Sales and Persuasion (Daniel Pink): Summary & Review

Sales and Persuasion is an online Masterclass course on persuasion strategies and techniques in which Daniel Pink, the teacher, makes the case that effective persuasion should be done using empathy and perspective-taking coupled with an end goal of serving others.


Bullet Summary

  • Avoid ABC, “Always Be Closing”.
  • Follow the new ABC, “Attunement (common ground), Buoyancy, and Clarity”.
  • Be a problem-finder, NOT a problem-solver.

Full Summary

About The Teacher: With four NYT bestsellers, Daniel Pink is an influential voice in the evolving landscape of sales and motivation. Now the author of To Sell Is Human teaches you science-backed principles for effective and ethical sales and persuasion. Learn tactics for achieving better outcomes in any interaction—at home or at work—and tools for framing your message, navigating cognitive biases, and pitching ideas, products, or yourself.

*All quotes from this point forward are quoted from Daniel Pink’s words.

Persuasion Concept: Information and Power

Sales is now seen as sleazy, predatory, and aggressive. And, it used to be that way because of a little thing called information asymmetry. You would walk into a car dealership and be approached by a car salesman who saw himself as a “problem-solver”. And, he assumes your problem is that you need a car. So, he tries to cram a car down your throat because he also believes he should “always be closing” (ABC). The worst part is that back then, you couldn’t say anything back. The salesman always knew more about the car than you did, so you were always at an information (power) disadvantage. It was much easier for him to get away with his overly pushy sales style and leave you with buyer’s regret along with a bad taste in your mouth.

Now, we live in an era Pink refers to as “information parity”. An era with the internet, Google, social media, and access to reviews of cars and car dealerships at the tap of a button. The playing field as far as information has been leveled to where the buyer can talk back to the seller and negotiate more for what they want or walk away to another dealership that’s willing to “play fair”.

So, with this change in eras, we need a change in sales style. Pink believes that the old ABC sales style will no longer work today and the research shows that he’s right. Pink has a new ABC sales style—”Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity”. You’ll learn more about this style as you progress through the review.

Persuasion Concept: Attunement

“Attunement is taking someone else’s perspective. Seeing the world through their eyes rather than through your own.”

So, attunement is the part of Pink’s ABC method where you find common ground with the person you want to persuade.

“Attunement is so important today because, in any kind of persuasive encounter, we have very little coercive power. We can’t force people to do things.”

I like that Pink noted this because it tells me that he thought about the other forms of persuasion, one of them being coercive power.

“So, the way that we are going to be able to move people is to find common ground to understand where they’re coming from, fashion a solution that works for you and works for them.”

Persuasion Concept: Perspective-Taking

“…You want to take the other person’s perspective. You want to see the world through their eyes. And, the reason for that is if you take their perspective, you’re more likely to see where they’re coming from, understand what they’re saying–in some ways honor their point of view.”

Persuasion Strategy: Decrease Your Power to Increase Your Effectiveness

“There is an inverse relationship between feelings of power and perspective-taking…The more powerful you feel in general, the worse your perspective-taking becomes.”

And, Pink has a great theory for why this is:

“People who are low in status—low in power—are excellent perspective-takers…Because they don’t have the resources. They’re not in charge. Survival depends on their being able to take the perspective of people who do have the resources. People who are high-status—high in power—in general, are terrible perspective-takers. They don’t see the world from other people’s points of view. Power has distorted the way that they view the world and view other people.”

And, of course, being incapable of taking the perspectives of others gets a lot of leaders in trouble as we can observe from past failed CEOs.

The solution?

  1. Reduce your feelings of power (in order to)
  2. Increase your ability to take someone else’s perspective

*Note: One way to reduce your feelings of power is to put the other side on the same level as you (which might mean building them up to your own level of power in your mind).

Persuasion Strategy: The Empty Chair Technique

“So, suppose you have a meeting at your company. You set out the chairs around the meeting table. Everybody sits in his or her chair. But, you leave one chair open. One chair is empty. And, that chair, is for the most important person in the room who’s not in the room. And, that’s the customer. So, certain tech companies do this. So, when they have a session and they’re talking about strategy, when they’re talking about their marketing efforts, when they’re talking about adding a new product line…having that empty chair there to represent the customer is powerful. Do you want to talk about your marketing strategy with your customer there? Are you doing things in a noble fashion? What about that product line? What would that customer sitting in that empty chair say?”

Daniel Pink says he uses this same strategy when writing his books. He keeps a mini chair on his work desk to the right of his computer. When writing, he’ll notice the chair and ask himself if he’s taking shortcuts that might disadvantage the reader.

This seems like a great way to make sure you’re operating as a salesman that’s in the business of serving others and NOT only making sales.

Persuasion Strategy: Use Your Head As Much As Your Heart

Empathy is feeling someone else’s situation. Sympathy is feeling bad for someone’s situation.

“Empathy is feeling what their feeling…think of it as a fraternal twin to perspective-taking. They’re very closely related, but they’re not identical. Empathy is largely about the heart. Perspective-taking is largely about the head. Both are important. But, how you use them matters a lot.”

Ideally, you want both. You want to use a mix of empathy—your heart—and perspective-taking—your head. But, if you begin to feel overwhelmed with information (cognitive overload), when in doubt, use your head as much or more than your heart.

“When we’re in a persuasive encounter…the moment can be very intense. Time is moving quickly…you have a lot going on in your mind…it can give us cognitive overload…we all suffer from cognitive overload. And, so, if you’re feeling overloaded and you have to get rid of one, in a commercial encounter, get rid of the feelings. Focus on the thoughts and focus on the interests.’

Persuasion Strategy: Use Emotions As A Signal

“It’s very difficult to know precisely what someone is thinking. But, we can do a few things to make at least an educated guess. One of them is to use their emotional state as a signal.”

In other words, disassociate yourself from all negative emotions (separate yourself from and rise above all negative behavior, feelings, or outbursts), and ask yourself, “What’s really going on here?” (i.e. “What’s really making this person angry, frustrated, etc.).

