Q & A With Daniel Pink, Bestselling Author of 'To Sell is Human':

Your new book, 'To Sell is Human', argues that everyone works in sales. That true?
Mr. Pink: Sure. Look at the workforce. Right now, 15 million Americans work in sales. They spend their days selling real estate or consulting services or wholesale seafood. That's 1 in 9 American workers. But those other 8 in 9? They're now in sales, too. They're spending upwards of 40% of their time, on average, persuading, influencing, and convincing others. LIke it or not, we're all in sales now. Of course, small entrepreneurs have always known this.
As a business owner, how important is it to believe in the product you're selling?
Mr. Pink: Extremely important. In the old world of sales, sellers always had more information than buyers. That's no longer true. So salespeople have to develop an even deeper degree of expertise. And that's way more likely to happen ... and you're significantly more likely to put in the time ... if you actually care about what you're selling.
Your book insists that right-brain people will rule business in the future. How so?
Mr. Pink: Today, you have to do something that's hard to outsource, hard to automate, and that produces something new. That means that the metaphorically left brain skills -- the logical, linear, SAT, spreadsheet skills -- are still necessary. But they're no longer sufficient. And the skills that increasingly make the fault line between who flourishes and who flounders are metaphorically right-brain capabilities like artistry, empathy, inventiveness, and big picture thinking.
What's the best way for a small business to market itself these days?
Mr. Pink: That depends on the business, of course. But generally it's best to offer up insights and information that are inherently useful and not merely a ploy to secure business. Over the long term, that works much better.
How has social media (Facebook, Twitter, et al) changed the business landscape in your opinion?
Mr. Pink: Two ways. First, it's part of the shift from information asymmetry (sellers have more information than buyer) to information parity (sellers and buyers are evenly matched on information). Second, it offers consumers something they previously lacked: A way to talk back.
What's the #1 mistake small business owners often make with regards to how they use social media?
Mr. Pink: They use social media to sell more than to serve -- and to talk, more than to listen.
For employers looking to hire: What's the make-up of the best employee right now?
Mr. Pink: That really depends. The broad traits I'd look for would be: grit, self-direction, curiosity, and some amount of multi-disciplinariness.
How are we all engaged in "non-sales selling?"
Mr. Pink: As I mentioned before, we're spending a huge portion of our time at work trying to convince others to give up what they have in exchange for what we have. That's selling -- but with a twist. It's a transaction, but money's not changing hands, the cash register isn't ringing, and the transaction isn't denominated in dollars, but in time, effort, attention, and so on. Non-sales selling is when bosses try to get employees to do different things or do things in different ways; when individuals try to convince teammates to join a project; when recruiters try to lure someone to take a job; and so on.
Are people more impervious to ads than ever?
Mr. Pink: Probably. Ads are easier to skip and ignore. And as Seth Godin has said, interrupting people is a peculiar way to earn their attention and affection.
Do people like feeling as if they're being sold to?
Mr. Pink: No. Do you?
For business owners, what's the best predictor of long-term sales success?
Mr. Pink: According to research by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the best predictors of sales success is how people explain failure. He found, in research on insurance salespeople in Pennsylvania, that the best performers had a particular "explanatory style." They took a step back and saw failure and rejection as something that was more external than purely personal, more occasional than pervasive, and more temporary than permanent.
Please put on your forecasting hat. What will be the biggest change to how we go about our careers in the next 20 years?
Mr. Pink: Hard to say over such a long span. Think about it: 20 years ago, most people had never heard of the Internet -- and smart phones, social media, streaming video, Google, Netflix, Twitter, and so on didn't exist. So the real answer is "I have no clue."

The broader answer is that to survive, we'll need a whole-mind mix of analytical and creative skills, a strong sense of self-direction, and a deep commitment to continuous learning. But my guess is that in 20 years, at least two of my three kids will be working in jobs we don't have the vocabulary for today and perhaps in industries that don't now exist.


Based in Washington, D.C., Daniel Pink is a speaker and author of five books including the long-running New York Times bestseller 'Drive' and 'A Whole New Mind'. He can be found on Twitter @DanielPink.