“Live” notes from Business of Software 2012 in Boston, October 1-3, 2012. See all my notes from Business of Software 2012 by clicking here. Feel free to use these anywhere, but please credit me if you do.
Core concept of “Drive.” There’s a key motivator inside organizations, which we call an “if/then” motivator. If/then rewards (controlling contingent rewards) are effective for simple, repetitive tasks. They’re ineffective don’t work very well for heuristic, conceptual, creative tasks.
About 3 days after I finished the book, I started getting email from readers saying if this is right, then what about salespeople? Isn’t sales built entirely on if/then rewards. And my response to that was, “Uh-oh.”
We often hear salespeople are coin-operated.
Email from Neil Davidson (Red Gate & BOS!). Noticed his salespeople were gaming the compensation system no matter how complicated he made it. So Neil eliminated commissions. And it worked. Why? Taking away commissions made everyone more collaborative, and it made customers happier. And I realized I knew nothing about this, so I decided to figure it out and write a book!
So let’s talk about what I learned in this two-year investigation of sales.
I discovered a word. It makes developers roll their eyes, but business people like it.
This is what’s happening to sales people around the planet. In a world of Amazon where we can do our own research and price-shopping, salespeople are going the way of meter maids and telephone operators.
I beg to differ. In the US, we have 15 million people working in sales. That’s more than in manufacturing and WAY more than in state or federal government. In 2000, before the rise of disintermediation (i.e. before the penetration of the internet), 1 in 9 Americans work in sales. Today, same proportion. So the “death of the salesman” meme isn’t real.
But that’s not the big story. The big story is the other 8 out of 9 people. They’re in sales, too. They’re in what I call “non-sales selling.” They spend their day selling in a broader sense, persuading other people to exchange time and other resources for something.
So I had this sense that even though it doesn’t involve money changing hands, these 8 out of 9 people really are in sales. So we did a bunch of survey research on 7000 adult full-time US workers. Tried to get a handle on what people actually do at work. Won’t cover the full results, but here’s one question:
What percentage of your work involves convincing or persuading people to give up something they value (attention,e fort, money, time, etc. ) for something you can offer?
We asked people to set a slider to answer this question. And here’s what we found. Average answer was 41%.
This tells us that like it or not, we’re all in sales now. A significant proportion of what we all do involves moving other people somehow. And you know what? We don’t like it!
Another question: When you think of “sales” or “selling” what is the first word that comes to mind?
Took the top 25 adjectives and made a word cloud. And the big words were PUSHY, YUCK, UGH, DIFFICULT, SLIMY, ANNOYING, HARD, SLEAZY, etc. 21 had a negative valence, only 4 were positive.
So if we’re all in sales, does that mean we all have to be sleazy and manipulative?
We’ve lived in a world where there was an information asymmetry between seller and buyer. What are the two words of latin most Americans know? Caveat Emptor.
But that asymmetry is ending at a rate that’s pretty mind-boggling.
It’s harder to get hoodwinked when I’m buying on equal information terms. Or if I do get hoodwinked, I can tell people. So in this world of information symmetry, the new situation is Caveat Venditor. Seller Beware.
It’s not a world that is different in degree; it’s different in kind. You can still take the smarmy low road in sales, but you’re not going to get very far. It forces people to the high road.
So if this is true, that we’re all in sales but sales isn’t what it used to be, how do we do it?
We went to the social sciences and we identified 3 key qualities that describe how to be in the new world.
They’re the new ABCs:
Attunement: the ability to take another’s perspective.
Buoyancy: what do you do before and during an encounter to avoid being emotionally sunk?
Clarity: ability to cut through the muck in complex situations.
Is largely about perspective taking, but plays by a peculiar set of laws.
Experiments on perspective taking:
Experiment 1: Two groups of people. In one, researchers induced feelings of power. In the other they induced lack of power. Then they did the “draw an E on your forehead test.” High power participants were three times as likely as low power participants to draw a self-oriented E. The higher power they had, the less inclined they were to take the “other” vantage point. Insufficient adjustment to an outside vantage point.
Law 1: Increase your power by reducing it. We have this notion that sales is about dominance, but it turns out it’s not.
Experiment 2: Simulation of a tough negotiation. 1/3 were told to imagine what the other side was feeling, 1/3 were told to imagine what the other side was thinking. Last 1/3 was control group. Result: Best group for taking the other’s perspective was the “thinking” group!
Law 2: Perspective taking and empathy aren’t identical twins, but they’re fraternal twins. So you have to use your head as much as your heart.
Humans are natural mimickers. We do it unconsciously. It’s an affinity we have as a species. And you can be more effective if you’re conscious of it.
Experiment 3: Another simulated negotiation. Groups get regular instructions, or specific instructions to mimic. Negotiators who mimicked their opponents mannerisms weresignificantly more likely to get a better deal for themselves.
Law 3: Mimic strategically.
It’s widely known that extroverts make the best salespeople. Everybody thinks this and there’s a tremendous amount of research on it, but it turns out there’s no evidence that’s actually true! There’s no correlation between extroversion and sales performance. It’s just folklore.
So does this mean introverts are better at sales? No! It’s actually more intriguing than that.
Actual research on real salespeople shows extroverts generate slightly less revenue than extroverts. But “ambiverts” did much better than both. People who show characteristics of both extroverts and introverts.
So this suggests that a capacity for selling is really pretty innate in us, because most of us are ambiverts.
Jeff Bezos exercise: “Pull up a chair.” In important meetings at Amazon, Bezos adds an empty chair at the table for The Customer.
You can do this too, for your badass user or whatever. It forces people to get out of their own head.
What to Do. The 3 Abilities needed in the new world.
Pitch: Conveying a point quickly and elegantly
Improvise: What you do when your perfectly clear pitch doesn’t work (i.e. all the time).
Serve: Wanting to do something good for the world.
The elevator pitch is a little bit “2oth century.” Let’s talk about a new way.
The Question Pitch. We think of pitches as declarative statements, but research shows that questions can be more powerful.
Reagan: “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”
It’s much more effective and the science explains why. The listeners have to summon their own answer, even if they don’t say it. By making them work just a little harder, they’re more likely to come up with reasons for agreeing, and those reasons are their own so they resonate. It’s not passive for them.
It’s a little bit perilous, especially in weak cases, but in strong pitches try a question pitch.
The Rhyming Pitch.
Example: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Here’s the thing about rhymes. There’s a huge body of research that says that when messages rhyme, not only are they more memorable, they’re perceived to be MORE TRUE. They enhance people’s “processing fluency.”
Example: Haribo Candies. Their pitches rhyme in every language they sell in.
The Pixar Pitch.
Every Pixar movie has the same narrative structure, that you can reduce to a paragraph:
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ____. One day ____. Because of that, ____. Because of that, ____. Until finally ____.
I think you can build pitches in this structure, and I think it’s easy to do.
Once upon a time, only some people were in sales. On day everything changed. We all ended up in sales. We had to learn new qualities and skills. Until finally, we realized sales is part of who we are and something we can do better by being more human.