The New Selling Paradigm


To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

By Daniel H. Pink | Reviewed by Gene Shirokobrod, PT, DPT

We are living through a paradigm shift. Have you felt it? In our new, hyperconnected, global culture the old methods of “selling” are not effective. Today’s environment demands new thinking and new action.

The essence of relationships is communication.

Communication is crucial for developing genuine, sustainable, deep-rooted connections with others. Humans are social creatures. We build communities, find partners, share our journeys, and tell stories. And we sell every single day. Whether we are selling for a business or selling to make our kids eat their vegetables, to sell is human. New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink agrees.

In his keynote speech at the 2015 American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Private Practice Section (PPS) Annual Conference, Dan presented an overview of his concepts around selling. Dan’s book, To Sell Is Human, outlines the current state of selling.

In short, as the title suggests, selling is part of the human fiber.

How is selling different now than 30, 10, or even 5 years ago?

The paradigm shift of communication and information has resulted in an asymmetry. Years ago the asymmetry was in favor of the seller. Now, the asymmetry is very much in favor of the consumer. The consumer has information from social media and the internet within minutes, and social media and the internet are made up of other people. While social media is technology, without people it is nothing (see Myspace). Technology is the vehicle we drive every single day. Sometimes we wave politely, occasionally we use a finger, but mostly we focus on our destination. Technology allows for scalability of communication and connection as we travel toward the destination.

Physical therapists are the worst best salespeople . . . in the world.

Let’s delve a little deeper into selling. As mentioned, we are always selling. Dan breaks this down into categories: sales and nonsales selling. Sales is the typical process of convincing someone to make a purchase. Nonsales selling is what we do every single day in attempting to convince or influence others for an exchange to occur. For example, a physical therapist is clinically trained to convince hesitant people in pain to do exercises. A physical therapist has to sell the person, fairly quickly, on the belief that they will eventually feel better. If that’s not skillful selling, I don’t know what is. Yet physical therapists are very hesitant to participate in “sales.” The fear of being perceived as a salesperson is so strong, most therapists never move beyond it. As a result, many physical therapists do not adjust to the market. If we are not careful, we might not feel the paradigm shift until it’s too late.

How can you become an effective salesperson?

According to Dan, becoming an effective salesperson is as simple as ABC:


Attunement is the process by which we think like someone else—it is the cousin of empathy. I believe that attunement is a critical step in effective, genuine communication. As humans, most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out our own emotions, let alone “feeling” as someone else does. Thinking like someone else is only slightly less difficult. Skillful attunement to another human being’s thoughts and perceptions, when supplemented with empathy, can help us become relatable.

Buoyancy is the ability to keep going in the face of constant rejection. I relate business to baseball. If you are successful 30 percent of the time you will be in the Hall of Fame. You need to be able to strike out four times one day and look forward to getting another chance at bat the next day. Your ability to keep going through failures and rejections is critical. The journey to success always passes through the lessons of failures.

Clarity is the ability to wade through nonstop rhetoric, information, and problems. The information asymmetry means that most people have too much access to information. Your ability to guide them to the relevant information to solve their problem is crucial. If you and your customers are working to solve the wrong problems, then you are wasting precious time.

The ability to connect the ABCs will result in genuine connections and relationships.

Those relationships are what great customer experiences are based on. We are all consumers of something. We are all in sales. Don’t let yourself be the limiting factor because of preconceived notions of selling. Allow your customers to decide.

Can you feel the shift? Your customers can.

If you were unable to attend PPS Annual Conference, you can hear Dan on my podcast Therapy Insiders, where I interviewed him (available free on iTunes).


Gene Shirokobrod, PT, DPT, is an entrepreneur who began his career as a physical therapy clinician. He started Therapy Insiders Podcast, which grew into a top 100 show. Gene is also the cofounder of UpDoc Media, a digital marketing and content creation company as well as chief operating officer of TerraFlix, a GPS and video tech company. He can be reached at

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