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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The biggest part of selling anything is listening. I have had the privilege of watching some truly great salesmen in action. My father was the top salesman for National Cash Register for years. I never saw him make an NCR sales call, but I saw him in action on the retail floor. What I saw was that he listened to what the customer was saying. The conversation was almost never about the product. The conversation was usually about the customer himself.

Years later, I worked with one of the top salesmen for the U.S. Chamber of commerce. His name is James “Jim” Manley. What I observed is that when we went to visit a prospective member we would talk about the prospect’s business and their family, but never about the chamber. Eventually, the prospect would ask Jim about the Chamber and we would sign him up. Jim never brought it up.

I also saw a snake oil salesman for a cemetery. He could sell anything to many of his prospects. He never talked about what he was selling per se. What he did talk about was a product that did not exist. The customer thought they were buying a family plot, when in fact they were buying two graves with a family protection program that covered the children up to age 21. After that age the children were on their own as far as cemetery arrangements were concerned. The difference is that my father and Jim had repeat customers, whereas the last guy had to be careful where he went because many people were out to get him for what he had sold them.

One must listen to their customers and hear what it is they want. One must tell their customers what they are getting and what they are not.

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