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As I write this, I’m at the end of my business career. I have earned all the money I ever expect to earn from work. There are other things I do with my time.

I spent big chunks of the past 40 years selling, thinking about selling, and teaching other people how to sell. It’s a topic I know well.

Selling is a useful activity. At least it can be. And few things aggravate me more than spending time with someone who sells badly.

If you’re going to sell for a living, stop wasting your time. Stop wasting your “buyer’s” time. Learn to sell well.

This is my legacy piece: Everything I think important about selling and pitching pulled into one place. My ambition is to set it out it as plainly as possible.

Who is this for?

There are many different types of sales and sales processes. Those differences matter.

The easiest distinction is a “simple” vs. a “complex” sale.

A “simple” sale is about matching a buyer with a product. There isn’t a lot the seller needs to do besides answer some questions, point out some cool features, and complete the order.

  • Low consequences to the buyer of action, inaction, success, or failure. It’s easy to undo a decision (just return the product for example)
  • Few decision points (but or don’t)
  • Few decision makers involved.


This book is not written for this type of sale or salesperson.

A “complex” sale is built on providing solutions to problems, changes to complex situations, or even big transformations. The seller’s job is rooted in understanding the buyer situation, needs, and wants.

  • High consequences to the buyer of action, inaction, success, or failure.
  • Multiple decision points
  • Multiple potential decision makers


This book is for that sale and salesperson.

The difference between “fulltime” vs. “part time” seller is also important. You could also think about this as “professional” vs. “amateur.”

  • A fulltime or professional seller is someone compensated fully or primarily through sales. This person is in the fulltime business of influencing and persuading people to make buying decisions.
  • The amateur or part-timer is everyone else: People who sell occasionally but occupy most of their time doing something else. Often that something else is the thing they sell.


Everything I have to say applies to both professional and amateur. I have been in both roles, and would observe the following:

Professionals benefit by having lots of opportunities to sell. Lots of opportunities to keep their skills sharp. They risk falling into bad habits. There are lots of reasons why. The deterioration in quality of life and quality of sales outcomes is slow at first. Then it gets worse.

If you’re a “pro,” come at this material with an open mind. If you find yourself drawn to an idea, implement it. If you find yourself rejecting an idea, ask yourself why. Then try and implement it!

Amateurs have the inverse risk. Applied knowledge and skills have a short shelf-life. I have literally written the book (more than one) on selling. I’m astonished at how much I miss when I do a post sales call evaluation. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. I’m just rusty.

If you’re an “amateur, you should invest the time to prepare yourself for every sales interaction. Make notes. Have a check list. Think through a call plan.

(Ethical) Selling vs. Order Taking

If a buyer tells you what he/she/they want, you describe what you have, and they buy . . .

Is that selling?

More accurately, they bought something.

It’s order taking.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Selling is something else. It involves persuasion. It specifically points to influencing how the buyer defines the following:

  • The problem or opportunity. I call this the “exam question.”
  • Alternatives worth considering.
  • Values: How the buyer make trade-offs when evaluating alternatives.


A professional seller is in the business of first understanding, and then attempting to influence those three dimensions to complete a sale.

An ethical seller is looking to make sales that benefit all parties.

This book is about ethical selling.

My Philosophy

Everything I believe about selling flows from a single idea: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. It seems like ten minutes ago I was 27. As I write, I’m 67 and change. Time is all we have.

I don’t have a clue what the future of work holds. In my lifetime, the role of the salesperson has changed. Many organizations have tried to eliminate the position and need. In my experience, while specific jobs and types of jobs disappear, the need for competent salespeople never goes away.

There are lots of things I wouldn’t care to sell. There are organizations I wouldn’t work or sell for. This was true when I was working for a living. It’s more true now. I think the same should be true for you.

Which brings me back to my central thesis. I think selling is a noble activity. It’s worth doing well. Doing it well springs from making three commitments to yourself.

  • Taking an interest in what makes people tick. In general. Interest in everyone you interact with.
  • Taking an interest in what makes you tick. Develop a durable belief system.
  • Develop your skills.

The Secrets to Selling in One Page

If I were to summarize forty years of navigating sales conversations, it would be the following:

  • Ask permission. Don’t be super-ok.
  • Create intrigue through insights.
  • Be curious about the buyer, his/her/their business, and what the buyer has to say. Ask why, why, why? Pay attention to the answers.
  • Let the buyer do the work. Whoever is talking is out of control.
  • Wait until you have a complete picture before you launch.
  • Not everything is important. Have a “big idea,” something that uniquely solves what really matters to the buyer.
  • Stop pushing forward if the customer pushes back. The real conversation is about to begin.
  • Don’t leave without a covenant . . . you do something, I’ll do something, together we’ll get you to your promised land.