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EVP Sales of MindTouch. Mark has advised many start ups including a social networking site that was sold to Barry Diller's IAC.  Before joining MindTouch, Mark led global sales efforts as an Executive Vice President for a publicly traded company, headed sales efforts for a technology division of AT Kearney and EDS, and served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for a Singapore based corporation. Mark blogs at Seek Omega

4 responses to “The 3+ Reasons Why Dan Pink’s Compensation & Motivation Advice is Bullsh*t”

  1. Ryan Stephens

    Fair challenge to Pink’s assertions Mark. I definitely think money is a huge influence, but not necessarily for the sake of being able to accumulate more things/freedom. Certainly, those matter, but so do autonomy, mastery and purpose. I think with the exception of money as it relates to pride those things are all relatively equal (i.e. At some point a certain amount of $$$ is sufficient and Pink’s motivational system matters more.

    Now, back to money as it relates to pride as I you allude to in #2 and #3. I think it has less to do with what I have and more to do with what they have. Many professional athletes have all the money they could ever need, but they want more. Why? Because Player X is very similarly skilled and makes that amount. And I think that’s fair.

    For example. I work in a truly great environment that really emphasizes the pillars Pink discusses. Those thing matter a great deal to me, but I’d still be disheartened if I thought someone doing a very similar job to me was making significantly more (presuming he’s not more experienced/better at it). Not because I necessarily need more, but because it feels unfair. In essence, I’m probably agreeing with you, but alas… that sells less books, no?

  2. Paul

    All good, i agree proof is required, but

    1) the ‘American emprire” is in decline … perhaps (just perhaps) the money culture isn’t doing it
    2) Most of Dan’s discussion was about the type of work and rewards, and it seems to me that if sales people are of the mindset of building a “f#*K you fund, you aren’t dealing with people in the cognitively challenged area
    3) “Most salespeople I have managed are driven by incentive compensation because it allows them to work harder and build up a “f#ck you” fund.” – doesn’t sound like you have an ideal corporate culture so you are underperforming anyways..

  3. 300baud

    Well, of course you don’t care about those non-monetary things. You wouldn’t have risen to the top of the old system if you were the kind of person who had big issues with it. What medieval king would think the peasants would even want to vote, let alone believe they’d do a better job?

    Your first example is certainly bunk. The reason people leave for startups generally isn’t the money. Maybe during the bubble startups could afford to pay more, but normally they can’t. They can still steal a lot of the best people from big companies, though, because they provide more of exactly what Pink is pitching: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

    You go on to mix up dislike of being underpaid with being motivated by money. People do hate the feeling that they are being treated unfairly, and they do use salary as one measure of that. But that doesn’t mean that paying them more than fairly gets better results over the long haul.

    There’s also plenty of research showing that incentive payment systems reduce creativity and quality of work. See Kohn’s “Punished by Rewards” for the details. For traditional sales, where marks are manipulated into buying and into paying too much, that’s perhaps fine. Who cares if the sales guy is going to flake out in a couple of years? You can always get another, hopefully one carrying enough debt that he’s a little frantic. But there’s a reason salespeople rarely end up running productive companies. Conditioned by short-term incentives and, like all mercenaries, focused on filling their own bank accounts, they don’t have the sense of purpose needed to create and sustain value-delivering businesses.

    But I think the long-term problem with your approach is that less and less commerce is human-mediated. People have access to a lot more information, and better control over their channels of communication. As transaction costs get lower, deals happen more often, and are therefore small enough that sticking a salesperson in the middle is too expensive. E.g., maybe I don’t need multiple sales calls for an enterprise development support system when I can put GitHub and JIRA and GetSatisfaction on my credit card as I need them.

    In circumstances like that, instead of spending on sales, the money gets put into better products, and more authentic communication with users. That absolutely can’t be done on a commission basis, for reasons that Kohn and people like Steve Blank explain. For that reason, I hope Pink is right, because otherwise there will be a lot of old salesmen chasing a shrinking number of jobs, with none of the skills needed to stick around at companies and do more creative work.

  4. Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR

    If you take the over-simplified version of Dan Pink’s advice, yes, it’s bullshit. But if you listened to what he was actually saying, you’ll find it’s a lot more nuanced than “money doesn’t matter.” That’s why the foundation tenet of his advice is to pay people fairly and get that issue off the table altogether.

    “That’s why Google had to offer a staff engineer $3.5 million to stay at Google and not leave for a competitor. Moreover, Google had to increase EVERYONE’S pay by 10% in order to mitigate the risk of them leaving.”

    Just because Google does something doesn’t mean it’s wise (or effective). I predict Google will continue to lose their best staff over things that have nothing to do with pay and everything to do with culture, work environment and the need of their top talent for new and exciting challenges.