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Bestselling Author Daniel Pink Shares the Art and Science of Sales in Farley Class

For Daniel Pink (BA ’86), the inspiration to write a new book often starts with a suspicion, or when something is bugging him.

Two things were bothering Pink in the lead-up to writing his #1 New York Times bestselling book To Sell is Human (Penguin Publishing Group, 2013):

Pink, who studied linguistics as an undergraduate at Northwestern, dove into these issues in his book and shared findings during a recent Farley Center Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing class, in which his book is one of the required texts.

The class, taught by Farley director Hayes Ferguson and adjunct lecturer Mike Moyer, teaches students from across Northwestern about the tools and strategies entrepreneurs and innovators use to generate revenue, and welcomes guest speakers who share their industry experience with students.

The world of sales and persuasion is changing, Pink said, due to a shift in information access. Historically, sales existed in a world of information asymmetry, in which sellers had more information than customers, and therefore held an advantage.

Now, customers and salespeople have similar access to information. Salespeople must change their strategies and mindset to thrive in this remade landscape, he said.

“The new ABC’s of sales are not ‘always be closing,’” Pink said. “The research tells us they’re attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.”

Attunement, Pink said, is the art of seeing things from someone else’s point of view. “This is important in any situation in your life,” Pink said. “It is very hard to force people to do stuff. You need to get out of your own head and find common ground.”

Buoyancy is about resilience. “We hate rejection,” Pink said. “And if you’re doing any kind of sales effort, you’re going to be rejected. How do you stay afloat in that ocean of rejection?”

Finally, clarity is about curating information. Customers have access to a wealth of information, and salespeople must curate information into what is meaningful and what’s not.

Pink ended his talk by sharing useful takeaways from the research in his book, including how ambiverts make better salespeople than strong extraverts or strong introverts. He also took questions from students, who shared their reflections from his book and talk.

“Emerging from this read, I feel I have a greater understanding of my own experience in sales, and a modern perspective on how I can improve for the future,” said Sam Crites (BS, ’23), who is pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship at the Farley Center. “The ideas in here are fresh and optimistic, offering a new perspective on what sales can be and should be. Following this experience, I truly feel more grateful to be a Northwestern student.”

Pink is a Northwestern graduate, where he was a Truman Scholar and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He’s also an alum of Yale Law School, has hosted the National Geographic Channel television series “Crowd Control,” has appeared on NPR, PBS, and CNN, and served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. His new book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, is coming in February 2022. Learn more about Daniel Pink.

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