“And, so, use the emotions a signal…to say, ‘What’s really going on here? What are their interests? What are their thoughts?’ What really matters in sales is the ability to hypothesize. Start running some scenarios [possible reasons they’re feeling those negative emotions] in your head…and just develop a few hypotheses. And then, finally, test those hypotheses. And, a simple way to do that is to ask him.”

Pink actually recommends asking them using Chris Voss’s negotiation technique: labeling. The only difference is, Pink urges his students to also attach, “Is that right?” to the end of each label (hypothesis).

Pink: “It sounds [to me] like you might be having some pressure from your vendors. Is that right?

I love this approach. It uses the tactical empathy of Voss while mixing it with the dominant straight forwardness that comes from framing it as a question.

*Note: For the label to be more effective, leave out first-person pronouns such as “I” or “me”.

So, here’s the breakdown of this strategy:

  1. Use emotions
  2. Hypothesize
  3. Ask questions

Do this to get a little closer to understanding what they’re thinking.

Persuasion Strategy: Serve Your Audience

“Ultimately, what we do as persuaders and sellers is we serve other people. We want to help move them to a better place.”

“So, there are two key ways to turn your selling into serving–make it personal and make it purposeful.”


“Don’t think about what you’re doing as an abstraction. Put a human face on it. Think about how it’s going to improve a single life.”

Making it personal elevates your performance. The more you can put a face on your persuasive efforts, the more effective you’ll be.

Pink, in a scientific study, noted that when radiologists were given X-rays to analyze that had a photo of the patient attached, their analyses were far more accurate than when lacking that personal touch.


“When you’re in your persuasive encounter, ask yourself, ‘If the other person does what I want them to do, will they be better off?’ Second, ask yourself, ‘If the other person does what I want them to do, will the world be slightly better off?’ If the answers to either of those questions is ‘no’, I really want you to rethink what you’re doing. If the answers to each of those question is ‘yes’, you’re doing it right.”

Persuasion Concept: Discussion Map

The discussion map is a tool used to notice the hidden power dynamics of any meeting or situation because you may think you know who the powerful people in the room are, but first impressions can be deceiving. And, the last thing you want to do is expend social effort trying to persuade someone who’s not the decision-maker.

Persuasion Strategy: Create A Discussion Map

“Many times, people who talk a lot are people who are struggling for influence but who don’t really have influence…Many times you can disregard this person.”

People who aren’t talking often but are talked to often make for great points of leverage since they hold a lot of influence.

Workbook: “Want to visualize how influence works in a group setting? Try making what Daniel calls a discussion map. Use a circle and a speaker’s first initial to represent everyone in a discussion. Every time someone speaks, draw an arrow from them to whomever they’re addressing. When the discussion wraps, take stock and analyze. Keep a few things in mind here. People who talk a lot (person A) are often the people who are struggling for influence. Also, when someone stays relatively quiet (person D), make sure to look at how often they’re being addressed by others. If they don’t say much but are getting a disproportionate amount of attention, it signals that they have leverage. Breaking down influence might seem high-stakes, but you don’t need to sit in with a Fortune 500 boardroom to get some insight. A discussion map works around the dining room table or even when you’re out with friends. Give it a shot. It’ll give you a better idea about the power dynamics within group settings.”

So, here’s the breakdown of this strategy:

  1. Find the key influencers in the interaction (remember, the person who talks a lot isn’t always the most important)
  2. Concentrate your persuasion efforts on those key influencers

*Note: The best part is you don’t always need to make a map. Creating discussion maps train your eye to see who’s falsely powerful and who’s really powerful without the constant need for mapping out the discussion.

Persuasion Strategy: Provide Clarity ➞ Make Your Message Count

“Clarity is simply this ability o see a situation in a fresh light and help people surface problems they didn’t realize that they had.”

As I said earlier, we used to be in an era of information asymmetry where the seller always knew more than the buyer. Now that we’re in an era of information parity, there’s a lot of information out there for the buyer. So much information in fact, that our role as persuaders has shifted from being problem-solvers to problem-finders. And, it’s now our responsibility to curate all of the information we have to the specific needs, interests, and problems of the buyer. The seller has all of the information they need now. But, we need to be the ones to make sense of that information for them.

Workbook: “The salesmen of yore would have said, ‘It looks like you’re in the market for a vacuum.’ Now, the smart salesperson says, ‘Tell me about your house.”

“…If your customer or prospect knows precisely what it’s [their] problems is, they can often find the solution without you. They don’t need you very much. Where they need you more is when they don’t know what their problem is or they’re wrong about [how to solve] their problem and, therefore, the premium has shifted from probelm-solving to problem-finding.”

*Note: Ideally, you want your problem-finding to give them an “aha” moment.

Persuasion Strategy: The Five “Whys?” Technique

A technique Pink really likes is the five whys technique. He uses it for problem-finding and believes that by asking “why” five times, you’ll get to the root of any problem. This way, you can also operate as more of a “strategy consultant” than a salesman.

So, for example, let’s say Pink is a management consultant and a CEO (who is the prospect) is interested in enlisting Pink’s services.

Prospect: I’m not interested.

Pink: Why?

Prospect: I can’t afford it.

Pink: Why can’t you afford it?

Prospect: The reason I can’t afford it is that we’re actually cutting our budget right now.

Pink: Cutting your budget? Why?

Prospect: We’re cutting our budget because, actually, we didn’t get enough revenue from this one product line of ours, and it’s really hobbling our whole company. And, as a consequence, all across the company, we have to make some cuts.

Pink: Why didn’t that product line work?

Prospect: Our product line didn’t work, I think, because we–one of our most talented leaders left, and her replacement was a complete dud.

Pink: All right, why was that?

Prospect: Well, our hiring practices are not very effective.

Pink: You know what? As it happens, I can help you improve your hiring practices…

Jim Miller, the former vice president of sales for Tony Robbins, believes in using this technique as well. And, Allan Nation, the man Tai Lopez promoted as one of his first mentors, taught this persuasion technique as well:

Allan Nation: “To get to the root of any problem, you ask ‘why’ three times.”

