#Authority2015: Daniel Pink’s ABCs of Selling & Communication

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Authority Rainmaker took place a mile high, and the ideas on the conference’s first day came a mile a minute.

The Denver event’s first day featured some of marketing and PR’s top minds—including Daniel Pink, Chris Brogan and Ann Handley—who discussed design, content, traffic and conversion.

Though nothing beats attending the event in person, we’ll be providing some of the top insights and takeaways from all of the event’s speakers on our blog.

Today, we’ll take a look at the morning keynote, NYT and WSJ bestselling author Daniel Pink.

The ABCs of Selling & Communication

No matter what you sell, the sales process has changed more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100, says Daniel, the author of five best-selling books about business, work and management.

(Though Daniel focused primarily on sales, communicators can benefit from the same information.)

Before the digital information boom, sales operated with information asymmetry, meaning customers had few choices, limited information and little opportunity to get their voices heard. It certainly was a time of buyer beware, where businesses could promote instead of engage. It was also the Glengarry Glen Ross epoch where ABC meant “always be closing.”

Those days are over, Daniel says. We’ve entered the era of customer empowerment. Now it’s sellers who have to beware. Before a sale, customers can research the best prices, all available options and your strengths and weaknesses.

“Always be closing is not a bad idea in a world where buyers don’t have choices information or ways to talk back,” Daniel says. “(However, the traditional) ABC is a terrible strategy in this world.”

That’s why a new set of ABCs emerge: attunement, buoyancy and clarity.


In sales, and marketing and PR, brands need to adopt their target audience’s perspective, speak their language and understand where they’re coming from.


In the face of so much rejection, how can salespeople and communciators cope? Instead of offering yourself encouragement, ask yourself how you will succeed. This “interrogative self talk” better prepares you because it forces you to think about roadblocks and opportunities.


This has two parts.

  1. In the old sales era, people put a premium on gaining access to information, now it’s a brand’s job to help them sort through what’s there. Daniel mentioned that med students training to be doctors are learning how to take the information self-diagnosing patients bring them and to explain what’s inaccurate, out of date or taken out of context.
  2. Whereas sales people once identified themselves as problem solvers, they should now see themselves as problem finders. Google helps people find solutions for the problems they know about. They don’t know necessarily know all of their problems, though. That’s where PR pros, marketers and salespeople come in.

How to communicate with the new ABCs

ABCs of Communication - Content Marketing

Use questions as a persuasive tool…sometimes

When Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter in 1980, he used the now famous line “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” to great success.

Mitt Romney attempted to use the same line in 2012 and fell short. What was the difference? Questions elicit an active response. When Reagan asked it, people thought back to a better time. When Romney asked, people thought back to the start of the Great Recession.

“When the facts are on your side, use questions instead of statements,” Daniel says. “When facts aren’t clearly on your side, look for new facts.”

Combine positives with a small negative 

What produces better results creating a list of positives or creating a list of positives followed by a small negative? Though counterintuitive, the latter is more effective.

“The small negative shines a light on the long list of positives,” David says. “Positives aren’t necessarily illuminated without weak negative information.”

Use rhymes and other word tricks

Perhaps, it should be called the nursery rhyme affect. When presented with similar statements, people consider ones that rhyme as more accurate and believable than those that don’t.

It’s not just rhyming. Alliteration and repetition also increase a reader’s processing fluency, bettering the retention and believability of your content.

Give people off ramps

When delivering content, communicators often overrate personality and disposition and underrate context.

Changing people’s minds is difficult, make it easy for people to do what you want them to do.

“You can spend a lot less time and resources if you make it easy for people to act,” Daniel says.

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About Brian Conlin

Brian Conlin is a content marketing manager for Cision. A former journalist, he enjoys researching and developing accessible content. When not writing, you will find him watching baseball and college basketball, sampling craft beer and enjoying Baltimore. Find him on Twitter @BrianConlin13.

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