FlipMyFunnel Post

To Sell is Human

This post is based on a podcast with Sangram. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!

If we are human, why is it so hard to act like one? What does being human in the corporate world look like?

In Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, Pink really tried to figure out what it means to be human. It’s a really good book to read if you think that selling is only the job of a salesperson.

Using loads of data and multiple studies, he argues that 99% of us are selling something every day. This something could be a product, a service, an idea, or a plan to get your spouse to take you on vacation.

If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must.

In the meantime, here are 5 takeaways to whet your appetite.

  1. Keep the Customer in the Room

We have all talked about, or thought about, how the customer should be front and center. The idea of a customer centered culture, or customer obsessed culture, all sounds really good until you try and manifest that in a real conversation, in a real boardroom, in a real meeting.

Why does it get hard? Well, because a lot of the time the customer isn’t sitting in the room.

To help illustrate the idea of customer in the room, Pink shares a true story about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Bezos has an empty chair in his office and in his meetings every single time. Why?

The empty chair represents the customer. This is a significant way of showing that he, along with his team, are always going to have the customer in the room. During meetings with the visual representation of the customer, they can keep in mind how the customer would be reacting to what they are saying; what the customer would say if they were present.  

It’s a great way to manifest the idea of being customer centered even if the customer isn’t physically there.

  1. The Future Customer

The term prospect is awful. Stop using it.

Nobody likes to be “prospected” or “targeted”. It puts a negative spin on what you are doing.

Instead, think of prospects as future customers.

Talking about a future customer as a future customer rather than a prospect humanizes them in away. They’re not an object of a deal you’re trying to close.

They’re a customer to serve.

And there’s this subtle change of mindset that can help drive the proper action that will make somebody want to work with you as opposed to “prospecting” and throwing them into a list of 100 other accounts.

When approaching your future customers, Pink encourages you to think about it this way.

Think about your future customer as someone who is 300 years old and has no idea about any of the stuff that is happening in today’s technology. If that is the case, how would you explain your product or service?

If you are able to do that in a clear simple way, and most importantly, in a memorable message, then you’re good to go.

  1. Become a Great Curator

Sometimes when people hear “curator”, they think that they are the ones who need to have all original ideas, or that they are the ones in the room to always come up with something brilliant.

But if you really think about it, that’s not the case.

In a lot of ways if that’s the way you think about what being a curator is, that could actually hurt you.

What you really need is to make sure that you have all of the best ideas in the room in order to make an effective decision.

As a curator, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What can I do to bring the right kind of information together?”

As a curator, if there is a problem and you have an idea to fix it, don’t just go with your idea.

Reign yourself in and let other people collaborate and bring their ideas to the table.

A collective genius is bigger genius than the individual.

If you’re a salesperson or a marketer reading this right now, ask yourself, are you trying to solve every problem your customer has or are you trying to help them think through that.

Pink says to think about these 3 things:


  • Seek great information
  • Sense what’s really happening
  • Share back to them exactly what you have heard


We all want to be heard. We all want to be felt. We all want to know that other people care. This whole principle around seek, sense, and share can really help you be an amazing curator.

  1. Ask Better Questions

The question “why” can get annoying fast. Perhaps you have experienced this with a young child. Everything to them is why.

However, “why” questions can be amazing questions.

Pink says the best way to find out if a customer is going to buy from you, is to dig deeper and ask 5 whys.

If you ask 5 times why, then you will really know whether or not this customer is going to buy from you, or if your product is really going to solve their problem.

Does this mean you just ask “why” over and over?

No. That’s annoying. If you can be intelligent about your why, you can figure out what the motion is behind the problem you’re trying to solve.

Not going deeper with a customer is the reason for so many lost opportunities.

Taking the time to really figure out the “why” behind whatever it is that brought them to you brings about clarity for you, and for the customer.

Too often, people don’t think about the root issue unless they’re prompted with a question.

A good question.  

  1. Don’t Upsell. Upserve.

This idea is in the same vein of things as calling people prospects. Nobody likes to be prospected. Nobody likes to be targeted. In the same way nobody likes trying to be upsold.

Upselling is unavoidable. It happens all the time.

We all know that the way to grow business is to not just focus on your existing customers with their own existing business, but constantly to try and help them be better by selling them professional services or giving them add on products or add on services.

Pink makes the point that if you really want to sell as a human, you want to think about what you do as “upserving”.

This means that the new service that you are offering, is going to serve them better. Just changing that mindset, changes how we think about it.

If you are upserving them, you are offering more service to the customer.

It gets rid of the guilt of selling.


Each and every one of us is selling something every single day.

Keep the customer in the room.

Think future customer not prospect.

Become a great curator.

Ask better questions.

Don’t upsell, upserve.