To Sell Well…Don’t Sell!

Posted On: April 13

defining-it-project-successI know that sounds odd, especially coming from someone who spent ten years as a top-level sales trainer to major corporations around the world, helping them close 100 million dollar deals, but it is the truth.

The best salespeople don’t sell, they serve. They don’t push products, they offer highly focused and very helpful solutions. They don’t worry at all about quota, they worry themselves sick about how much value they are offering to their clients and if they are being proactive enough in coming up with ideas and solutions before the customer even has a problem. It is my firm belief that to position yourself as a Trusted Adviser, a partner and peer to your customers, you need to focus on this equation:

Competence + Concern + Curiosity x Character = Sales Success  



To be successful in B2B sales you must be exceedingly competent in five areas:

  1. General business acumen, you have to understand how the business world works and keep up with local business trends, trends in local and national economics, international business trends and other key business ideas.
  2. You must be an EXPERT on your company and your products and services.
  3. You need to be an expert on your industry and your major competitors and their products and services.
  4. You must deeply understand your customer’s business – and your customer’s customers!
  5. Finally, you must be expert at anticipating your customer’s needs and offering products and solutions that are highly focused on adding maximum value to them and allowing them to serve their customers better.

This is sort of a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in competency and customer focus, if you don’t take care of the base requirements there is no way to achieve the top level expertise.


To be successful in any kind of sales, B2B or B2C, you must show the customer that you are putting their interests first. You have to demonstrate genuine concern for the customer and show that you are totally focused on helping them get the absolute best solution, even if that means not buying from you!


As part of showing genuine and sincere concern in your customer you need to demonstrate a high level of curiosity in trying to understand exactly what is most important to your customer and what solution would be optimum for them. This means asking lots of questions…excellent questions, focused questions, probing qustions…and then being an intense listener in order to understand what is said and what is not said so that you can bring the very best options to the table for your customer – again, even if that means not buying from you.

You then take the first three elements: competence + concern + curiosity and multiply it by the power of character… 


Tell the truth all the time –PERIOD. The single most important thing in being a Trusted Adviser is to base all of your advice and help on being honest, straightforward, frank and transparent. The very best salespeople are brutally honest – with their customers and with themselves. Without character there is no way to ever be a truly successful salesperson.

So there it is, my formula for sales success…

Be extremely good at what you do, genuinely care about your customer, be incredibly curious about how you can help them, and always tell them the truth.

There are a few other things you could do to increase your sales success but I believe with all my heart and soul that if you do these four things exceedingly well, you will be a highly successful salesperson.

I look forward to your comments and feedback – John


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  1. Good morning John!
    You have been on my mind over the last several months. We have had some wonderful growth and development on my company as a result of some of the ideas you have shared. A friend once told me that his biggest fear was that his clients would figure out that he was only half a step ahead of them! I’ve read several of the books that you recommended including the Rockefeller habits. I have since become a voracious reader on the subjects of my clients businesses and interests. We have also developed a premium service for our best clients only. We offer a business strategies service now on top of financial service to help our business clients to identify opportunity within the 5 main pillars of their business. Thanks for your inspiration and ideas! They love it and depend on it!! I hope that you and yours are well!! You champion many from afar!

  2. After selling in antique automotive, horticulture, media, exotic livestock (yes really) and philanthropy for pushing 30 years, this is the most concise and accurate view on selling I have seen. …..Its awesomely simple and validating. Love it!

  3. Great article, John! After three and a half decades in the sales business – and 20 years of training salespeople – I believe you nailed it perfectly. A salesperson’s motives are always clearly visible, and someone who is only in it for a commission is pretty obvious. Thanks!

  4. John,
    This is essentially what I teach in my personal selling classes. I like how you framed it in a simple but powerful formula. Spot on as usual!

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