Persuasion Strategy: Become An Expert

If you’re a salesman, the way to find their real (root) problem is by, one, asking questions and, two, becoming an expert.

By becoming an expert, you can become a curator of information. You can take all of the information that’s out there and curate the information that’s meaningful and reliable to your customer.

Persuasion Strategy: Find the 1%

“Focus on the one percent. Don’t get lost in the weeds. There’s a body of law, a body of knowledge. What’s the one percent that makes the ninety-nine percent understandable?”

Persuasion Strategy: Less Is More

“When we’re making our case, we’re trying to convince somebody, we often wrestle with the idea of, ‘How much information should I present? How many arguments should I offer? And, a general rule of thumb is that…taking things out is often more persuasive than leaving them in.”

“When you get to the fourth item [reason they should buy], you actually lose your persuasiveness.”

*Note: It’s not stated in the course for sure, but this could be due to The Pinocchio Effect. When you continuously try to convince someone to follow your advice, they begin to wonder why you’re trying so hard. And, that leads them to feel like maybe following your advice isn’t such a good idea.

Persuasion Strategy: Don’t Irritate, Agitate!

“Irritation is trying to get somebody to do something you want them to do.”

“Agitation is trying to get someone to do something that they ought to do and ultimately will want to do.”

“The most effective persuaders, they’re not irritators, they’re agitators…They help people understand the context that they’re in and help them summon their own motivation for making a change, for doing things differently. For doing things in a different way.”

*Note: “Irritation is leading with your mouth and agitation is leading with your ears.

Persuasion Strategy: Motivational Interviewing

What do we do about power distorting our perspective-taking?


  1. Ask two irrational questions.

So, let’s say that Pink wants to persuade his son to clean his room.

Pink(irrational question one) “Hey son, on a scale of 1-10, how ready are you to clean your room?”

Son: “A two.”

Pink(irrational question two) “Why didn’t you pick a lower number?”

This is intended to get them to explain the reasons they have for really wanting to do what you’re trying to persuade them to do. In this case, the second irrational question would get Pink’s son to start to list the reasons he actually does want to clean his room.

But, let’s say that even when you give them a scale of 1-10, they decide to give you a zero.

Pink(irrational question one) “Hey son, on a scale of 1-10, how ready are you to clean your room?”

Son: “A zero.”

Pink(calibrated question) “Okay, got it. You’re a zero. What can we do to make it a one?”

In this case, you’re using the “Never Say No” negotiation technique by delivering what Chris Voss would call a calibrated question. It’s intended to get them to collaborate with you on a way forward that works for everyone.

Persuasion Strategy: Bring Social Proof

Pink gives credit to Robert Cialdini for this one, the man he calls the “father of the persuasion sciences”.

The general idea here is that as human beings, we’re motivated by reward and punishment, pain and gain. And, we don’t always know what the best decision to make is. So, we look to the environment and other people for social cues as to what the best course of action is. We tend to rationalize to ourselves—even if only subconsciously—that if a lot of people are taking a certain action, then that must mean that that particular decision results in the most gain and the least loss. So, we’re more likely to make that decision and take that action.

That also means that if you bring social proof—proof that a good amount of other people have done what you want to persuade the other side to do—you can persuade others that the right decision is the one you want them to make, and the right course of action is the one you want them to take.

Persuasion Strategy: Build An Off-Ramp

“When we try to predict people’s behavior and explain people’s behavior, we almost always overweight the importance of their personality and underweight the importance of the context and the situation that they’re in.”

This is called The Fundamental Attribution Error. In other words, we tend to judge people’s choices without first understanding their reasons.

The lesson here is that if you want somebody to do something for you, make the context and the situation one where it’s easy for them to say “yes”. Sometimes, you don’t even need to convince them. You just need to make it easy for them to do something. And, you can do this by taking into consideration their interests.

What Pink refers to as “building an off-ramp” we refer to here at The Power Moves as “the WIIFT rule”.

Persuasion Concept: Mimicry/Mimicking

Mimicry is the act of mirroring, matching, or copying someone else’s behavior.

Persuasion Strategy: Three Steps to Strategic Mimicry

The three steps are:

  1. You watch.
  2. You wait.
  3. You wane.

To expand on these steps:

  1. Pay attention: How is somebody (the other person) sitting?
  2. Wait: Pick one of the things they’re doing, then mimic it. For example, if they lean back, count to ten, then lean back. Or, if they put or rest their hand on their chin, count to ten, and then put or rest your hand on your chin.
  3. Wane: Let it slide a little bit (stop mimicking their behavior), then do it again.

*Note: Human beings are natural mimickers, so you’ll be able to do this naturally.

This has a dual effect. One is you’ll be able to understand where they’re coming from better. The other is that for them, mimicry feels natural. They feel like they’re being heard.

*Note: According to Pink, when researchers were performing these studies, they also performed a manipulation check, where they asked the other person if they felt like they were being mimicked. In 95 out of 100 cases, those people said “no”.

Persuasion Strategy: Mimicking with Language

“One reason why things—like in technical sales—they go awry, is that the people doing the selling use their insider language, use their jargon. And, the people who they’re selling to might not be as sophisticated and they use civilian’s language rather than the, quote on quote, ‘correct language’. So, as much as you possibly can, use other people’s words. Use other people’s phrases. It makes them feel heard. It also, again, puts you in a position where you can understand their perspective.”

A study in Holland where half of the servers were instructed to repeat the customer’s order back to them word-for-word and the other half was instructed not to, resulted in both the orders being right on both sides. But, the “repeaters” received 70% more tips.

Persuasion Concept: Persuasive Framing

“One aspect of contemporary society is that people are stimulus rich but context poor. They don’t know what it all means. They don’t know where to focus their gaze. And, one thing that always helps people see in any realm of life is a frame…because it focuses the issue on what you want to focus on. It avoids people concentrating on extraneous things. In some way, it sets the terms of the discussion.”

