© 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing. Created for Harvard Business Review by BullsEye Resources, www.bullseyeresources.

com.
To Sell is Human:
The New ABC’s
of Moving Others
Sponsored by
featuring Daniel Pink
FEBRUARY 26, 2014
WEBINARS
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OVERVIEW
Contrary to what many believed, the incredible changes in communications technology and the
rise of social media have not made sales forces obsolete. Sales professionals still play an inte-
gral role in the transactional process. To be efective, however, the role they play must change
dramatically. Since sales people no longer have a monopoly on access to market data, they
must have a diferent set of qualities and provide other services—such as sharing insights—
than sales people of past eras.
CONTEXT
Daniel Pink, bestselling author of To Sell is Human, discussed how the basics of selling have
changed and how sales professionals need to adapt in order to succeed.
KEY CONCLUSIONS
Sales has undergone more profound changes as information asymmetry has been
replaced by information parity.
It was originally believed that because of changes in information technology, there would no
longer be a need for large sales forces. The theory was that since one of the major roles of a
sales force was to provide product and competitive information to prospective customers, fewer
sales people would be needed because customers would now have direct access to information
themselves.
The data does not bear this out. In 2000, 11% of the United States’ workforce worked in sales.
In 2014 that percentage has not changed. Therefore, despite the emergence of incredible new
communications technology (increased access to broadband, tablets, smart phones, etc.) and
social media, one of every nine workers is involved in sales. Interestingly, the importance of
sales workers in other developed countries is about the same (10% in the UK; 13% in the EU;
and 13% in Japan).
What has changed is the role that the sales force plays in today’s sales process. In the past there
was information asymmetry, as sales people had more information than the customer. This
asymmetry let to a negative perception of sales and selling, with individuals using adjectives
such as pushy, yuck, ugh, hard, and difcult to describe sales.
CONTRIBUTORS
Daniel Pink
Author, To Sell is Human
Angelia Herrin (Moderator)
Editor for Research and Special
Projects, Harvard Business Review
FEBRUARY 26, 2014
To Sell is Human: The New ABC’s of Moving Others
© 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing. Created for Harvard Business Review by BullsEye Resources, www.bullseyeresources.com.
www.hbr.org
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FEBRUARY 26, 2014
To Sell is Human: The New ABC’s of Moving Others
Figure 1: Word cloud of 25 common adjectives when describing “sales” or “selling”
Today, the playing feld has shifted and the game for sales has changed. We are moving
from a world where the warning sign read “Buyer Beware” to one where it is “Seller Beware.”
Information asymmetry has been replaced by information parity.
The ABC’s of effective selling have changed.
In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, the old-school sales manager exhorts his real estate sales-
men to never forget their ABC’s: Always Be Closing. In other words, don’t let up until the
customer buys. This traditional sales philosophy is what led to the perception that sales people
are “pushy” and would do anything to get a sale.
In the last 20 years, there has been an explosion of research in behavioral science indicating
three new ABC’s that are keys to selling in today’s environment:
• Attunement. In this age of information parity, it is imperative that a sales person takes
on the perspective of the customer and sees the customer’s point of view. This relationship
building creates trust and confdence.
• Buoyancy. In refecting on the challenges of his job, one sales person lamented, “Every
day I face an ocean of rejection.” The key, then, to selling efectively is developing skills of
buoyancy to stay afoat. Humility is not a virtue often associated with sales, but questioning
one’s abilities and analyzing failures can make a sales person more efective going forward.
• Clarity. Power previously came from access to information. Now that everyone has access
to information, the important skill of great sales people is curating it, distilling it, and
choosing what is most important. Also, today great sales people don’t just solve customers’
problems; they fnd problems that customers might not even know they had.
“In the old days
you [sales people]
had a comparative
advantage of having
access to information.
Today, everyone has
access to information.”
–DANIEL PINK
“The premium has
shifted from the skill
of problem solving to
the skill of problem
finding.”
–DANIEL PINK
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FEBRUARY 26, 2014
To Sell is Human: The New ABC’s of Moving Others
“Adding a minor
negative detail in an
otherwise positive
description of a
target can give that
description a more
positive impact.”
–DANIEL PINK,
quoting ROBERT CIALDINI
There are six takeaways for sales effectiveness in this new environment.
1. Ambiverts are most successful. It has long been assumed that it is necessary to be
an extrovert to be a top sales person. Yet extroverts are marginally better at sales than
introverts. The best sales people are ambiverts, who combine some of the qualities and
capabilities of both introverts and extroverts.
Figure 2: Revenue generated by sales people based on degree of extroversion
The data above shows that the most introverted and extroverted sales people generate the
lowest revenues while those in the middle (the ambiverts) produce the best results.
2. Rethink how you defne “failure.” A key predictor of success is how sales people deal
with inevitable failure. Three good questions to ask are:
— Is this [failure] personal? Don’t put the blame entirely on your own shoulders. For
example, even if you felt your sales presentation could have been better, the reason you
didn’t get the order might simply have been that the customer wasn’t ready to buy.
— Is this pervasive? It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that failure stalks you every-
where. It is important to remind yourself of past successes.
— Is this permanent? Pessimism normally follows a failure, causing one to lose confdence
in the ability to fx the problem. Remembering that each new appointment is a new
beginning is a key to maintaining optimism and ensuring future sales success.
