Dan Pink Offers 'Access' As A Reward For Helping Promote His Book

from the interesting-ideas dept

We’ve written about Dan Pink’s last work, Drive before. It’s a fascinating book that explores some counterintuitive concepts about how money incentivizes people. His new book, To Sell is Human appears to build on these concepts, as it specifically relates to salespeople (who many people assume are only incentivized by money). An HBR article appears to summarize the thesis:

Some things in life we know are true. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted on by an outside force. And the best way to motivate salespeople is by offering them commissions.

But what if we’re wrong, at least about that last one? What if paying salespeople commissions is rooted more in tradition than logic? What if it’s a practice so cemented into orthodoxy that it’s no longer an actual decision? That’s what a handful of companies have begun discovering. To the surprise of many, these firms are showing that commissions can sometimes do more harm than good—and that getting rid of them can open a path to higher profits.

Either way, it should come as little surprise that Pink is also trying unique ideas for the selling of his own book, including recruiting a “launch team” made up of 96 people who promise to share the ideas in the book (and, no, I’m not a part of that). He’s offering up “rewards” for people who are willing to do this:

  • Advance galley copy of To Sell is Human – there’s only a couple hundred of these ever printed.
  • Signed 1st edition hardcover of To Sell is Human.
  • A public Thank You on my blog along with links to your website and Twitter.
  • Exclusive access to me – and each other – via a private Facebook group.

It’s that last one that I find most interesting. It’s not all that different than some of the offerings we’ve put together for people on Techdirt as well, who wish to support the site, and can get greater access in exchange (which has been really fun in practice!). It will be interesting to see how well this works (and hopefully Pink will report back on the success or failure of the program as it goes on).

What do people have to do in order to be included? Well, first they have to apply (and applications close tonight at midnight eastern) and be chosen. But then, it’s pretty straightforward:

  • Spread the word about the book on your platform during the weeks before and after publication.
  • Leave a short, honest review of To Sell is Human at Amazon.com or BN.com on December 31.
  • Join us in the Facebook group to brainstorm and share ideas on how we might spread the word about To Sell is Human.

I would imagine that, under current FTC rules, anyone in this program would actually need to disclose their participation in the program whenever they talk about the book — which hopefully Pink is telling those who sign up for this. I also wonder if those who don’t get “in” to the program will walk away feeling negative about it. Hopefully not. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment and hopefully he’ll share how well it works. I’ve always been a big fan of “access” to content creators as a possible unique form of “reward” — and it’s the kind of experience that can’t be copied, which is what makes it so valuable.

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Comments on “Dan Pink Offers 'Access' As A Reward For Helping Promote His Book”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Dan Pink, making the obvious clear to the blinded

Much like Drive, the only surprising thing about this “surprising truth” is that people find it a surprise. If it hadn’t been for the damage that decades worth of people in power have done to our society by listening to Ayn Rand and her ilk, none of his research would even be necessary; it would just be considered plain old common sense, like it used to.

Take commissioned sales, for example. There’s a very good case to be made that they, not complex banking instruments, are the fundamental culprit responsible for the housing crash.

If this sounds strange to you, consider the following: Every house sold, every bad loan made, was made by a loan officer working for some bank somewhere, and most involved a realtor as well. The loan officer and the realtor both receive a commission for their work, a percentage of the sale price of the house.

The higher the price of the house, the higher the commission, and also the more likely it will be that the loan turns out to be unpayable in the end. And if the loan turns out to be unpayable–even if it is obviously, blatantly so at the time of the signing–the commission is not revoked or taken back. Think about that for a second, and you’ll see that this means that the people with all of the financial leverage in a home sale have no incentive to create loans that are easy to pay off, and every incentive not to! It’s a blatant conflict of interest: their financial incentive is directly aligned against that of the buyer. (And also against that of the seller, but Freakonomics has already covered that side of things pretty well.)

If we truly wanted to ensure that the financial crisis we’ve been through never happens again, one simple rule would guarantee it:

It shall be a federal crime for any sales agent to receive a commission payment on any sale or other financial transaction, if that transaction is financed in whole or in part by debt, including loans of any type, before such time as the debt has been paid in full.

Do that and suddenly the interests of the realtors and loan officers are in harmony with the interests of the buyers, instead of being opposed. Ridiculously high housing prices would never come back, and the 30-year mortgage, one of the greatest evils of modern society, would just about vanish overnight. And the only people who would be harmed would be the parasites that got us into this mess in the first place.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Dan Pink, making the obvious clear to the blinded

(And, since I can’t edit my post, let me just add that before anyone takes what I wrote the wrong way, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dan Pink’s work in bringing simple truths that we as a society have managed to forget back into the public consciousness. I just wish we hadn’t forgotten them in the first place.)