Persuasion Concept: Cognitive Biases

“A cognitive bias is a way that our thinking doesn’t go straight. Our thinking goes sideways. It’s a glitch in the human mind. We all are subject to it. We have to watch for it because, in 99 times out of 100, it’s going to lead us astray.”

“They [cognitive biases] help you frame your message to other people, but they also offer a sense of caution for yourself not to fall prey to these biases.”

*Note: Here is a complete list of 25 of the cognitive biases, which was provided to me by Tai Lopez after taking two of his sales and persuasion course: “The Accelerator: Persuasion” and “Green Belt: Closing The Sale”.

Persuasion Strategy: Loss-Aversion (AKA: The “Deprival-Superreaction Tendency” Cognitive Bias)

This particular strategy has been referred to as “pain/gain framing” or “the pain/gain frame” by John B. Ullmen and “bending people’s reality” by Chris Voss.

“We experience losses more severely than the equivalent gain. So, the prospect of losing ten dollars is far more daunting than the thrill of winning ten dollars, even though, economically, it’s essentially the same. And, so, in certain circumstances, you want to actually put the loss frame around your message…in many cases, you want to tell people what they have to lose.”

An example is in the insurance industry. Selling insurance policies is all about telling people what they have to lose.

Persuasion Strategy: The Opportunity Cost Frame (More Loss-Aversion)

This frame and its effectiveness lies within the loss-aversion cognitive bias above as well.

“Any time you do something, you forgo doing something else. That’s an opportunity cost. Any time you spend one dollar on one thing, that’s one dollar you’re not spending on something else. That’s an opportunity cost.”

“Oftentimes, you will use the opportunity cost frame when someone is trying to convince you and you need to push back a little bit.”

So, for example, imagine that you are an architect and Pink is your client. And, you’re limited on time as far as how long you have to build a house for Pink. And, you’re limited as far as the budget Pink’s given you to spend on the development of this house.

Pink: “You know, I was just thinking. We should do a…one of the overhangs…we should do an oculus. Create a big hole there so the sun can come in.”

You(roll your eyes) “OK, well, that’s interesting. Interesting idea, the oculus. Umm, we can do it. But, with our budget, (opportunity cost frame) tell me what you want to give up to get that.”

Pink(starts backtracking) “Whoa, give something up?”

You: “Also, it’s like, I’m on a fixed…you know, I’m on a time to get this thing done. Umm, (opportunity cost frame) what don’t you want me to do in order to get you your oculus?”

Persuasion Strategy: The Experience Frame (The “Reason – Respecting Tendency” Cognitive Bias)

“When social scientists have looked at what people remember and what they value, they tend to remember and value experiences more than goods and services. So, they derive satisfaction not from, say, the television itself that they just purchased. But, from the experience of sitting around with your family watching a musical or having a regular Sunday night movie night in front of that TV set. The experience is more enriching, the experience is more valuable [than the product alone].”

“So, take what you’re selling, whether it’s an idea, whether it is a product, and put it in terms of an experience.”

For example, let’s say you’re selling a used car. You can talk about the specifics of it such as the engine, the mileage, the gas efficiency, and so on. But, you can also frame it in terms of the experience the prospective buyer would have.

You: “You know what, I use this car. And, (the experience frame) I drove my kids to soccer practice in this car. It’s a great thing for doing that. And, as you know, as a parent, one of the things that’s one of the few opportunities that you have is to have conversations with your kids. And, (the experience frame) sometimes it’s in the car. And, so, this is a great car for doing that.”

“We tend to value a fairly universal set of experiences. What do we like? We like novelty. To some extent, we like challenge. To some extent, we like relaxation. We like being with people we care about. And, that common set of experiences are really what give us satisfaction as human beings.”

The experience frame can make your product or idea more buyable and, in some cases, even more valuable in the eyes of the person you’re looking to persuade.

The reason that I associated this frame with the “Reason – Respecting Tendency” cognitive bias is because it states, “You can increase compliance to a request, favor or command if you give a reason why.” And, in this case, the reason why that you’re providing is because of the experience they can have if they buy your product or buy into your idea.

Persuasion Strategy: The Less Is More Frame (The “Contrast – Misreaction Tendency” Cognitive Bias)

“…the truth is that offering people [more] choices can be persuasive up to a point…[having more than one] choice is valuable, but it has a ceiling on it.”

“…and, there’s a famous study that exemplifies this. These two researchers at Stanford set up shop in a grocery store. And, they were purportedly selling jam. So, in one instance, they offered free tasters of 24 different varieties of jam. In another instance, they offered just six varieties of jam…Which sold more? When they offered 24 varieties of jam, 3% of the customers bought the jam. When they offered fewer options, 30% bought it. Less is more.”

“More isn’t better, better is better…fewer options can be much more clarifying [and, clarity is persuasive]. And, your job, as a persuaded, is to narrow the set of options in a way that is useful and enlightening for the person you’re trying to persuade.”

The reason I associated this with the “Contrast – Misreaction Tendency” cognitive bias is that this frame is aimed at removing what many psychologists (namely Barry Schwartz) refer to as “the paradox of choice“. Or, as it’s more commonly referred to, “analysis paralysis”. Using the less is more frame helps buyers take action by removing the number of choices they have to compare and contrast to, which reduces stagnation, increasing sales.

Persuasion Strategy: The Contrast Frame (The “Contrast – Misreaction Tendency” Cognitive Bias)

“…we understand things in relative terms, not in absolute terms. What does that mean? All right. Is this expensive? Compared to what? Am I tall? Compared to who? IS this a good place to visit? Compared to what [where]? The single most important question in sales and persuasion is not ‘what’s in it for me’? That’s what we’re taught in sales training classes. ‘What’s in it for me?’ That’s an important question. It’s the second most important question. The most important question in sales and persuasion is, ‘Compared to what’? The way you make something clear is by contrasting it with something else, not letting it sit on its own.”

The example Pink used here is the story of the blind beggar, sitting by a sign that reads, “I am blind”. And, a man named Rosser Reeves takes that beggar’s cardboard sign and writes, “It is springtime and…I am blind”. And, as the legend goes, coins start piling up for the blind beggar. So, in terms of the contrast principle, as Pink puts it, “We understand this person, he can’t see. Compared to what? Compared to being someone like me on a beautiful spring day and seeing everything.”

