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Dan Pink Hits and Then Misses the New Key to Sales Performance


Dave Kurlan is a top-rated keynote speaker, best-selling author, sales thought leader and expert on all things sales and selling.

personalityYou probably haven't read this article by Dan Pink (thanks to Craig Ruhland for sending me the link).  Pink points to research showing that extroverts and introverts are not as successful in sales as ambiverts, the people in the middle of the scale between both extremes.  Our research at Objective Management Group (OMG) would support this "discovery".

Dan also writes that because the majority of all people are ambiverts, most of us were actually born to sell.  Whoa.  Our research doesn't support that!  Our research clearly shows that 10% of the people, who are already in sales, shouldn't be selling, and another 22% can't be trained to improve their performance.  So, if 30% of the people, who've chosen to sell, aren't well-suited for sales success, how can "most people" be born for sales success?

Why do brilliant people, like Dan Pink, look at research and then reach faulty conclusions?   

The study sited ambiverts, but those ambiverts had already chosen sales as a career and were already the most successful salespeople in the company.  Were they successful because they were ambiverts or was it something else?

We already know, and have plenty of data that shows, that extroverts (people who talk too much, listen too little, and most significantly, have a tremendous need to be liked) are generally ineffective.  On the other hand, extroverts, who have overcome their need to be liked, developed their skills and learned to listen and ask questions, can become great salespeople.

We also know that introverts (people who are shy and need to be liked) are also ineffective.  However, introverts, who don't need to be liked, generally have better listening and questioning skills, and when they do speak, it's usually to state something quite important.

I'm not familiar with the software company which was the subject of the study cited by Dan Pink.  However, it's more than likely that a few other conditions may have led to the ambivert results.  I'll share some of the possibilities here:

  • The company sought and selected middle-of-the-scale salespeople.
  • The company provided quality training and ambiverts were more able to apply it.
  • The ambivert salespeople were assigned to manage existing accounts since they were the most likable. With an existing revenue base and moderate growth, they easily could outperform the extroverts who were charged with finding new business.
  • The introverts may have been highly-technical salespeople - a group who is generally much less effective than nontechnical salespeople.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you know how I feel about the importance of assessments which predict a candidate's success probability and evaluations which identify sales performance issues and recommend development.  You would also know that I don't believe in personality assessments or behavioral-styles assessments and Dan Pink's article doesn't change anything.
Read the best ever article comparing assessments, but you must click on the 3 links to get the entire story.
Download my White Paper on the Science of Salesperson Selection.
Register to attend my 45-minute, March 12 webinar on the "Magic Behind OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments".  10:00 AM Eastern Time (New York)

© Copyright  Dave Kurlan All Rights Reserved

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 09:36 PM


I saw Dan Pink speak last week. He was promoting his new book titled "To Sell is Human". his main thesis is that people are more able to sell than they think they are. His audience is not really professional salespeople but rather the common person trying to sell their ideas in the workplace. I saw him present that same Ambivert chart live and I believe as many people do he made the data show what he wanted it to show. He is not actually a sales professional himself. He is mainly a writer with his most notable job being head speechwriter for Al Gore. He would not want to hear your data because it goes against his thesis which is that everyone can sell.

posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 at 5:18 AM by Dan Caramanico

Thanks Dan, for providing some additional background!

posted on Wednesday, February 06, 2013 at 5:34 AM by Dave Kurlan

One of the pitfalls of making a name for yourself i.e. Dan Pink, is the presumption it gives a licence to talk about almost anything. Whilst I'll always defend the right to free speech some people should carry a health warning which says 'This talk may have side effects like believing one's own rhetoric! Mind you Dan's not alone I think Harvard BR has made a few leaps of unsubstantiated faith in the past?.

posted on Thursday, February 07, 2013 at 1:49 AM by Ray Bigger

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