Loki says:

Re: Dan Pink, making the obvious clear to the blinded

If this sounds strange to you,

Doesn’t sound strange to me at all. In fact , during a recent drive across the country I heard radio commercials in four different towns in four different states (over the course of three days) from the dude of some program called Flip This House, saying they were looking for people to flip houses (and thereby artificially jacking up the price of real estate) and that their market was “the” perfect market for this sort of activity. (You could even clearly here the differences where the respective regions were dubbed into the boilerplate pitch).

BTW, I like your suggestion. Sound like a very useful rule. Of course that goes against the New American way of most amount of money (and least amount of money for everyone else if you can also manage it) for the absolute least amount of work you can manage.

David says:


Mason, you’re forgetting the fact that the reason commission based systems exist in the first place is because firms want a way to extract as much value from a salesforce as possible for free. Yes the salesperson benefits, but it’s the brokerage or realty company or bank that’s getting the really sweet deal. Pink’s assessment that salespeople can be motivated by something other than money seems to me just another way of figuring out how to de-value labor. Same as it ever was.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Meh.

I work for a software company, as a programmer. If you’ve ever done that, you’ll understand that I’m only half-joking when I say that salespeople are the enemy. So if he’s got a good argument for “devaluing” their work, I’m not about to object.

(For those that haven’t, salespeople are notorious for being willing to do anything–and promise anything to prospective clients–in order to close a sale. Sometimes they’ll promise features that are literally impossible. Other times they’ll promise features that are so technically difficult or unfeasible that it costs more to create and support them than we’d be gaining from the contract, which means that the commission system even puts their interests directly at odds with those of their employer!)

Anonymous Coward says:

to sell is human.... yes right..... dream on....


compared to most other human activities SELLING IS ONE OF THE LEST HUMAN THINGS DONE..

humans buy far, far, far, far, far, far, far more then they EVER BUY..

oh yea, do not do everything, or anything FOR MONEY,, another BULLSHIT !!!

most people buy, very few sell, for every sale you need a buyer, (and a seller), for every seller, you need a buyer (sellers buy stuff too, and have to usually buy before they can sell)..

most people see money as a tool to allow them to buy things, some people will use that money to buy things and them sell those things..

everyone buys, very few if ANY ONLY SELL..

why would I want to buy a book that is based on a false assumption ???

when was the last time you had a good time with a $50 dollar note ?

or is it true you had a good time, buy BUYING things with that $50, things you could use and enjoy.

money itself is not that fun, (you can fold it in certain ways, and it’s looks nice!!) BUT ITS NOT FUN as money.. and people dont want money, they want what that money allows them to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: to sell is human.... yes right..... dream on....

Thanks, darryl. You have just effectively made the point that there is no right to sell, because people would rather buy than sell. Copyright is useless, as well as its enforcement.

Don’t you ever get tired of having the intelligence of a shitstain, you gasping waste of space?

Loki says:

In addition, I’ve recently discovered Dan Pink on my own and shared several of his TedTalks with people who were also unfamiliar with him (and who, therefore, will also learn about his new book). I am sure there are some people who may be upset they didn’t get “in” his program, but others are going to participate even if they don’t get “in” (or are even aware of) the program.

Ian Waring (profile) says:

Been there, done that

I worked 17 years for Digital Equipment Corporation, who didn’t pay commission to salespeople until the dying days under Bob Palmer. They were about the only company out there where the sales folks would routinely so no to an opportunity if our products didn’t fit, compared to most whose products did everything the customer asked for (and didn’t), a fact unknown until the customer had wasted their money.

It bred trust and customer loyalty like nothing else.

We were also instructed to look after our existing customers before trying to look for new ones.

Dead company now, but for different reasons…

Ian W.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Dan Pink and Commissions in Selling

He’s right. I found out the hard way, as a manager. I found that we had customers who were beginning to find excuses NOT to do business with us, because some of our salesmen were so focussed on getting a commission (then jumping to another company) that they were actually abusive.
Our best salesmen (LONG term) were on a salary, and really cared about the company – that’s what we ended up with, by the way.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Not sure what I think about this

His model is similar to what musicians have done with street teams: go out and promote our shows and in return we’ll give you free stuff, special perks, etc.

That tends to attract a group of people who don’t normally have clout themselves and see this as a way to participate in the team effort. They are usually younger fans who have more time and enthusiasm than high level connections themselves.

Seems like Pink would likely attract the same type of people (i.e., those who don’t normally have access to Pink and who aren’t such important book reviewers that they would normally get a review copy anyway). Is Pink planning to deny review copies to the normal outlets?

I’m also undecided about paying for access, whether with money or with hard work. On the one hand, I think people who do something out of the ordinary (whether to put out lots of money or to work hard on behalf of your hero) deserve to get something in return for it. But on the other hand, from observation I have seen that people who aren’t truly insiders aren’t treated as such. If you have paid for access or if you are perceived as a worker bee or worse, as a groupie, you tend to be treated differently than if you are a close friend, a trusted confident, a paid consultant, and so on. In other words, having to do something to get access tends to mark you as having lesser status.

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