Persuasion Strategy: The Blemish Frame (AKA: “Strategic Honesty” or Pre-framing)

The blemish frame. Lucio refers to it as “strategic honesty” in his breakdown of Tai Lopez’s manipulative persuasion techniques and, as Lucio points out, Tony Robbins calls it pre-framing in “Power to Influence“.

“As persuaders, we often have–whether we’re in an official sales encounter or whether we’re just in our personal lives–what we offer often isn’t perfect. It might have a few blemishes. So, a dilemma that we confront is, ‘Do we reveal that blemish or do we conceal that blemish?”

As Pink points out, it’s great to point out blemishes because if you only provide a long list of positives to persuade your prospect, they have nothing to compare those positives to. But, with the long list of positives followed by a small negative–a blemish–that small negative will trigger the contrast bias in their brain where they compare that one small negative detail to this long list of major positives. And, by that point, their decision on what to do will be obvious to them.

That being said, it has to be a small blemish. And, sequence matters. It’s more effective when the negative follows after a long list of positives.

*Note: Tony Robbins likely calls it “pre-framing” not as a way of pre-framing the product or idea, but the relationship as being a relationship built on trust and honesty, which builds rapport. Still, the benefits of this frame improve both their view of the relationship and their view of your product or idea.

Persuasion Strategy: The Potential Frame

“Buyers tend to overvalue potential more than they should…”.

As Pink notes, this is super important in a job interview.
Pink says, “In many cases, as we’re interviewing for a job, we’re persuaders trying to get someone to hire us, we spend a lot of time talking about all that we’ve accomplished. And, that can be important. I don’t want to discount that. But, what I don’t want you to do is spend all your time talking about that and none of your time talking about your potential. Because potential, weirdly enough, is often more persuasive than actual experience.”

As you may have noticed, I haven’t associated this frame with any cognitive bias. And, that’s because Pink’s reasoning behind why he believes this frame is effective is because, as he says, “…potential creates uncertainty. When we don’t know what something is going to be like we start filling in the blanks. And, often, people will fill in the blanks and make decisions based on what they imagine to be very positive things. And, so, by emphasizing potential in those kinds of [positive] circumstances, you’re creating uncertainty. The other person is filling in that uncertainty with something positive.”

An example Pink provides is in cases where experienced, working individuals are asking their boss for a promotion:

“The problem that we sometimes have is that when people go further along in their careers, they always go back to their experience. Which, is important, but they don’t talk enough about their potential. It’s very important if you’re looking for a promotion. You’ve been doing this one role for three or four years. You want to do something else. You want your boss to promote you. You can do a laundry list of everything you’ve accomplished in your current job, but that might make the boss say, ‘Wow, you’re really good at this job! I’d like to keep you in this job.’ What you want to do is you want to talk about your potential because potential creates uncertainty that the boss will then fill in [with positivity].”

Persuasion Strategy: The Sunk Costs Frame (The “Sunk Costs Fallacy” Cognitive Bias)

“…People tend to overvalue costs that are already sunk [lost forever]. Don’t do that. Those are sunk costs [already gone and in the past]. What you want to do is you want to look prospectively, not retrospectively. And, so, be wary of the sunk cost fallacy when you are a buyer. And, where appropriate, keep it in mind when you’re a seller.”

Here’s Pink’s example. You bought tickets to a concert. Two tickets that cost you $75 apiece. So, you paid $150 for these tickets and now you can’t get a refund because you’ve already bought them. Two weeks later, it’s the night of the concert, it’s cold. It’s rainy. The venue is far away. You’re feeling burnt out from your day at the job. Should you go to that concert?

In an effort to avoid making your purchase a total waste, you might decide to go. But, that’s the sunk cost fallacy. If you go to the concert or don’t go to that concert, either way, you’ve already spent the $150. That money is already sunk. So, what you want to do is think about the future, think about what you should do next. And, maybe to preserve your health, it’s best not to go to that concert.

The thing is, people tend to overvalue the costs that are already sunk. Once again, avoid that. Think and focus forward, those costs are already gone, they’re all in the past now.

Persuasion Strategy: The Anchoring Frame (The “Anchoring” Cognitive Bias)

“Anchoring, in plain and simple terms, is that the first thing that people hear plants in their head and stays there and has a disproportionate impact on how they think and what they believe tan you would imagine…it’s a quirk of the human mind, this anchoring bias. It’s just that whatever we hear first shapes our views more than it should. It’s almost like a defect. And, so, what you have to do is you have to be aware of the defect and act around it.”

*Note: Pink says, “Now, you can’t come up with the anchor out of nowhere. It has to be based on something.” And, none of us are immune to the anchoring bias, and the one who sets the anchor often sets the terms of the negotiation and conversation.

Persuasion Strategy: Choose Your Frames Wisely (Wise Frame-Setting)

“Now, you don’t need to use a frame for every single thing. You don’t need to repeat frames over and over again.”

Think of it as having a workshop and all of these frames are your tools. Whenever you’re faced with a situation or persuasive encounter, ask yourself, “Do I need a frame for this circumstance?” And, if yes, use the frame (tool) you have in mind to help the person you want to persuade see things your way.

Persuasion Concept: Pro-Like Pitching

The best pitches do NOT go:

Pitch → Wait for an Applause → They Applaud → They Get Out Their Checkbooks

The best pitches actually go:

Pitch → Invite Their Input → They Provide Input/Feedback → Collaboration

“The purpose of a pitch is not to get a ‘yes’ right there. The purpose of a pitch is to start a conversation and build a collaboration.”

Persuasion Strategy: The Question Pitch

“When the facts are very strongly on your side in making an argument, questions are more persuasive than statements. Questions have to elicit a response. They are inherently interactive. They inherently provoke.”

