Selling isn’t what it used to be. And for most of us, that’s a good thing.
Gone are the days of alpha males who are “always closing.” Today, in the new era of selling that has dawned, many of us are spending much more of our time selling than we even realize.
This is the subject of Authority Rainmaker keynote speaker Dan Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, and he gives us an inside look — describing the tools and traits that are required (many of which you probably have already) — in the latest episode of The Lede.
In this episode, Dan Pink and I discuss:
- Tips for building a network (hint: be genuine!).
- How we’ve moved from buyer beware to seller beware.
- Two reasons why humility has become an essential trait for modern-day selling.
- Why “Always Be Closing” has been replaced by “Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity.”
- Dispelling the myth that strong extroverts are best-suited for selling.
- Why the new era of information symmetry makes expertise and conscientiousness more valuable than ever.
- How the concept of “servant selling” should be applied to content marketing strategy.
- How to use extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators at the appropriate times to achieve the desired results.
React to The Lede …
As always, we appreciate your reaction to episodes of The Lede and feedback about how we’re doing.
And please tell us the most important point you took away from this episode. Do so by joining the discussion over on LinkedIn.
The Show Notes
- Authority Rainmaker — accelerate your business with integrated content, search, and social media marketing (plus invaluable networking)
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink
- To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Dan Pink
- Glengarry Glen Ross
- Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal
- The Lede: Sally Hogshead on How You Can Unlock Your Natural Ability to Fascinate
- Robert K. Greenleaf
Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
The Lede Podcast: Dan Pink on How to Succeed in the New Era of Selling
Jerod Morris: We have a couple of questions for you about …
Dan Pink: Oh, good.
Dan: And then you’re going to ask me for something?
Jerod: (Laughs.) No, not at all.
Dan: You want me to mow your lawn, or …
Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media, hosted by me, Jerod Morris, and Copyblogger’s Chief Copywriter, Demian Farnworth.
The Lede is brought to you by Authority Rainmaker, and Authority Rainmaker, as you probably know, is Copyblogger’s second annual, live content marketing networking event in Denver, Colorado.
It takes place May 13–15, 2015. It is going to be held at the stunning Ellie Caulkins Opera House, and it is a great opportunity to learn practical lessons that you can put into place as soon as you leave the conference.
It’s the way the conference is set up. It’s a carefully curated, single track where we’ll talk about design, and traffic, and conversion, and content — and really give you a road map for how to improve your content marketing strategy.
And then, of course, you add to that all of the great speakers who will be there: Henry Rollins, Sally Hogshead, today’s guest on The Lede, Dan Pink, Chris Brogan, and so many others.
Plus the networking opportunities with like-minded individuals to share contacts and stories, and it really is going to be a unique, exciting, useful event.
And above and beyond all that, I’d like to meet you. Demian would like to meet you. And so we can do that at Authority Rainmaker in Denver.
So go to authorityrainmaker.com, get the details, and if you don’t have a prior obligation already, we hope that you will join us there.
So, speaking of Authority Rainmaker and Dan Pink, who I just mentioned, he is our guest today on The Lede. And Dan Pink is a prolific author, a deep thinker, and just a really genuinely curious guy who seems committed to flip conventional wisdom on its head.
Drive is a book that flips on its head what we think motivates us and shows us what really motivates us, and with To Sell Is Human Dan talks about the surprising truth about moving others, and how so many of us are selling a lot, even when we don’t think we’re selling — and what kind of personality types are good at sales, and just so many different ideas that if you haven’t really looked at it deeply, you may not understand. And it may flip how you think about it.
So on this episode of The Lede, Dan and I talk about that. He shares his insights, gives you a little bit of a taste for what you will hear at his keynote at Authority Rainmaker. So we’re very appreciative of Dan for taking the time, and very excited to share this episode of The Lede with you. Here is my interview with Dan Pink.
Tips for building a network (hint: be genuine!)
