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Ambiverts, Problem Finding and The New Science of Selling


Written for the Burnside News

Recently the Globe & Mail had a small info piece that read, “ In 1980, Ronald Regan was running for president of the United States in a grim economy. In his pitch he asked, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Rather than suggest it as fact, by asking the question and having the listener answer it, he effectively had those people determine for themselves what their situation is. It also makes it real and the listener builds a self-belief rather than having someone push their opinion on them.

It’s one the many nuggets that came from To Sell Is Human, which is based on a few university research studies. The intent of this book is to note that we all sell and the art and science of selling has changed massively over the last couple of decades — especially in the last five years.

This is due to several factors and two of the major ones are the maturity of the Internet and the new approach of the next generations coming into the business world. Here are a couple of other nuggets from Daniel Pink’s book:

  • “ …the most successful salespeople are ambiverts, those who fall in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale.”

For many years we’ve hired salespeople for their gift of gab, people who were out-going and who could work a room, connect on a commonality level and have amazing social skills. According to the study you may want to rethink your hiring practices. Extraverts tend to make more declarations (tell to sell) and don’t engage the prospect with compelling questions. They are seen as overly assertive or aggressive. They’re also tagged as poor listeners. Introverts generally tend to be less assertive, often don’t ask the tough questions or challenge a prospect’s flawed opinions. Being somewhere in the middle is the better place to be.

  • “ …the ability to move others hinges less on problem solving than on problem finding.”

Prospects have many choices available and often believe what you’re selling isn’t a ton different than what your competition is selling. If your products and services were hugely better, prospects would be lined up at your door with cheque in hand.

Businesspeople are busy. They have specific issues that need immediate attention and often only see the pending issues and consequences. The salesperson that can help the prospect discover the rewards of acting now on things that weren’t on the prospect’s radar will provide an advisor service and reap the rewards. Do your sales professionals have the questioning skills to do this?

The science of selling in a changing world demands greater skills to uncover more than is obvious. Learning to fill your sales toolbox with a variety of questioning methods (presumptive, gap, menu, reverse, negative reverse, dummy, etc.) will lead to longer conversations that uncover more details about the prospect’s business. The more you know about the prospect’s challenges, the greater the potential opportunities and advantage you have over the competition when developing a customized solution. It also takes the relationship to a more meaningful level.

When you know what they know you’re at the advisor level. Anything other than that means you’re less equipped to uncover more than the low-hanging fruit.

©2013 Sandler Training Inc. ( is an international sales and management training/consulting firm. To attend a free session of our monthly Sales Leadership program, call the Sandler Training at 468-0787 or e-mail

Eric Fry

Sandler trainer