When you ask someone a question that provokes the answer you want them to reach (which they reach because all of the facts are already strongly on your side), they’ll come up with their own reasons for doing what you want because they’re answer the question, even if you already know what the answer would be. In other words, when people reach your conclusion on their own, that’s far more persuasive because, “When people have their own reasons for doing something, they’re more likely to do it.”

An example is in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter (who was already President of the US and looking to be re-elected for a second term). Ronald Reagan asked the famous question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” And, when he said that, the people (voters) remembered that, at the time of being asked that question, there are American hostages being taken in Iran, there is an energy crisis, unemployment is high, inflation is high, and a whole other slew of problems are being battled that they weren’t having four years ago before Jimmy Carter was in office. And, with those famous words—with that “question pitch”—Reagan was elected as the new President of the United States.

At the same time, question pitches are dangerous for your persuasiveness if the facts are NOT on your side.

An example of this is in 2012 when Mitt Romney was running against the then-President Barack Obama. Mitt Romney tried to use Ronald Reagan’s same famous words to win the election, said it once, and never said it again. He asked them in 2012, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” And, when people answered that question for themselves, they remembered the Great Recession of 2008 when houses were being foreclosed on their very neighborhood block, people they knew and cared about were out of jobs, and that, yes, they are doing much better now (in 2012 under the leadership of President Obama) than they were four years back. And, as a result, Romney sunk his own ship and President Obama was re-elected for a second term.

“So, when the facts are on your side, pitch with a question.”

“One way to fashion a question pitch is to think about the declarative statement that you would make and just turn it into an interrogative.”

So, for example, let’s say Pink is in the business of selling the world’s best carbon monoxide detectors. And, he believes in these, he believes they’re truly the best on the market.

Pink(declarative statement/what he really wants to say) “These are the best carbon monoxide detectors in the world and you need these to protect your family.”

Pink(question pitch) “How much is it worth to you to protect your family?”

And, that question pitch might be more effective because the buyer/prospect might respond by saying they can’t put a price tag on that. So, they rationalize to themself that paying a few dollars extra for a carbon monoxide detector is nothing in comparison to the value of keeping their family safe.

Persuasion Strategy: The Rhyming Pitch

“The truth is there’s a central lesson in linguistics and in persuasion. There are certain things [such as rhyme] that increase processing fluency…Processing fluency is simply that your message goes down a little more easily. When the message goes down more easily, it’s easier to absorb. And, it’s more likely to be believed [and persuasive].”

As Pink notes, in the OJ Simpson trial, the signal moment of that trial was when they found a pair of gloves and had OJ try them on in front of the jury. And, Johnny Cochran said famously, “It doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” And, in the end, OJ Simpson did end up getting acquitted.

Persuasion Strategy: The Pixar Pitch

“What some story editors there [at Pixar Studios] have revealed is every Pixar movie has the same basic narrative structure. And, it’s os basic, one can reduce it to six sentences…”.

  1. “Once upon a time…”
  2. “Every day…”
  3. “One day…”
  4. “Because of that…”
  5. “Because of that…”
  6. “Until finally…”

“I really want to encourage you to use the Pixar pitch in your own pitches. And, I think it’s especially effective for all of you entrepreneurs out there.”

Pink’s example here is a made-up mobile financial service business Pink creates:

  1. “Once upon a time, there were tens of millions of Americans who didn’t have access to a bank.”
  2. “Every day, they would have to go to check cashing services and worry about where to keep their cash.”
  3. “One day, we came along with an app to provide financial service to people who lack access to a traditional bank.”
  4. “Because of that, more people were able to use financial services, to get credit.”
  5. “Because of that, they were able to support their families better, focus on their jobs…”
  6. “Until, finally, the financial system was available to all of us. NOT just the elite, to everybody who was growing and contributing to the modern economy.”

Persuasion Concept: One-Word Equity

Lord Saatchi, the great British adman, says, “…it’s so tumultuous in the marketplace out there that what you want to do is you want to own one word. So, when people think of you, they think of that word. When people think of that word, they think of you.”

For example, when you think Google, chances are you think “search”. And, vice-versa.

Persuasion Strategy: The One-Word Pitch

“I like this idea of one-word equity as an actual pitch saying, ‘The way to understand us is to understand this one word.’ But, I really like it as an exercise to hone your message because if you can distill what you’re about, what you stand for, in a single word, you’re doing something right.”

Take a look at Pink’s example for this one. Pink says, “So, in 2008, when Barack Obama ran for president, it was a single word—one-word equity—’hope’. That’s what it was all about.” To expand on this example a bit might be his ad campaigns and slogan that revolved around that one-word equity, “Yes we can.” And, as Pink further notes, “When he ran for re-election if you look at all of his campaign literature, ‘forward’.

Persuasion Strategy: Write Email Subject Lines People Want to Open

Persuasive email subject lines consist of two main things:

  1. Utility: “My subject line has to show that what I’m suggesting in this email is valuable to you, is useful to you.”
  2. Curiosity: “Curiosity is, ‘I have to create a little bit of doubt and uncertainty so you’re intrigued enough to open it up.”

*Note: You don’t want to be in the middle, between utility and curiosity.


Let’s say, for example, you’re sending an email to your boss.

Subject Line: “Follow-up”


Subject Line: “Two more ideas for budget cuts”

The latter is more persuasive. Again:

Subject Line: “Some ideas”


Subject Line: “A weird idea I just had that might work”

“So, what we want is that when people are receiving a high volume of email, go to utility. When they have a lower volume of email, go to curiosity…every email subject line you write should make the person say, ‘Whoa, I need to open that because it’s going to be useful to me,’ or, ‘Man, I need to find out what that is.” Pink says there should really be no in-between if you want your email subject line to truly be effective.

Persuasion Strategy: Use Granular Numbers (AKA: The Precise Bid Tactic)

“…when you use those granular kinds of numbers, it feels to the recipient like you’ve actually taken some time, you’re being precise, you’re being deliberate. So, when in doubt, rough numbers are less valuable than very granular numbers.”

For example, two hours is less persuasive than 120 minutes. This is also referred to by negotiation expert Barry Nalebuff as the “precise bid tactic“.

