Dan Pink Hits and Then Misses the New Key to Sales Performance

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personalityYou probably haven’t read this article by Dan Pink (Thanks to Craig Ruhland for sending me the link). Pink points to research showing that extroverts and introverts are not as successful in sales as ambiverts, the people in the middle of the scale between both extremes. Our research at Objective Management Group (OMG) would support this “discovery”.

Dan also writes that because the majority of all people are ambiverts, most of us were actually born to sell. Whoa. Our research doesn’t support that! Our research clearly shows that 10% of the people that are already in sales shouldn’t be selling, and another 22% can’t be trained to improve their performance. So if a third of the people who have chosen to sell aren’t well-suited for sales success, how can “most people” be born for sales success?

Why do brilliant people, like Dan Pink, look at research and then reach faulty conclusions?



The study sited ambiverts but those ambiverts had already chosen sales as a career and were already the most successful salespeople in the company. Were they successful because they were ambiverts or was it something else?

We already know and have plenty of data that shows that extroverts – people who talk too much, listen too little, and most significantly, have a tremendous need to be liked, are generally ineffective. On the other hand, extroverts who have overcome their need to be liked, developed their skills and learned to listen and ask questions, can become great salespeople.

We already know that introverts, people who are shy and need to be liked, are also ineffective. However, introverts who don’t need to be liked, generally have better listening and questioning skills and when they do speak, it’s usually to state something quite important.

I am not familiar with the software company that was the subject of the study sited by Dan Pink. However, it is more than likely that a few other conditions may have led to the ambivert results. I’ll share some of the possibilities here:



  • The company looked for and selected middle of the scale salespeople.
  • The company provided quality training and ambiverts were more able to apply it.
  • The ambivert salespeople were assigned to manage existing accounts since they were the most likable. With an existing revenue base and moderate growth, they could easily out perform the extroverts who were charged with finding new business.
  • The introverts may well have been highly technical salespeople – a group that is generally much less effective than non technical salespeople.

If you have been reading my Blog for a while, then you know how I feel about the importance of assessments to predict a candidate’s likelihood of success and evaluations to identify sales performance issues and recommend development. You would also know that I don’t believe in personality assessments or behavioral styles assessments and Dan Pink’s article doesn’t change anything.

Read the best article ever comparing assessments but you must click on the 3 links to get the entire 3-part story.

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