Dan Pink: Like It or Not, You're Probably a Salesperson

Fewer people today call themselves "salespeople" than in years past. According to author Dan Pink, that doesn't mean the rest of us are selling any less. We're just not peddling products.

Dan Pink:  The Death of a Salesman might be a great play but it’s far from the truth about what’s happening in the workforce today.  If you look at the U.S. economy you have about one in nine people in the U.S. workforce are in sales sales.  That is their job is to sell stuff.  They’re selling wholesale seafood or consulting services or motorcycles.  But if you look at those other eight and nine, eight and nine people in the workforce they don’t have sales in their job title.  They don’t have sales on their business card.  But they’re spending an enormous amount of their time selling in a broader sense.  They’re persuading, influencing, convincing, cajoling.  We have data showing that people are spending on average about 40 percent of their time on the job in this thing that I call somewhat clumsily non-sales selling.  You’re selling but the cash register’s not ringing.  You’re selling but money’s not changing hands.  You’re selling but the denomination isn’t dollars, it’s time, effort, attention and energy. That’s a big amount of time and one of the conclusions that you get from looking at both the labor market data and some interesting ways that people describe their own work is that today, like it or not, we’re all in sales.

First of all there are a couple of interesting things here.  One of them I already noted which is that people are spending on average as I said about 40 percent of their time on the job persuading, influencing, convincing, cajoling.  What’s interesting is that if you look at actual sales sales in the United States it’s about one out of nine.  But the labor markets around the world seem all to converge around this number.  In Japan it’s about one in eight.  In the UK it’s about one in ten. In the EU it’s about 13 percent.  So despite having this incredible communications and information firepower at our fingertips it seems like the economies of the world still need a certain portion of people simply to sell stuff.  And this idea that salespeople would be rendered obsolete, that the Internet would create the death of a salesman just hasn’t happened.

We did a really interesting survey of about 7,000 adult full-time workers where they said they’re spending enormous amounts of time on the job in this thing called non-sales selling.  Now what is that?  That means that they are an individual who’s trying to get their boss to free up resources for a project.  They’re selling.  You’re a boss trying to get employees to do something different or do something in a different way.  You’re selling.  You come to a meeting and pitch an idea.  You’re selling.  And it’s a big part of how we spend our time.  What’s also interesting is we ask people to talk about how important that aspect of their work was to their overall effectiveness.  And what was very interesting about that is that people rated the importance of it – of that task, of non-sales selling very, very high.  Indeed in excess of the amount of time they were doing it.  So what we got from people was saying yeah, this is a big part about what I do but in order to be effective on the  job I actually have to do it a little bit more.

 

 

Only one out of nine members of the U.S. workforce are in sales. This is a fairly constant percentage around the world. But if you look at the other eight of nine people you find that most of them perform sales-like roles in some capacity while on the job, whether it's persuading a boss to adopt a certain position or convincing a co-worker to join on to your project. We as members of society spend a larger chunk of our time selling than we realize.

Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
  • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
  • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
Keep reading Show less

Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants can last over a year, new study finds

We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.

Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new review found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and antipsychotics can last for over a year.
  • Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
  • The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.
Keep reading Show less

Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?

David McNew/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs

'We're doomed': a common refrain in casual conversation about climate change.

Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

What should schools teach? Now is the moment to ask.

The future of learning will be different, and now is the time to lay the groundwork.

Future of Learning
  • The coronavirus pandemic has left many at an interesting crossroads in terms of mapping out the future of their respective fields and industries. For schools, that may mean a total shift not only in how educators teach, but what they teach.
  • One important strategy moving forward, thought leader Caroline Hill says, is to push back against the idea that getting ahead is more important than getting along. "The opportunity that education has in this moment to really push students and think about what is the right way to live, how do we do it and how do we do it in a way that doesn't hurt or rob the dignity of other people?"
  • Hill also argues that now is the time for bigger swings and for removing the barriers that limit education. The online space is boundary free and provides educators with new opportunities to connect with students around the world.

Keep reading Show less