Persuasion Strategy: Bringing Your Pitch Into Focus

You need to be able to answer these three essential questions in order to bring your pitch into focus:

  1. What do you want the other side to know?
  2. What do you want the other side to feel?
  3. What do you want the other side to do?

“If you have clear, crisp answers to those questions, your pitch is much more likely to be persuasive.”

*Note: Experiment. Maybe there’s a way to put together the rhyming pitch and the question pitch. Have fun when you’re going through the process of figuring out what works for you.

Persuasion Concept: Buoyancy (AKA: Mental Resiliency)

“Buoyancy measures your ability to float “in an ocean of rejection,” as Daniel calls it. As a seller/persuader, you’re going to hear “no” many more times than “yes.” Managing this means equipping yourself to deal with rejection—a.k.a. becoming more buoyant.”

Persuasion Strategy: The Keys to a Successful Pep Talk (The Keys to Persuasive Self-Talk)

The major key is: instead of engaging in declarative self-talk, engage in interrogative self-talk.

“Instead of affirming yourself and saying you can do this, turn it into a question and ask yourself, ‘Can you do this? And, if so, how?”

Pink says that the self-help gurus hate this because you’re questioning yourself (which, if we’re going by Pink, I suppose self-help gurus will tell you to never do). But, the science shows that it works because the question engages you in a frame of mind that’s more about strategy as the way forward (i.e. “How can I do this?”) instead of raw, base-less core confidence as the way forward (i.e. “OK, I know I can, I know I can, I know I can.”). It also leads your brain to come up with reasons why you actually can do this which builds your confidence in the situation.

“…while positive self-talk can be valuable, what’s actually more effective, what, in a way, is more muscular, is the interrogative self-talk. Because it inspires you to answer the question. And, in answering the question, you prepare, you strategize, you rehearse. And, that improves your performance.”

Persuasion Concept: The Explanatory Style

“Explanatory style is basically, ‘How do you explain your failure or rejection?’ And, a lot of us explain it in ways that are personally debilitating and often inaccurate.”

Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, builds mental resiliency (buoyancy) using what is now often referred to as Seligman’s Three P’s:

  1. Personal – Ask yourself, “Is this personal?” Explain why it’s NOT.
  2. Pervasive – Ask yourself, “Does this always happen?” Explain why it does NOT.
  3. Permanent – Ask yourself, “Is this going to ruin everything?” Explain why it will NOT. Then, also ask yourself, “Is this rejection permanent?” And, finally, explain why it is NOT.

Treat yourself the way that you would treat a friend. Pink notes, “There’s another principle in [the] science of behavior called self-compassion. We tend to be relatively compassionate with other people. But, we’re less compassionate with ourselves.” So, show yourself the same compassion you would show a friend in need.

Persuasion Concept: Introvert, Extrovert, or Ambivert

The research shows that extroverts are more likely to go into sales jobs, get hired in sales jobs, and get promoted in sales jobs. But, introverts have a higher sales performance than extroverts.

Now, a great piece of research out of the University of Pennsylvania actually shows that both introverts and extroverts are easily outperformed by ambiverts.

“An ambivert is someone who is a little bit introverted and a little bit extroverted. They’re not strongly one way or the other.”

The research showed that ambiverts were the best persuaders because the introverts (at the extreme of their personality type) didn’t like to assert themselves and were a little bit shy while the extroverts at their extreme (the highest level of extroversion) weren’t good listeners. So, the ambiverts did the best because they are in the middle of both extremes, knowing when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to listen.

Ask Pink notes, “The distribution of introversion and extroversion in the population shows that most of us have the native personality to be effective at sales, persuasion, and influence.”

Persuasion Strategy: Develop Your Ambivert Skills (Move Toward the Center)

“…you can’t fundamentally change your personality. Introversion, extroversion tends to [both] be reasonably stable over people’s lives…It’s part of who you are…[BUT] you can make small steps to the center. Not anything big or dramatic, not changing who your essence is, you shouldn’t do that. But…you can move a little to the center. You have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit.”

Here’s how to get out of your comfort zone and move toward the center based on where you are:

Introverts: Spark more conversations with (random) strangers.

Extroverts: Be quiet. Stop talking so much. Listen more. Ask more questions (that invite the other side to do more of the talking).

Persuasion Strategy: Become a Better Listener


  1. Listening is NOT a form of waiting (for your turn to talk).
  2. Do NOT be too quick to jump in (with what you want to say).

Persuade Yourself (Self-Motivation)

“Remember the tool about ‘make it easy’ [WIIFT]. If you want someone to do something, make it easy for them to do something…Build an off-ramp for yourself [make it easy for yourself].”

The Just Five More Technique (Self-Motivation)

“Say, ‘I’m just going to do five more emails.’ And, you know what happens? You end up sending 15 more.”

Another example is if you’re writing a book. When you feel like you don’t have it in you to write anymore, you can tell yourself, “Just five more pages.”

Set An Interim Goal (Self-Motivation)

“Sometimes it’s extremely daunting to have a huge goal…So, what you want to do is set an interim goal…That’s easier for me to see. It’s easier for me to get to . That gives me the motivation to reach that interim goal. Then, I set another interim goal.”

(Daunting) Huge Goal: I’m going to write a whole book.


(Self-Motivating) Interim Goal: I’m going to write a chapter of my book within the next two weeks.

Make A Public Commitment (Self-Motivation)

Announce your goal to the world (perhaps via social media) so the world holds you accountable.

Take A Break (Self-Motivation)

“We know that the most effective breaks are outside rather than inside. They are moving rather than stationary. They’re with other people rather than solo.”

So, the idea here is to self-motivate yourself to get more done by taking a break to avoid burnout.

“So, if you’re looking for some self-motivation, one of the cheapest, most cost-effective things you can possibly do is this. Go out for a five or ten-minute walk with someone you like, outside, talking about something other than work, leaving your phone behind.”

