Are Salespeople Different?

…from the rest of us, I mean.

I’ve spent my career in programming, but few of us reach adulthood without at least dipping our toes in the Sales pool.

I sold encyclopedias (yes, I’m that old) following my freshman year at Vanderbilt, and actually made really good money.

But I didn’t like doing it. I sometimes felt guilty for manipulating people who didn’t really need a set of encyclopedias as much as they might need other, more important things, like food and a home (as opposed to a trailer).

Still, that summer, I needed money, and so I sold to –almost — everyone who would buy.

Most of us think salespeople are purely money-motivated, which is why they’re paid on commission.

We must believe if we pay them as we pay other workers, as salaried employees, their incentive to produce sales will decrease, even though there is lots of research proving this assumption false.

One of my favorite contemporary thinkers is Dan Pink. I’ve been a fan since I read his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I blogged about his findings HERE and his TED talk HERE.

He skewers the financial industry for insisting they need obscenely inflated incentives to produce positive results, a case made much more easily by that industry’s own leaders and results since they crashed the global economy in 2007.

And now he’s doing the groundwork for a new book about selling and commissions.

Every GM and media executive should read A Radical Prescription for Sales.