My guest today on The Lede is Dan Pink, who will be one of the keynote speakers at Authority Rainmaker, as I just told you, and it dawned on me, Dan. Before we jump in and start talking about your book, in reading your books Drive and To Sell Is Human and listening to your podcast, you have an incredible network of people that you can call on for interviews and for insight.
For everybody who’s coming to Authority Rainmaker, and who’s going to networking events, do you have any tips or insight about how to approach an event like this, or how to approach building your network in general?
Dan: For me, I think if you’re genuinely interested in what other people are doing, and you reach out to them and show your genuine interest, then you can probably strike up a conversation. And that’s really where it all begins.
I have said many times that everything good in life begins with a conversation. So if you’re interested in what someone else is working on, or you are doing something that you think connects to somebody else, and you’re genuinely interested in them — you don’t necessarily have an ulterior motive — then I think most people are fairly receptive to it.
What I don’t like is, on the receiving end of it is, someone who says, “Hey Dan!” You know, first paragraph: “I love your book!” Second paragraph: “Can you do this for me?”
What I’d like better is someone who emails me and says, “Hey, I saw that thing you wrote. That was really, really interesting,” or maybe comes back six months later, “I saw another thing that you wrote. Hey, can I ask you one question about it?”
Today there are negative returns to that kind of gamesmanship that a lot of us think is networking.
Jerod: I absolutely agree with you. And on that point, I did read a couple of things you wrote, and I do have a couple of questions for you about them.
Dan: Oh, good.
Dan: And then you’re going to ask me for something?
Jerod: (Laughing.) No, not at all.
Dan: You want me to mow your lawn, or …
Jerod: (Laughing.) Not at all. Not at all. So let’s talk about To Sell Is Human, which I found to be just a fascinating read.
Dan: Why, thank you.
How we’ve moved from buyer beware to seller beware
Jerod: You talk about how sales have changed over the years, and hit on this idea of how we’ve shifted from caveat emptor to caveat venditor. Hopefully I pronounced that right.
Dan: Right. Yeah.
Jerod: And this idea of non-sales selling. So I’m hoping you can start out by opening up with the big-picture idea that you’re getting across in the book.
Dan: Okay. Yeah, sure thing. There are two big-picture ideas, really, and they’re connected.
One of them is if you look at what people do all day on the job. They are selling in the broad sense of it. Now, some people obviously, are selling toaster ovens, and architectural services, and industrial supplies. And we have some interesting data on this.
If you look at how people spend their time who aren’t in sales-sales, they are actually spending their time persuading, influencing, and convincing other people. And I call it, in a somewhat clumsy way, non-sales selling.
It’s sales, but the cash register’s not ringing and the transaction isn’t denominated in dollars. It’s denominated in some other kind of unit. A unit of attention, or effort, or commitment. Something like that.
So one idea is that whether we like it or not, and many people don’t like it, white-collar work today especially involves an enormous amount of selling. Whether explicitly products and services, or this non-sales selling, which is essentially just persuading, influencing, and convincing. That’s one idea.
The second idea, which you referred to, is that we’re doing it, all this persuasion, all this influence, all this selling, on an utterly re-made landscape. And this is actually a big deal.
Most of what we know about sales — to go back to, like, sales-sales — has come from a world of information asymmetry, where the seller always had more information than the buyer. If I’m selling you something, and I have a lot more information than you, I can rip you off. This is why people don’t trust salespeople. It’s why sales has a bad reputation.
And most of our experience in sales as sellers, and as buyers, has been in a world where the scales of information are not balanced. Information asymmetry. But one of the most remarkable things that’s happened over the last ten years is a move toward greater and greater information parity between buyers and sellers of anything.
I think this is just such a big phenomenon, and somehow it has escaped our conscious notice. So we move from this world of information asymmetry to one of information parities.
As you say, a world of information asymmetry is where the sellers have a lot more information than the buyers; when the buyer doesn’t have many choices, when the buyer can’t talk back, that’s a world of “buyer beware” — caveat emptor, exactly.
But we now live in a world where buyers have lots of information, sometimes as much as sellers. Buyers have lots of choices. And I think this is really important: Buyers have all kinds of ways to talk back.