Employ Deadlines Cautiously (Self-Motivation)

“Deadlines can be extremely effective if what you’re doing is relatively straight-forward. You know pretty much what you need to do. You pretty much know how to do it. Having that deadline—being able to see that deadline in front of you—is going to allow you to finish the task.”

“The one area where deadlines don’t work so great is when people are doing what social psychologists call ‘heuristic work’. That’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘Work that requires divergent thinking, work that requires greater creativity where you’re not sure what problem you’re solving, you’re still trying to figure it out.’ In those cases, deadlines actually inhibit performance.”

Also, avoid overusing deadlines when you’re in a leadership position. If you “impose” a deadline onto someone else that’s too severe, it can actually kill their intrinsic motivation. Instead, get people committed to their action and then use deadlines as a goal, target, or helpful tool to encourage their progress.

When To Pitch (Using Timing to Persuade)

When to go first:

  1. If you are NOT the default candidate, you want to go first.Pink’s example is if you’re running an advertising agency and one of your prospects—your potential clients—is considering getting rid of their existing ad agency. Their existing agency is their default choice. So, they’re the default candidate. And, by going first, you look like a fresh, lively new choice in comparison to the choice that’s been their existing default for so long.
  2. When there are relatively few other candidates.”[A] small number of candidates going first gives you the advantage of what’s called the ‘primacy effect’. People who go first are taken a little bit more seriously.”
  3. If a lot of your competitors (say, other business, job candidates, etc., etc.) are very strong”…if people see a number of strong candidates one after another when they get to the later ones, they are going to say, ‘…everybody can’t be this good.’ And, they’ll start more aggressively looking for flaws.”

When you do NOT want to go first and, instead, want to go toward the end:

  1. If you ARE the default candidate.
  2. If there are a lot of competitors.”…when there are a huge number of competitors, the people who come toward the end are actually evaluated more highly.”
  3. If the criteria for selection are not super-clear.”They are not sure what kind of firm they want to hire. They’re not sure exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate. Let the other people who go first figure it out for them. When they get to you, they say, ‘Oh, this is exactly what we need.”

When To Give Bad News (Using Timing to Persuade)

“…in general, you’re better off starting with the bad news and going to the good news. That’s what people want to hear.”

For more, see John B. Ullmen’s point on this.

Schedule Tough Requests After Breaks (Using Timing to Persuade)

“When people make decisions, particularly when they’re confronted with a decision, they have in their back pocket a default decision. And, that default decision is almost always ‘no’. So, you ask your boss for a raise, the default decision is ‘no’…people are more likely to overcome the default early in the day and immediately after breaks. If you have a tough prospect and you know the default answer is ‘no’, you might have a marginally better chance if you approach that person early in the day or immediately after that person has taken a break.”

Pink notes that this will only give you a tiny edge or advantage and that while he doesn’t want to overstate or exaggerate the effectiveness of this particular strategy, small edges such as the one this one gives can still be meaningful in getting what you want.

Leverage Your Internal Rhythms For Productivity

Bullet Summary

  • Beginning: “Pick a date or day of the week that makes symbolic sense to begin something big. Starting on a Monday (rather than, say, a Thursday) is more likely to help your project be a success. Also, do a premortem by generating a list of potential stumbling blocks and blind spots as part of your preparation. Once you identify those, formulate a plan for how to avoid them and jot down a few practical solutions in case they do arise.”
  • Middle: “These are tricky. Sometimes they drag us down; research shows that happiness tends to lag in midlife. But when used properly, they can also fire us up. In that spirit, try using project midpoints as a form of motivation. If you can think of yourself as slightly behind when reaching the midpoint of a project, it might encourage you to pick up the pace.”
  • Ending: “They should energize you. People tend to push harder once the end is in sight. Who doesn’t love going out on top? Use the looming finish line of a project as an opportunity to make things happen.”

Internal Rhythms – Beginning

The Premortem Technique

“A post-mortem is when the body dies and you try to figure out what caused the death. A pre-mortem is when you look at the dead body while it’s still alive.”

For example, if you’re going to start a new sales campaign for your business, collect your team and think about it being one year from that campaign. Everything has gone wrong. you didn’t make enough sales, your existing customers are angry and leaving to join your competitors. Your team members are actually fighting with each other. Then, think about what went wrong. Make a list of everything that contributed to causing this disaster. And, use that list to avoid those mistakes.

“Figure out the problem before the problem occurs. And, do everything you can to avoid it.”

Internal Rhythms – Middle

  1. Recognize that it’s a midpoint.
  2. Use that midpoint as an alarm clock.
  3. Imagine yourself a little bit behind.

An example is if you have a project that’s due in 30 days, don’t start working on that project until day 15. That way, the midpoint in your timetable becomes an alarm clock to get going because you can imagine yourself being a little bit behind.

Internal Rhythms – Ending

Endgame Persuasion (Using Timing to Persuade)

“Whatever happens at the end of an experience is often more memorable than many of the things that happened throughout that experience.”

Real-Life Applications

1. Set the Frame

Often, we’ll find ourselves in situations where we need to engage in frame control and frame negotiations. But, what about when we have the opportunity to go first and we need to actually set the frame?

In a lot of cases, using Daniel Pink’s nine frames that leverage the cognitive biases within our minds is a great way to start your frame negotiation off in a way that allows you to dictate the terms of the interaction. One of the only exceptions would be in cases where you’re dealing with people who are great conversationalists capable of reading, controlling, and negotiating frames, which, most people aren’t.


  • Less Live Negotiations

Out of the entire course, there was only one video where you got to see Pink uses his teachings in action. Compared to the Voss Masterclass where there were six videos of Voss engaging in a live, unscripted negotiation, that’s a huge step down.


  • Beautiful, Informative Workbook

It seems that ever since Masterclass stepped up their branding, their workbooks are also more engaging and contain summaries of the Masterclass teacher’s lessons that are much more accurate.

  • Lessons Are Packed

You open one lesson and feel like you must take notes so you don’t miss anything juicy. Lots of value in each lesson in terms of persuasion. And, Pink references popular social psychologists and bodies of research to back up his teachings that you are able to look into yourself if you decide.

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