BMcD – In all the media interviews, presentations and discussions with various groups that must have occurred since the book’s launch, what have you found to be the concepts that (a) most resonate with people and (b) to which people are most resistant?
DP – In some sense, the two answers are paired. One of the key ideas in the book is that like it or not, we’re all in sales now. And truth be told, many people don’t like it. They’ve got a notion of sales as something sleazy and manipulative. However, they seem to get over it once they understand that sales isn’t what it used to be. Most of our instincts about sales come from a world of information asymmetry, where the seller has lots more information than the buyer. Under those conditions, the seller can be duplicitous. But we don’t live in a world of information asymmetry any longer. Ours is increasingly a world of information parity — and that’s driving people to the high road. People also have taken to the notion that extraverts don’t make the most effective salespeople. And they really like all the practical tools and tips in the book.
BMcD – Why do you think that is – for both (a) and (b)?
DP – I think it’s because readers are looking for two things from books: Big insights and specific actions. That’s what I’ve tried to do in TO SELL IS HUMAN — as well as in my other books.
BMcD – It seems the new ABCs of selling – Attunement (walking a mile in another’s shoes), Bouyancy (non-delusional resilience that helps everyone stay afloat) and Clarity (serving others even if there’s no immediate pay-off) – require long-term thinking and a fairly high degree of self awareness and trust that things will work out. Given that self awareness appears to be in short supply in executive ranks at least (Few Executives are Self-Aware, But Women Have the Edge) do you feel this might be a barrier to widespread acceptance and practice of the new ABCs?
That’s a really good point. The grip of short-term thinking is one of the most pernicious forces in business today — in particular, the excessive focus on quarterly stock performance (and the insane pay packages often attached to hitting that number). Taking the long view has always been a signal trait of truly effective leaders, but that capacity is in short supply. Self-awareness is a related issue. One of the heartening trends is the move toward making workplaces more humane and humanistic and allowing people to bring their full selves to work. We’re making progress on that front, but we’ve got a ways to go.
BMcD – In the world of work are individuals, regardless of their position in an organisation, courageous enough to take the risk on a new way of doing business when revenue targets, debt repayments and job security are at stake?
That depends. And it relates to your previous question. We all have to keep ourselves afloat, pay the mortgage, and take care of our kids. But every so often, we also need to look up from the day-to-day and ask ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and what sort of legacy we want to leave.
Many thanks, Dan Pink, for your thoughtful (and prompt) responses to our questions. We’d highly recommend checking out a few of Dan’s previous books: Drive (a fantastic book on what really motivates us at work), A Whole New Mind – Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future (a personal favourite) and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (everyone at Blackie McDonald got a copy of this for Christmas last year).