“Buyer beware” is always good advice. But when buyers have lots of choices and information, it’s a world of “seller beware.” Now the sellers are on notice. And this move toward information parity has affected every market for every thing, no matter how we define what a market is.
You see it in the market for cars. Twenty years ago the car dealer had an advantage. Today you go into the car dealer, and you know as much about cars and as much about Hondas, and as much about Accords as the car dealer.
It’s happening in medicine, where it used to be the doctor was the only one who had access to any information. Now you have patients going in there with reams of information about their ailments. Now medical schools are saying, “How do you treat people — how do physicians behave — in a world where they have to persuade people who are coming armed with information? Some of it good, some of it not so good?”
You see it in jobs. A lot of times when an individual would interview for a job not that many years ago, he or she was going in blind. It was hard to do a lot of due diligence on that company. Now you can go to your LinkedIn network. You can go to glassdoor.com.
It’s true in the market for dating. I mean, I’m 50 years old, and I met my wife in 1990, and that’s a long time ago. Unfortunately she couldn’t, back then, Google me before she started talking to me.
Two reasons why humility has become an essential trait for modern-day selling
Jerod: And what this means, I think, is that we need to change our mindset when we are trying to sell, or when we are trying to move other people. And you present the example of the old-school model that everybody has seen from a movie like Glengarry Glen Ross, with these big …
Jerod: … with the big alpha males that will always be closing, and kind of this idea that you can almost just intimidate people into a sale.
And you contrast that with what I thought was one of the best quotes in the entire book by Gwen Martin, and she says that:
Humility is the most common thread in people who are really good at moving others.
That’s not often a word, I think, or a trait that we associate with people who are good at “sales.”
Dan: Yeah. I think you’re onto something really big there, and even implicitly, because — even the way you put it. So you talk about this contrast between this alpha male approach, and then you talk about this other approach, which is suggested not by a man, but by a woman.
And there are all kinds of reasons for humility, but part of it is that it’s an accurate account of the situation. In any situation. In any kind of persuasive encounter.
Again, whether you’re selling management consulting services, or you’re selling chicken pot pies at a farmers market, as a seller you don’t have an edge. You don’t have access to all the information. You can’t lord your information advantage over your prospect or your customer.
And I think that inherently puts you in a humble position. You’re in a position as a peer rather than as an overlord, and I think that’s one big reason.
The other big reason is if you look at the qualities that are now necessary in being effective in this re-made landscape of “seller beware,” one of the most important qualities is something that I call “attunement,” or perspective-taking.
And it turns out to be based on some really, really interesting research that those who are humble are actually better perspective-takers than those who are not.
That is, people who feel powerful, people who have an inflated sense of self — that actually distorts their ability to see others’ perspectives.
And today when we don’t have much coercive power in a marketplace, inside a company as a boss, wherever — when we don’t have coercive power, we have to have the very kind of — almost the converse ability, which is to see other people’s perspectives, find common ground, and that capacity is made easier with several doses of humility.
Why “Always Be Closing” has been replaced by “Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity
Jerod: And so you mention attunement, and attunement is actually the “A” in a re-defined set of ABCs that you have in this book: Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity — obviously contrasting with the always-be-closing idea of before.
Jerod: Can you get into “buoyancy” and “clarity,” as well, and complete that picture?
Dan: Yeah, sure thing. Let me take one step back, though. If you start with the premise that we’re all selling, but we’re doing it in a completely different world, then the question that I then ask myself is, “Okay, how do you do it better?”
And for that, I look to this pretty rich body of social science research over the last 25 years. Not much of it is about sales per se, but there is just a huge amount of research about how people make decisions, how people frame choices.
Does sequence matter when people make a selection? How do you understand someone else’s perspective? How do people bounce back from failure? There is just a vast amount of research in all realms of social science, from economics to behavioral economics, to linguistics, to cognitive science.
I lucked out that they started with A, B, and C. That was just manna from Heaven. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I just did. And so the social science suggested these three qualities are the ones that are these kind of platform qualities to be effective in this remade world.
