Dan Pink: to Sell Is Human (Review)

I had the pleasure of hearing Dan Pink speak about his new bestselling book, To Sell Is Human. The event took place at the Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD and was hosted by Cadre, a very unique “un-networking” organization that I am proud to be a member of.

During this presentation, Mr. Pink introduced a concept called the Ambivert Advantage. Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and one of America’s top young social psychologists, conducted a study that debunked the myth of the extroverted sales star. In his study, Grant observed a software company with a large sales staff and assessed where each salesperson stood on a 1 to 7 introversion/extroversion scale. He then charted how much they sold over the next three months.

The results of the study demonstrated thatthe strong introverts (the people represented on the left of the chart’s horizontal axis, around 1 and 2) weren’t very effective salespeople. However, the strong extroverts (those over to the right, around 6 and 7) weren’t much better. As you can see from the chart, the salespeople who fared the best were in the middle: the “ambiverts,” a term that has been around since the 1920’s.


It is interesting to note that Grant describes himself as an ambivert and is also a former salesperson. Dan stated that in sales, amibiverts have an advantage. I, along with some of my sales expert colleagues, believe that there is more to this concept. 

Whether a salesperson is an extrovert, introvert or ambivert and how this relates to being a top performer really depends on what the person is selling, how complex the sale is, how long the sales cycle is, what the cost of the product/service is and who the decision maker(s) is. Your top performing sales hunters consistently identify and close new accounts, turn over these accounts to an account manager so they can go “hunt” another deal, and are introverts or amibiverts. On the other hand, sales farmers are those who are assigned to existing accounts, are responsible for building relationships to identify additional opportunities, and are typically extroverts.

The research I have seen and conducted reveals these truths. Extroverts have a need to be liked by other people, and this often results in them focusing on the relationship rather than the objective of closing a sale. They also tend to talk more and listen less, which are not good qualities for a salesperson. This need to be liked also gets in the way of them closing sales: they may not ask for the order until they believe that they have gotten the prospect to like them enough, which delays the close. And when they do finally close a sale, they believe that they have just made a new friend and want to hang out and build the relationship instead of going out and hunting for another opportunity.

Before you can determine if an introvert, amibivert or extrovert is best for your sales role, you first should identify the elements I shared above regarding the specifics of the products and services you are selling. There are also several great sales assessment tools available to help you identify what will work best for your company. If you’re interested in this subject, I recommend picking up another sales expert, Dave Kurlan’s e-book, The Modern Science of Salesperson Selection.

To download the e-book for free, click here.