Everyone Can Sell. Not Really. Top 10 Reasons Why Not

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 09:05 AM

ToSellIsHumanDan Pink, Author of To Sell is Human, has been getting a lot of well-deserved exposure.  He wrote a terrific book and most who have read it, really like it.  I don't have a problem with his book because read in its entirety, it makes sense.  I do have an issue with the people who write about his book and take the concept, that everyone can sell, out of context.  The context is that everyone can sell their ideas.  Agreed.  But out of context, it is suggested that everyone can be a salesperson.  I strongly disagree.

Forget for a moment all of the data from Objective Management Group showing that 74% of all professional salespeople suck.  When we take the concept from selling an idea (at home, at church, in the neighborhood or internally to coworkers) to professional selling, 10 things change:

  1. There is money on the table and 53% of salespeople are uncomfortable having a conversation about money and another 33% think that just $500 is a lot of money.  The money conversation adds a level of pressure that does not exist when one simply has an idea to sell.
  2. There is commission at stake and that adds a level of pressure and emotion that causes many salespeople to let their opportunity get derailed.  The 47% of salespeople who desperately need to be liked, choose the tactic or strategy that preserves a friendship, rather than the one that gets the business, simply because they are afraid of doing anything to jeopardize their commission.
  3. There is a performance requirement at stake and just like in number 2 above, the pressure and emotion of performing, meeting quota and/or expectations, causes salespeople to approach opportunities with a "make sure you don't lose" mentality instead of "make sure you win."
  4. Recovering from rejection is an ongoing challenge for 72% of salespeople.  However, if they are simply selling an idea - one idea - and it gets rejected, they don't have to get back on the horse.
  5. Some salespeople have conditional commitment - they'll do what it takes as long as it's comfortable for them.  That isn't enough in sales - especially since 2008!  But if you're selling an idea, with nothing at stake, doing what's comfortable is acceptable.
  6. Pressure and Emotion are in 3 of my first 5 and 52% of salespeople become too emotional to remain objective.  More importantly, salespeople can't listen when they are emotional and if they can't listen, they can't ask questions and without questions they can't be effective.
  7. Alternatives may exist when selling an idea internally, but in professional sales there will be competition and its existence creates a variable that causes many salespeople to do a very poor job of differentiating themselves.  Internally, a better idea wins the day.  When selling professionally, the best solution, product or service may be overshadowed by a better price, more memorable salesperson, better quality or service, delivery issues, history with a company, size of a company, capabilities or a relationship.
  8. Speaking of relationships, internally you are a known entity - no relationships to establish, no trust to be built, no credibility to be earned, no expertise to be demonstrated, no question as to one's knowledge of the organization.  Selling professionally requires that all of those criteria be established.
  9. The internal sale will never require a cold-call to get the discussion rolling.  Today salespeople may need to make 10-20 attempts to get their cold-call answered or returned and then they must quickly break the ice, get the prospect engaged, and have a memorable 5-minute conversation to get a meeting scheduled.
  10. Dan Pink recommends hiring ambiverts.  Here are my reasons why that strategy may not be the answer when hiring salespeople.
What do you think?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, dan pink, ambiverts, objective management group, salespeople

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

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 05, 2013 @ 22:02 PM

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)

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales management, sales performance, dan pink, sales assessments, objective management group

What We Think about Sales Motivation is All Wrong

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:09 PM

Arno was kind enough to point my attention to this great video presentation from Dan Pink on the science of motivation. 

Dan uses science, examples and case histories to tell us that almost everything we thought about motivation is wrong....or is it?

He never mentioned sales, selling, the sales force and salespeople specifically, but we do know that he said this:

"When the focus and goal are clear - incentives work great."  

That condition is certainly in play for incentive programs, contests, rewards and awards.  And it's in play for many compensation plans too.  But are the focus and goal always clear?  When salespeople take our assessments, one of the questions asks by how much they exceeded or missed their quota or goal.  The data shows that a significant percentage of salespeople don't have a goal or a quota!  He also said:

"When you don't want the worker focused, and you want them thinking on the periphery, then incentives don't work."

That condition is certainly in play for new companies and start-ups who are finding their way, finding a market, finding partners, and have no existing revenue stream.  A salary is the appropriate way to compensate the first salespeople on board in this scenario.

If we look at the data from the 450,000 salespeople who have been assessed by Objective Management Group, the percentage of findings which show lack of money motivation (especially among higher income earners) has been increasing each year.  It's not that they aren't money-motivated anymore, as much as they aren't as money-motivated as they were earlier in their career, when their money-motivation got them to their current income level.

The bottom line for your salespeople is that everyone is different.  Everyone is motivated by different things and for those who are clearly motivated by money, and where you have a clear goal and focus for them, their compensation should and must be commission-based.  When you have people who are motivated more by recognition, awards, competition, time-off, public service, or philanthropy, your compensation program should be flexible enough to compensate them in an appropriate manner too.

If you found this article helpful, you might find these articles on the subject of sales motivation helpful too:


The Future of Selling - Understanding This Crucial Sales Competency is More Important Than Ever

How Coyotes are at the Heart of Sales Motivation

Sales Warfare: Love to Win or Hate to Lose? 

7 New Ways to Motivate Salespeople Through 20 Old Hurdles

How Do Sales Professionals Stay Motivated?

Getting Reluctant Salespeople to Fill Their Empty Pipelines

How the Right Sales Leader Can Turn Around Sales Performance

Can the Right Music Motivate and Improve Sales Performance?

Basketball and the Difference Between Sales Studs and Sales Duds

The #1 Top Key to Keeping Salespeople Motivated Revealed Here

A Different Look at Sales Compensation

A Different Look at Sales Compensation

Are Women in Sales Less Trainable?

Sales Team Morale is Overrated

How to Use Playlists to be More Effective at Selling

Great Sales Management Advice from Football's Greatest

How Many of Your Salespeople are Receiving Welfare?

Hiring Salespeople Who Are Not Money Motivated - The Offer 

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Motivation

But I'm a Sales Guy - The Story of Motivation and Compensation

Now How Can You Motivate Your Salespeople? 

5 Ways to Motivate Your Salespeople

Cultural Differences with a Sales Force Evaluation

The Challenge of Developing Sales Engineers

Motivating Your Unmotivated Salespeople

Motivation and the Sales Force

10 Factors for Getting Salespeople to Over Achieve

Sales Complacency

Money Motivated Salespeople

Compensation - The Unchanging Role

Why You Should Care That Sales Motivation Data Correlates Perfectly With Sales Performance


Topics: Motivation, dan pink, sales compensation, money motivated salespeople, sales incentives

Content not found
Subscribe via Email

View All 2,000 Articles published by Dave

About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

Email Dave

View Dave Kurlan's LinkedIn profile View Dave Kurlan's profile


Receive new articles via email
 to the Blog on your Kindle 



Most Recent Articles


Top 50 Sales & Marketing Blogs 2021

Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame Inductee

Hall of Fame

 Hall of Fame


Top Blog Post

Expert Insights

Top 50 most innovative sales bloggers


Top Blog

Hubspot Top 25 Blogs


2021 Top20 Web Large_assessment_eval