One is “attunement,” which is being able to get out of your own head and see things from someone else’s point of view. Let’s go to the “B,” buoyancy. Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.
I got to buoyancy in an interview. I spent some time with a fellow who, for the last 40 years, has been selling Fuller Brushes door-to-door. A guy named Norman Hall. And he said, and it’s really poetic, he said to me, “Dan, what you don’t understand about my job is that every day I go, I confront, an ocean of rejection.”
That was his phrase, “an ocean of rejection.” And that’s pretty powerful stuff. And I just have an enormous amount of respect for people in sales-sales, because they get rejected so much, and most of us can’t take that very well.
I mean, most of us avoid even being in a position where we might get rejected, let alone have rejection be this fixture in your life, relentlessly. And so buoyancy is really — if we’re facing an ocean of rejection, how do you stay afloat?
The social science offered some really, really intriguing clues about stuff you can do before an encounter, stuff you can do during an encounter, stuff you can do after an encounter.
Jerod: When you started talking about Norman Hall, and that’s a thread that goes throughout To Sell Is Human — that was one of my favorite parts about the book, because actually one of my first jobs out of college was doing direct sales, both in businesses and residential.
And he is so right about the ocean of rejection. I mean, it’s just constant “no” after “no” after “no,” and just kind of getting to find that “yes.” And I will say that in hindsight it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I did it, even though it clearly didn’t have much of a future.
Dan: Brutal. What were you selling?
Jerod: We were selling these little books of coupons. And they were pretty good deals, but I will say that in terms of helping you develop a shield of armor around your attitude, there’s probably no better boot camp for it than that.
But I love that part of the book, and following him, and I wanted to ask: Did he ever get Beth? I think it ended with he was going back to try and pitch her again on the brushes. Did she ever end up buying?
Dan: You know what? That is a great question, and I don’t know the answer to that. I should find that out.
Jerod: A follow-up.
Dan: That’s a great question. I’m going to guess, if I had to bet, I would put it at a 95-percent chance that he went back to her, and probably a 75-percent chance that she ended up buying some from him.
Jerod: Yeah. Probably. Just the stick-to-it-iveness.
Dan: That’s my guess, yeah. That’s my guess.
Dispelling the myth that strong extroverts are best-suited for selling
Jerod: The other thing I found so fascinating was, with sales we think a lot of times the personality trait for a successful salesperson is extroversion.
Jerod: If you just ask people, “Would you rather be an extrovert or an introvert to be good at sales?” People automatically would say “extrovert.”
But in your book you explain that that’s not quite the case, and there’s something different almost in between those two that works much, much better.
Dan: You’ve got that exactly right. This idea that strong extroverts make better salespeople is an absolute myth. There is no evidence of it. What’s alarming, I guess, is that strong extroverts are the ones who often go into sales. They’re often the ones who get hired. But when you look at actual performance, they don’t do that well.
But that doesn’t mean that strong introverts are better at it. Really, it’s actually something more subtle, as you suggest. It comes out of some interesting research from The University of Pennsylvania.
The people who do the best in sales are people who are what are called “ambiverts.” That is, as in “ambidextrous.” Those are people who are not strongly introverted, and not strongly extroverted. They’re kind of in the middle. And there’s some great research, as I mentioned, that shows that the ambiverts do better than the strong extroverts. The ambiverts do better than the strong introverts.
This idea that you have to be super extroverted to be successful in sales is flatly wrong. There’s no evidence of it. But again, it doesn’t mean that you have to be quiet and mousy and perfectly introverted. What it means is that you have to be attuned. You have to be ambidextrous.
Gwen Martin, who you mentioned, is a great salesperson in the Twin Cities area. She calls it “the ability to chameleon,” which sounds kind of negative, but it basically is: Can you understand other people’s perspectives? Are you versatile?
And the problem is that the strong extroverts talk too much and listen too little. And the strong introverts don’t talk enough. And you want to be that calibrated person.
