The Pink Panther vs The Green Hornet

One of the hottest thought leaders out there these days in Daniel Pink.

One of Pink’s claims to fame is he is a former speechwriter for Al Gore. He has also delivered a very popular TED Talk. And he has written five “provocative” books, including Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. He is now releasing a new book entitled When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Regarding To Sell is Human, I was in sales for many years. You can analyze the topic of selling until the cows come home. Libraries and bookstores are filled with books on what motivates people to sell effectively. As far as I am concerned, the best philosophy on selling is compiled in the book, What it Takes to Succeed in Sales: Selecting and Retaining Top Producers by Jeanne and Herbert Greenberg. You could make the argument that it isn’t so much a book about “how” to sell as much as it is a book about whether someone should be in sales or not. Nevertheless, it is a classic.

I also think it is easier to remember the Greenbergs’ four tenets than it is to remember Pink’s three tenets of selling. To Sell is Human, as I understood it when I read it six or seven years ago, distills selling down into three categories, which he contrasts with the Alec Baldwin character, Blake, in Glengarry Glen Ross. While Blake insinuates it is as easy as ABC – Always Be Closing – Pink says the ABC’s of selling are Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. That may be true, but I think the Greenbergs make a better case.

The late authors of What it Takes to Succeed in Sales were cochairmen and principals of Caliper Corporation, a Princeton, New Jersey – based HR consulting and psychological testing firm. Their thesis was that there are four elements: Empathy, Ego-drive, Service and Ego-strength – that are paramount in a salesperson’s motivation to succeed. They even concur with Pink that the “carrot-and-stick” approach doesn’t work any longer.

One of the reasons I feel the Greenbergs’ case is rock solid is, I confess, subjective.

I remember the four things, even after six or seven years. So that you don’t think I have an ax to grind with Pink, I think Drive is a masterpiece. After all these years, I also remember Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Perhaps it’s because my wife’s name is Pam. Or, that I realize that it is good to have a MAP when you drive. And, it doesn’t hurt to be AMPed up to sell.

Herb Greenberg, who passed away two years ago, was instrumental in the development of assessments in the HR industry. The Caliper profile has assessed the potential of more than 3.5 million applicants and employees. Pink, on the other hand, seems to be just hitting his stride. He is presently on a book tour to promote When. To incentivize you to buy the book (which I find ironic since he favors intrinsic motivators), he has been offering 1) a free T-shirt, 2) a 30-minute interview with he and Adam Grant, and 3) a PDF daily planner.

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Pink has sold more than 2 million copies of his books. He combines psychology, biology and economics in his writing (he seems to like threes). In Drive, his seminal book, he defines Autonomy as “the urge to direct our own lives.” Mastery, he says, is “the desire to get better and better at something that matters.” And Purpose, he describes, is “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

As an avid sports fan, I can see how true this is.

I see teams win it all, then implode, primarily because they have lost their purpose (somehow, Bill Belichick hasn’t seemed to have gotten the memo). The owner then often has to gut the entire team to get the chemistry and initiative back. The players’ salaries are so astronomical that they are not motivated to the extent they were before.

I absolutely agree with Pink that it is better to be motivated intrinsically than extrinsically. After all, I often tell people my favorite joke is “How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?” The answer: “One, but the lightbulb has to want to change.”

As for getting around to reading Pink’s new book, I will do it when the time is right.

As a new resident of North Carolina, I am having trouble embracing their sports teams. Am I a Carolina Panthers fan? Not particularly. Am I a Charlotte Hornets fan? No. Nor am I either a Pink Panther or Green Hornet fan. But I wholeheartedly agree with both Dan Pink and the Greenbergs that whatever you do, it is better if you want to do it.