Gary Tubridy: I’m here with Dan Pink, bestselling author of “To Sell is Human.” Dan, welcome.
Daniel Pink: Thank you, Gary. Good to be here.
GT: Thanks for joining us. We’re talking today about the new ABCs of selling. Tell me, what are the new ABCs?
DP: The new ABCs are the set of qualities that are necessary to be effective in selling, really anything, product, service, idea, yourself in a landscape where buyers have as much information as sellers. Those new ABCs social science tells us are attunement, buoyancy and clarity. Attunement, get out of your own head, see things from someone else’s point of view. Buoyancy, stay afloat in the ocean of rejection that is sales. Clarity is can you go from accessing information to curating it and making sense of it? Can you go from solving existing problems to identifying hidden problems?
GT: When we talk about something that is new that implies it’s replacing something that’s old. Something drove that. You mentioned that’s the age of information. Can you expand on that a little bit?
DP: I think it’s a huge, huge deal. For a long time, there was a certain relationship between buyers and seller, and buyers and sellers of anything. The seller had more information. The buyer didn’t have many choices. The buyer didn’t have a way to talk back. That’s why we have the principle of buyer beware. In the last 10 years, really in every market for everything the scales have shifted. We’re now in a world where buyers have as much information as sellers, sometimes more where buyers have all kinds of choices and thanks to social media and other kinds of mechanisms, all kinds of ways to talk back. That’s a very different world. Now the sellers are on notice. My argument at least is that seller beware and buyer beware play by a very different set of rules. If you want to be able to succeed on this remade landscape of seller beware, you have to look to the evidence from behavioral science about what can you do to effectively and ethically move people in this world where sellers and buyers are evenly matched?
GT: Are there attributes of a successful seller in this new seller beware environment?
DP: I think there are a lot of them. I think the ABCs are part of that. I think a part of it when you don’t have the power to coerce, you don’t have the power to force people to do things. If I’m trying to sell you something, and you have no other choice, I can coerce you. If you have all kinds of choices, I can’t force you to do anything. The lack of coercive power that people have in the marketplace also inside of companies, the bosses trying to get employees to do stuff. When you lack that coercive power, you need almost the flip of that, which is can I get out of my own head, see things from your perspective, find common ground? That’s a big part of it. I think a lot of reason that people blanch against sales is that they’re not used to dealing with rejection. Buoyancy is can you find ways, smart, analytical ways to deal with rejection?
I also think that at the heart of it is an ethic of service, not only customer service but just basically saying when you and I are in a transaction, thinking about it from your point of view and saying what can I do to make Gary’s life a little better, a little easier? Really, having that kind of transcendent ethic of service over the long-term I think is the way to go.
GT: That notion of seller as service is something that’s pretty new.
DP: Fairly new because most of selling was fairly transactional. It’s basically saying can I make a deal with you? I got more information than you do, so you don’t have a lot of choices. Can I, old ABCs, always be closing? Gary, you walked on the lot, it means you want to buy a car. You don’t know much about cars. I know a lot about cars. You don’t have a lot of choices. Gary, sign on the line that is dotted. That’s not service. That’s not service in the sense of customer service. That’s not service in the more transcendent sense. Now, cars are a greater example. You come to my car dealership, Pink car dealership, you know what every car dealer in my area is charging for cars. You know exactly what your trade-in is worth. If I mistreat you in any way, you can tell your LinkedIn network, you can tell your Facebook network. You can tweet it out. This is a much more even match right here.
GT: Seller beware.
DP: Exactly. Precisely. Now I’m on notice. If you look at it in terms of just what are my options here as a seller? Forget about the morality of it here for a moment. Just think about it strategically, analytically. What are my options in that kind of relationship? I can still try to take the low road. It’s probably not going to work, and I’m probably going to get found out. It’s probably stupid. Not only is it unethical, but it’s probably stupid. What am I left with? I got to take the high road. That’s the only road that I can drive right now.
GT: Any tips in terms of what you’ve seen and heard to help a company escape the gravitational pull of the old and start doing the new?
DP: I think part of it is actually really good training. If you explain the new landscape to people, I think it’s really not that complicated. I think people will get it, and they say, wait a second, this is a different set of rules. If you explain that to people, if you train them. Then other thing is who you let in the door in the first place. There’s some really, really interesting pieces of research out there. One of them is a lot of the research has exposed the myth of the strong extrovert as the best salesperson. It’s simply not true. Strong extroverts don’t make better salespeople. Strong introverts don’t make better salespeople. Strong introverts actually are even worse than strong extroverts. The people who do the best are what are called ambiverts, a term that’s been around for nearly 100 years, people in the middle, a little bit extroverted, a little bit introverted.
GT: When we talk about solving customers’ problems, it implies that the sellers have to have their own options to be able to go in and have a meaningful dialogue with those customers. Does that imply a different relationship with their colleagues in places like marketing, if they specialize in that?
DP: I think so. I mean, there’s this whole theological debate about sales versus marketing. The best marketing right now is marketing that is essentially content-driven, especially in B2B, content-driven, about expertise, about informing people, about educating people. I think the best sales is like that. I just feel like at some level the brewing civil war between sales and marketing should end, and they should all just link arms and sing Kumbaya.
GT: Dan, thanks very much for joining us today, appreciate it.
DP: My pleasure. Thanks, Gary.