I know you’re a basketball fan. It’s sort of like you’ve got to be able to dribble with both your left and your right hand. You’ve got to be able to go left, and you’ve got to be able to go right, and you’ve got to know when to do each. And that’s what ambiverts do. They know when to push. They know when to hold back. They know when to speak up; they know when to shut up.
Those are the ones who do the best, and I think what’s really hard is that when you look at the population, most of us are ambiverts. There’s kind of a bell curve of introversion and extroversion. A few of us on one side are strongly introverted, but not that many; a few of us on the other side are strongly extroverted, but most of us are a little bit of both.
And what it shows is that if you really want to be effective, you don’t try to pretend like you’re a super-strong extrovert. You’re probably just better off being yourself. You’re going to end up being much more effective.
Jerod: And it also means that it doesn’t take some really special type of personality to be good at sales, right?
Jerod: Even though we used to think that it took …
Jerod: … this special group of people, and I guess that’s a good thing, right? Because as you say, so much of what we do now is not necessarily selling, but non-sales selling, where we’re selling ideas, trying to move people.
So this is all a good thing, right? This is something we should feel good about.
Why the new era of information symmetry makes expertise and conscientiousness more valuable than ever
Dan: Largely, yeah. I think what it shows is that you don’t have to pretend to be a certain way in order to be effective.
You don’t have to be that pat-on-the-back, shoe-shine-and-a-smile kind of person. Really, what you want to do instead is really be the best version of yourself.
The other thing that is going on here is that as sales gets a lot more complex, as people begin, as prospects and customers can solve their own problems, that changes things too.
And so right now in sales of any kind, including and especially B2B sales, there’s a premium on expertise. You have to know what you’re talking about. You have to know your stuff inside and out. If you are selling to businesses, you’d better know what those businesses are about. You’d better understand those businesses.
This idea that you can get away with just being kind of a smooth operator with a pleasant personality, and a quick patter, and a good suit — that’s just outdated.
What you really want to do now is you want to have some expertise. And if there’s one personality characteristic that is effective in sales, as in many things, it’s conscientiousness. Are you conscientious enough to do the follow up, and are you conscientious enough to do the work that it takes to become a true expert?
Jerod: So it’s not the smooth talker or just the person who can make it sound good. Really the big skill that we need is being able to sift through massive amounts of information and parce it for people.
Dan: That’s a big part of it. That’s the “C.” That’s the clarity. Again, if you think about the transition — it used to be that if you had access to the information, you had a huge advantage.
So if you think about medicine. Not too long ago, doctors were the only ones who had access to any kind of real, quick, voluminous information. But now everybody has access to the information. I mean, I could do a Google search just as well as my doctor can. So having access to information doesn’t give you a comparative advantage.
This is true in other kinds of things, too. It wasn’t that long ago when brokers were the only ones who could know what a stock price was. It used to be, not that long ago, that bankers — investment bankers and brokers — would call the CEO of a company and say, “Mr. Smith of GM or Xerox, today your stock closed at blah, blah, blah. blah, blah.”
Now, if I said to my 12-year-old son, “Hey, what’s the market cap of Yahoo! right now?” he would be able to find that out. And so access to information doesn’t give you a comparative advantage.
What gives you a comparative advantage is exactly what you were saying, Jerod. Which is the ability to make sense of information. To curate the information. To separate out the signal from the noise in information.
It’s really a sense-making function, and that is a consequence of expertise. If you’re a true expert, you can make sense of this wealth of information, find what’s important, and discard what isn’t.
How the concept of “servant selling” should be applied to content marketing strategy
Jerod: And, of course, to be attuned enough with the person that you’re talking to, or your audience, to give them the information that’s most relevant to them, which I think hits on — you know, at the end of the book you talk about this idea of “servant selling.”
I want to make sure that we talk about this, because actually at last year’s Authority conference I gave a presentation on servant leadership.
Jerod: And so I love this topic of “servant selling.” What exactly is that, and as we kind of dial it in here to folks who are out there doing content marketing and creating content online to build a audience, how can that concept help people more effectively build a good, effective, responsive audience online?
