Dan Pink started his presentation by crediting Neil Davidson for the idea behind his new book, To Sell Is Human. Dan told us about an email he received from Neil and the followup conversations where Neil described how his sales force was gaming the compensation system. Neil tried to modify the compensation system, but every time he did his sales team would figure out a new way to game it. So Neil eliminated commissions for his sales force altogether, and it ended up working phenomenally.
Dan suggests that if/then rewards are extremely effective for simple, repetitive tasks, but fall short for conceptual, creative tasks.
I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently there is this notion that salespeople have become obsolete. But that’s not true. In the US, 15 million people work in sales. 1 out of 9 people worked in sales before the age of the Internet, and today 1 out of 9 people still work in sales.
And of those that don’t have the term sales in their job title, most of them do non-sales selling. Non-sales selling is an indirect form of selling that involves persuading others to give up resources in exchange for something else.
So, what do people actually do day to day at work? A survey of 7000 adults in the US workforce asked: “What percentage of your work involves convincing or persuading people to give up something they value for something you can offer?” The answer: 41%.
Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.
Many of us may be involved with sales in one way or another, but we don’t like it very much. When asked “When you think of ‘sales’ or ‘selling’, what’s the first word that comes to mind?” most of the responses were overwhelmingly negative. Of the top 25 adjectives, only 4 were positive.
The top responses were:
(Before revealing these results, Dan asked the audience to shout out what one word they think best describes sales. One person said “hero.” I couldn’t see who it was, but I bet it was this guy.)
But this has nothing to do with sales. Rather it’s about the conditions in which sales take place.
In the past the seller always had more information than the buyer. Therefore, the seller could hoodwink the buyer.
Information asymmetry is the perception that the salesperson has an informational advantage over the buyer. This leads us to caveat emptor – buyer beware. But with the age of the Internet and so much freely available information, this world is ending.
We are now in an era of information symmetry, where you can’t rip people off. Information symmetry leads to caveat venditor – seller beware.
If we are all in sales, but sales isn’t what it used to be, how do we do it?
Doing sales in a world of information symmetry is no longer about Always be Closing.
It is now about
Remember it’s not about you. Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame would pull up an empty chair during meetings to remind everyone of the customer. (This is similar to Hubspot’s Molly.)
Attunement is about perspective.
Try an experiment: Stand in front of someone and ask him to draw the letter E on his forehead. Result: high power people are almost three times as likely as low power people to draw a self-oriented E.
Power leads individuals to focus too heavily on their own perspective.
Three laws of attunement:
The common wisdom is that extroverts make the best salespeople. But, there is actually no evidence that this is true. The correlation between sales performance and extroversion is .07. However, this doesn’t mean that introverts are better at sales. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
A study was done to determine whether extroverts or introverts were better at sales. The result was that extroverts sold $125, and introverts sold $120. Virtually identical!
It turned out that ambiverts are the best salespeople. Ambiverts are people in the middle that score between about 3.5 and 5 on a scale of extroversion (the peak is at about 4). They are neither extremely introverted nor extremely extroverted.
There’s an inverted U relationship between sales performance and extroversion. This also happens to be the distribution in the population, which suggests that it’s what people do.
There are three abilities one should learn to be a good salesman.
The elevator pitch is a 20th century relic. Try these pitch techniques:
BUSINESS OF SOFTWARE – FOR PEOPLE BUILDING GREAT SOFTWARE BUSINESSES.
This year will be the 7th Business of Software, a three day conference for founders who want to build sustainable, profitable software businesses. BoS has always been a special conference for our delegates and we want to keep it special.
Attendance is restricted to just 400 attendees in 2013 and we have 200 places taken and the next 100 tickets (as of April 20th) will be sold at the second Early Bird Rate.
If you want to see all of the action from Business of Software 2012, the videos of the talks are available in one place now: