Daniel Pink, the author of the bestsellers Drive (about what really motivates people – hint: not money) and A Whole New Mind (right-brained people rule) spoke recently at the Business of Software conference.
Daniel said he was inspired to write To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others when Neil Davidson, CEO of Redgate Software (~$50M in revenue) challenged Drive‘s premise: Aren’t salespeople the exception? Aren’t they coin-operated?
Here’s what Daniel found out when he dug into it.
1. Who is coin-operated?
Money – aka commissions – are an example of if-then motivators. It turns out this type of motivator is effective for simple, routine tasks involving only rudimentary cognitive skills. But if-then motivators are less effective at tasks requiring considerable creativity. That insight is important with solution selling, which can require a lot of creativity.
Neil Davidson eliminated commissions for his salespeople and found:
- Salespeople became more collaborative
- Customers liked them better
- He became a more effective leader by freeing up the time he used to spend arguing about commissions
2. The salesperson as analyst
Daniel pointed out that 1 out of 9 US workers hold sales jobs – including real estate, insurance, etc. But the Internet and social media have eroded the information asymmetry that previously empowered salespeople. For example, car salespeople struggle to extract high prices now that consumers can easily look up manufacturers’ prices and see the dealer markup.
With the advent of information parity, the salesperson’s role shifts dramatically.
As a buyer, if you know what your problem is, you can now find a solution without help.
So salespeople become more valuable helping buyers with “problem finding” – helping them understand a problem they have, but didn’t realize they had or had difficulty articulating.
3. Ambiverts beat extroverts
In a Wharton study of a sales call center extroverts slightly outperformed introverts, but ambiverts – people who scored in the middle on the scale from introverts to extroverts – significantly outperformed extroverts.
The hypotheses behind this surprising outcome is that extroverts are more likely to:
- talk more than listen
- want to be liked so much, they are worse at saying no
If your company only hires extroverted salespeople, you may be missing out. If you have avoided sales because you weren’t extroverted, you may be missing out. Without taking a test, how do you assess whether you are an introvert or extravert? Introverts work to avoid over-stimulation while extraverts work hard to avoid boredom.
4. Feeding on rejection
Daniel interviewed Norman Hall, the last Fuller Brush salesman in San Francisco. His secret? Recognizing that sales success requires you be be able to confront “an ocean of rejection”.
At the same conference, sales trainer and coach Paul Kenny warned rejection is too good a thing to waste. Good salespeople handle rejection in a way that surfaces resistance (so it can be addressed) and helps identify key deficiencies of their solution.
The Business of Software conference is a great event for entrepreneurs. Much of the material is valuable to others working with start-ups. I’ll send an update when they make the videos of this year’s talks available.
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