Dan: You know servant leadership, so I don’t want to torture you with the explanation of it. But for your listeners who don’t, it’s this fascinating idea that started in the 1970s by a guy named Robert Greenleaf.
What he did, which was actually kind of radical in his time, I think we lose sight of how bold this was. He said, “Wait a second, wait a second. All of our organizational charts show the leader at the top.” And Greenleaf said, “No, no, no, no, no. The leader’s at the bottom. The leader’s at the bottom of the organization, and what gives you the ability to lead — what gives you the moral authority to lead — is whether you’re serving.”
And are you serving other people? Are you serving the people who work at your organization?” So you’re not at the top. You’re actually at the bottom. You’re a servant to them. And this was a really radical idea, and his point was that true leaders serve first and lead next.
That service gives them, to use the word of the conference, gives them the authority to lead. And it’s a powerful concept. It has taken hold ever so slowly in a variety of organizations.
I think we’re at a comparable point when it comes to selling. It’s that the very best sellers serve first, and sell next. And I think that’s what content marketers do. That serving other people — not in the sense of customer service, although that matters. Answer your phone in less than two rings, get back to emails within 24 hours, etc.
But basically, are you actually of service to other people? Are you contributing something that makes their lives better? Are you contributing something that makes their businesses run better? And my view is that if you serve first and sell next, you’re going to be fine. That’s actually the way to do things today.
And at some level, content marketing is that. I mean, ultimately either you want people to buy your goods or services, but I think there’s actually an argument to sort of turning off that part and just saying, “What can I do to be of service to people?”
And if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s going to work well. The trouble is that a lot of people aren’t in it for the long haul. They think, “Oh, I’m going to send out one nice nugget of information, then I’m going to start asking them to sign on the line that is dotted.”
Jerod: Combining those two words — servant and selling — I think it’s just really a microcosm of the shift. In the book you’ve got these word clouds early on with people who are kind of using words that they associate with selling. And “servant” certainly does not fall anywhere in there.
Dan: I don’t think that any–because we did this survey of 7,000 people. I have to go back and look. I would bet that the word “servant” was not on there.
Jerod: You think “slimy” or “selfish,” almost. Because selling is supposed to be “get you what I want to do,” when really, to be effective at it, especially now, it’s “help someone else do something, help someone else achieve a goal,” and in turn, it will help you achieve your own.
Dan: Exactly right.
How to use extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators at the appropriate times to achieve the desired results
Jerod: And I think it’s nice that it’s going in that direction, because it makes everything that we do more pleasant.
I want to shift gears really quickly. Obviously I could talk about this stuff with you for hours, but I want to get to an idea that you actually wrote about in a previous book that you gave a TedTalk on, because I think it’s so fascinating — and that is this difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Dan: Yeah, and then I’ll also offer a little bit of a twist on that in the hope of making it a little bit more understandable.
Extrinsic is motivation that comes from the outside. You do something because you get money for it. You do something because you get recognized for it. You do something because you get a prize. That’s important.
Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you want to do it. It’s self-determined. You play the banjo because you like to play the banjo.
Just to be perfectly clear: Extrinsic motivators are very important. Intrinsic motivators are very important. Where we run afoul is when we start using motivators that are both extrinsic, which is not the real sin, but also controlling. That’s the real sin.
So it’s really a question of motivators that are trying to control people, and motivators that don’t try to control people. So let me give you a case in point. If a boss says, “If you do this, then I’ll give you a bonus. If you do this particular thing, then I’ll give you a bonus.”
We tend to think that’s perfectly normal, and what the research tells us — 50 years of behavioral science says that those kinds of motivators — those controlling, contingent motivators — or what I like to call “if-then” motivators — if you do this, then you get that — those if-then motivators are very effective for simple algorithmic routine kinds of tasks.
They work pretty well. We like rewards. They get our attention. They get us to focus. And so if you want to use an external, controlling motivator to get people to stuff envelopes, to get them to turn the same screw the same way on an assembly line, go for it. The science shows it’s actually pretty effective.