3. Remember that “it’s all relative.” In his book, Infuence, The Psychology of Persuasion,
Robert Cialdini identifes a phenomenon he defnes as the “contrast principle.” Information
is made more signifcant when it is compared to other data. The most important question in
sales is not, “What’s in it for me?” but rather, “Compared to what?”
4. Tell your story, (minor) warts and all. Cialdini says the contrast principle is even
more pronounced when minor negative information is introduced. He explains it this way:
“When individuals encounter weak negative information after already having received
© 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing. Created for Harvard Business Review by BullsEye Resources, www.bullseyeresources.com.
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FEBRUARY 26, 2014
To Sell is Human: The New ABC’s of Moving Others
positive information, the weak negative information ironically highlights or increases the
salience of the positive information.” In other words, small, honest blemishes on otherwise
strong oferings can increase their attractiveness.
5. Give customers choice, but don’t overwhelm them. One study identifed a phenom-
enon which is counterintuitive; i.e., consumers buy more when they have fewer choices.
A display of jams was set up in a supermarket over two days. On the frst day there were
6 jams on display, while on the second day there were 24. Consumers were invited to taste
and, if they wished, purchase some of the jam. Researchers found that 30% of the consum-
ers who were ofered a limited variety made a purchase while only 3% of those with greater
choice bought. The takeaway is clear: reducing choices can increase acceptance. It is the
role of the sales person to curate or edit the choices down to those which have the best
chances of meeting the consumer’s need.
6. Sell insights as well as products. This tactic is especially pertinent when selling to
B2B enterprises. In a competitive environment where customers have a great deal of infor-
mation and many options from which to choose, sales people must ofer customers more
than just a product. They need to help customers run their businesses better. For example,
a sales person might suggest to customers the ideal mix of products to carry, even though
that mix includes products from competitors. Now the sales person is welcome by the
customer because he or she provides insights as well as products.
OTHER IMPORTANT POINTS
• Servant selling. The concept of servant leadership has spread, where leaders in an orga-
nization serve others. There is much to be said for the idea of “servant selling.” The idea is
to serve frst and sell next.
• Introvert/extrovert assessment spectrum? To fnd out where you land on the intro-
vert/extrovert assessment, take the online quiz at www.danpink.com/assessment.
• Impact on hiring. Companies need to fnd the right kind of individual to fulfll this new
sales role. The ideal would be someone with an ambivert personality, who is conscientious
and has expertise, not unlike a management consultant.
• Impact on incentives. There is a trend to replace the traditional reward/punishment
model of sales incentives (“make your numbers . . . or else”) with an approach that treats
the sales person more as a professional. Sales people don’t perform optimally when they
are squeezed.
© 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing. Created for Harvard Business Review by BullsEye Resources, www.bullseyeresources.com.
www.hbr.org
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The information contained in this summary refects BullsEye Resources, Inc.’s subjective condensed summarization of the applicable conference session. There may be
material errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in the reporting of the substance of the session. In no way does BullsEye Resources or Harvard Business Review assume any
responsibility for any information provided or any decisions made based upon the information provided in this document.
FEBRUARY 26, 2014
To Sell is Human: The New ABC’s of Moving Others
BIOGRAPHIES
Dan Pink
Author, To Sell is Human
Daniel H. Pink is the author of fve
provocative books—including the long-
running New York Times bestsellers, A
Whole New Mind and Drive. His latest
book, To Sell is Human, is a #1 New
York Times business bestseller, a #1 Wall
Street Journal business bestseller, and a
#1 Washington Post nonfction bestseller.
Dan’s books have been translated into 34
languages and have sold more than 2 mil-
lion copies worldwide.
His articles on business and technology
appear in many publications, including
The New York Times, Harvard Business
Review, Fast Company, Wired, and The
Sunday Telegraph. Dan has provided
analysis of business trends on CNN,
CNBC, ABC, NPR, and other networks in
the U.S. and abroad. And he lectures to
corporations, associations, and univer-
sities around the world on economic
transformation and the new workplace. In
2013, Thinkers 50 named him one of the
top 15 business thinkers in the world.
A free agent himself, Dan held his last real
job in the White House, where he served
from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter
to Vice President Al Gore. He also worked
as an aide to U.S. Labor Secretary Robert
Reich and in other positions in politics
and government.
He received a BA from Northwestern Uni-
versity, where he was elected to Phi Beta
Kappa, and a JD from Yale Law School.
Angelia Herrin (Moderator)
Editor for Research and Special Projects,
Harvard Business Review
Angelia Herrin is Editor for Research and
Special Projects at Harvard Business
Review. At Harvard Business Review,
Herrin oversaw the re-launch of the
management newsletter line and estab-
lished the conference and virtual seminar
division for Harvard Business Review.
More recently, she created a new series to
deliver customized programs and prod-
ucts to organizations and associations.
Prior to coming to Harvard Business
Review, Herrin was the vice president for
content at womenConnect.com, a website
focused on women business owners and
executives.
Herrin’s journalism experience spans
twenty years, primarily with Knight-
Ridder newspapers and USA Today. At
Knight-Ridder, she covered Congress, as
well as the 1988 presidential elections.
At USA Today, she worked as Washing-
ton editor, heading the 1996 election
coverage. She won the John S. Knight
Fellowship in Professional Journalism at
Stanford University in 1989–90.

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