for your next sale? What kinds of questions will you ask yourself to increase your buoyancy?

Ask Good Questions 

This exercise will support you to become more of a “problem finder” and develop greater clarity around existing problems or in your search for new problems. You can use these questions to develop clarity as a seller, but you can also use them to help a buyer develop clarity in the midst of a transaction.

  • Consider a product or service you want to sell and quickly write down as many questions as you can that relate to it (without self-editing). 
  • Select one close-ended question, and convert it below to an open-ended question (for example, “Is this product durable?” might become, “What are the strengths and weaknesses of this product?” Or “How long will this product last and why?”). 
  • Take a look at all your questions. Which questions feel most powerful? Why?
  • Write your top three questions below. How might you use these in a future sales context?

Take Your Pitch

Take some time to review all the pitching approaches from this chapter. Consider an idea you would like to pitch. 

  • How would you pitch the idea in one word?
  • How would you pitch the idea using the question pitch? 
  • How about the rhyming pitch? 
  • Select an additional pitch method from the remaining options, apply it to your idea, and write your pitch.
  • Bonus: Share one of your pitches with a friend or family member, and observe their response. Write about it here. 

Practice Making Service Clear and Personal 

Think about a situation in your life where you want to persuade, or “move” someone. It could be that you want to “move” your partner to take out the trash more often, or “move” your boss to give you extra time off during a busy period, or something along similar lines. It can even be a material product you want to sell if you work in material sales.

  • If you are successful in moving this person as desired, will their life improve as a result? If so, how? If not, how will they be impacted? 
  • After this transaction is complete, will it leave the world a better place than it was before? If yes, how so? If not, why not? 
  • If the answer was no for either question, what is a new way you can move this person that does improve his or her life and leave the world better as a result?
Daniel Pink: To Sell Is Human—Book Exercises

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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