But — and this is the big but — the science also shows that if you want people to do things that require more judgment or creativity, more discernment, more conceptual thinking — if the problem that they’re trying to deal with is murky, if it’s poorly framed, if it’s multi-disciplinary, if it doesn’t have an easy, algorithmic answer, if it’s non-algorithmic — then those controlling, external motivators, those if-then rewards, don’t work very well.
It’s really kind of frustrating because in the social science world it’s not even a close call. And so if you want people to do creative work, conceptual work, what you’re better off doing is not trying to control them with if-then motivators, incentivize them with if-then motivators.
What you’re better off doing is paying people well, and then offering them some autonomy. Do they have some sovereignty over what they do, when they do it, where they do it, who they do it with? Sense of mastery, which is the ability to make progress and get better at something that matters, and finally, purpose.
If people know that what they’re doing makes a contribution, if people know what they’re doing makes a difference. And so the problem, I think, in management at large is that most management schemes are designed to control people. And the evidence shows very clearly that human beings do not do creative, conceptual, high-level work under conditions of control.
Indeed, you could argue that human beings have only two reactions to control. We either comply, or we defy. But I don’t know any organization that wants purely compliant people, and I don’t know any organization that wants defiant people.
What you want are people who are engaged, and the way that people engage is by getting there under their own steam, with some measure of autonomy over, as I said, what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and who they do it with.
Jerod: And you outline all of these ideas in Drive. Have you seen a shift in the five to six years since that book came out in companies adopting this, seeming to understand this idea, and putting it into practice more?
Dan: Ever so slowly. I think one of the things that is interesting, and I’ve written a little bit about this.
Companies — and I’m not talking about the massive companies — but, one of the things that is interesting is that a substantial number of companies are eliminating commissions for their salespeople.
Because sales is fueled by the ultimate if-then motivator. If you sell, then you make money. If you don’t sell, then you hit the bricks. And there are a lot of companies that are realizing that those kinds of incentives can distort people’s behavior.
It’s the reason why some of these companies that have developed their own culture — Netflix, Amazon, Zappos, Apple — they don’t pay those kinds of contingent bonuses because they know that it can distort people’s behavior.
And so you have a decent number of companies out there that are getting away from this very controlling form of compensation and instead, paying people well. Maybe doing something like profit sharing. But basically, getting people to focus on the work and not on the money.
And the way to do that is to pay people well. Take the issue of money off the table. And so you see it with companies that are eliminating sales commissions, you see it with some other ways. So I think that’s taking hold, albeit not in dramatic numbers just yet. But it all begins with people essentially challenging the orthodoxy about how things ought to be run.
Jerod: You and I have never met yet. I very much look forward to meeting you in Denver at Authority Rainmaker. You strike me as such a naturally curious guy. Just in general. Have you decided yet what your next topic for a book is going to be?
Dan: You know, I’m cooking up a bunch of different ideas, and I’m trying to figure it out. I’m interested in a few other things. But I’m also interested in the form of presentation too.
I just think there are a lot of opportunities out there to tell stories and deliver ideas in other ways, whether it’s podcasts, whether it’s a television show, whether it’s a film, and I’m trying not to limit myself to only one vessel. So I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying, “No, I haven’t figured it out yet.”
Jerod: Well, where is the best place for people to connect with you, so that they’ll find out as soon as they’re ready?
Jerod: And I highly recommend the podcast, too.
Dan: Oh, thanks.
Jerod: You said that you’d taken a little hiatus on the episodes, but just going back and listening to them, they’re all still obviously very relevant, and great conversations with some really influential people and deep thinkers. So I highly recommend those as well.
Well Dan, thank you so much for the time. I appreciate it, and I look forward to seeing you in Denver at Authority Rainmaker.
Dan: I’m looking forward to being out in the mile-high city for Authority, and it’s been great talking to you, Jerod.
Jerod: Absolutely. Take care, Dan.
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