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New Ways to Pitch and Other Advice for Sellers from Daniel Pink

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.


Author Daniel Pink writes extensively about work and human motivation, and in To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, he writes in particular about the motivation of salespeople. I wrote earlier this year about his view that, for many people, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are more motivating than money.

Earlier this month, Pink discussed the more tactical side of sales in a wide-ranging Webinar hosted by Salesforce.com. Buyers today are likely to have as much product knowledge as sellers, so he offered some tips on how sales organizations can adapt.

  • Be more consultative. Buyers can gather basic information about products on their own, so the sales role has shifted. Now there’s a new premium on expertise. As always, sales leaders need to be experts in their own product offerings, but they need to be almost as well versed in the buyer’s business.

    The most successful salespeople, especially in B2B, will be the forward thinkers who can help buyers “uncover problems that they didn’t realize they had,” said Pink.
  • Look beyond the extroverts. Research shows that extroverts are more likely to go into sales, get hired into sales jobs, and get promoted.  But, Pink said, “when scholars have looked at the link between extroversion and sales performance, the correlation is basically zero.”

    He cited a study by Wharton professor Adam Grant, who compared the performance of introverted and extroverted salespeople. The extroverts did a little better than the introverts, but not much.

“The big story here is that neither the introverts nor the extroverts did nearly as well as a third group: the ambiverts,” ­said Pink. These are people who land in the middle of the spectrum. Ambiverts by far make the best salespeople, according to Pink, because “they have a wider repertoire of skills. They know when to speak up, they know when to shut up. They know when to push and when to hold back.”

  • Know the modern ABCs. “Always be closing” is no longer the sales mantra. Social psychologists, behavioral economists, and others who study the way people make decisions have identified three qualities for being effective in the new world of sales:
  1. Attunement – the ability to see something from someone else’s point of view.
  2. Buoyancy – the ability to stay afloat in the “ocean of rejection” that comes with selling.
  3. Clarity – the ability to move from merely accessing information to curating and making sense of it. This ties in with adding value by identifying future problems, not just solving current ones.
  • Find new ways to pitch. Salespeople are familiar with the elevator pitch, but smart salespeople broaden their repertoire. A few examples:
    • Pitching with questions gets buyers to come up with their own reasons for agreeing with salespeople (effective when the facts are on your side).
    • Pitching with rhyme, oddly enough, increases “processing fluency” and makes ideas stick. Compare the phrase “Woes unite foes” with “Woes unite enemies.”
    • The one-word pitch is the one thing you want people to think about when they think of your product, e.g., MasterCard’s “Priceless.”

  • Hire good learners. If you’re looking to hire recent college grads, remember that they aren’t likely to have much of a track record. In that case, look for potential and eagerness to learn. You might think athletes perform well in sales because they’re competitive, but they (and musicians) often excel because they’re accustomed to practicing and realize that their performance affects others, and others affect them.

What do you think of Pink’s ideas about motivation? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Charles Peterson

Thanks Pink! Short, concise, and to the point. Buyers have no time for reps that don't understand their business. Deep knowledge of the buyer's business differentiates one seller over the next.

Paul Uduk

Pink's insight just goes to confirm the notion that salespeople should strive to be problem solvers, and trusted advisers by focusing on the interest of their customers and not theirs'. If you do it well, the profit will come.

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