We’re All in Sales Now

May 23, 2013

Daniel Pink is the best-selling author of five game-changing books about the world of work. He will deliver the keynote presentation at the 2013 Global BMA Conference. BMA Buzz caught up with the author to ask about his latest book, To Sell Is Human.

BMA Buzz: What will be the focus of your presentation?

Daniel Pink: I'll be talking about the latest research I've done around the fascinating topic of sales. Like it or not, we're all in sales now—even people who don't have "sales" or "marketing" in their job titles.  And because of some interesting changes in the business landscape, selling—whether you're pitching an idea in a meeting or pressing a prospect to sign on the dotted line—isn't what it used to be. More important: I'll harvest the social science of selling and persuasion to offer a whole array of tools, tips and takeaways that business marketers can use to work smarter and better. 

BMA Buzz: In To Sell Is Human you talk about how the buyer-seller relationship is changing. What do business marketers need to understand about the new dynamic?

Daniel Pink: The changes for business-to-business marketers are twofold. First, it's no longer true that sellers and marketers have an enormous information advantage over customers and prospects. That information asymmetry gave us the world of "buyer beware." But today, even in many sophisticated business-to-business settings, we're moving closer to information parity. That's a world of "seller beware." Sellers and marketers are on notice, which means they have to take the high road.  Second, there's a new premium on expertise. It has become essential for sellers and marketers to know the other side's business and be able to offer insights about the business, to go beyond solving existing problems to identifying hidden or future problems. 

BMA Buzz: You tackle a lot of the conventional wisdom around sales. My favorite may be the idea that extroverts always have an edge. Which sales myth most surprised you when exposed?

Daniel Pink: I'm with you on the point about extroverts. We have this notion that some people are "born" salespeople, and, by extension, that certain types of people do it best. That's far from the truth. As you say, many of us believe that extroverts make the best sales people. But new research from Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School calls that into question. In his research, which I write about here, he found that strong extroverts were only slightly better at sales than strong introverts. Why? Strong extroverts can talk too much and listen too little and overwhelm people with their forceful personalities. The people who did the best—by far—were the "ambiverts," those in the middle. These folks, who are somewhat introverted and somewhat extroverted, are the most attuned and therefore make the best salespeople. What ought to be heartening is that most of us are neither strong introverts nor strong extroverts. Most of us are ambiverts, which suggests that most of us are reasonably well positioned to sell effectively.

BMA Buzz: What qualities do effective sellers need to embrace?

Daniel Pink: The new ABC's -- Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.  Attunement is perspective-taking, getting out of your own head and seeing things from another's point of view.  Buoyancy is staying afloat on what one salesperson called "the ocean of rejection" that is sales.  And Clarity is moving from accessing information to curating it, from solving existing problems to identifying problems others don't realize that they have. The qualities form the foundation for selling—your idea, your product or yourself—on today's new business terrain.


"We’re All in Sales Now." BMA Buzz. 5/23/13.