I was a salesman snob.

Like many people, I always looked down on the concept of “selling.” It seemed like something lower than me.

To some extent, selling appears manipulative. You have a product and you try to portray that it has more value than it actually does. So you need to manipulate people into buying it. This seems sad, as in the book “Death of a Salesman” sort of sad.

I was wrong. And for the past 25 years, all I have been doing is selling. Selling products, selling services, selling businesses, selling myself.

Sometimes I have been manipulative. And sometimes I’ve sold things I’ve had such passion for that I practically gave them away just to get the message out.

And often, it was very much in the middle: I needed to sell something because I had to pay my bills. I wanted to make sure my family got fed.

We live in a hard world where our basic needs cost money, and as we get older we become responsible for the basic needs of others. We become adults.

None of this cheat sheet comes from a book. All of this is from my own experience. Which means it might not work for you. Which means it might go counter to the basic rules of salesmanship. I have no idea.

But I can say that over the past 25 years, I’ve sold hundreds of millions of dollars of stuff. That stuff being everything in Pandora’s box that I had to sell just to stay alive. When I thought of what worked for me, here’s what I came up with:



A) Friendship

Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend. People pay for friendship.

This sounds sort of like prostitution, and it is.

One time when I was raising money for something, the buyer was going through a business catastrophe and was worried he would go out of business. I didn’t like him but I called him every day for three months at the same time to see if he “wanted to talk” and to offer my advice on how he should deal with his situation.

I eventually raised a lot of money from him even though the first time I met him he said, “It seems like you don’t know your industry very well.”

Which just goes to show that friendship outweighs almost every other factor in selling. One time I wanted to do a website for ABC.com. How did I do it? The main decision-maker volunteered at a school in Harlem. I went up there four weeks in a row and played 20 kids simultaneously in chess. Everyone had fun. I got the website job. My competitors were all bigger, better financed, and probably better.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like either of those people personally. And eventually, I lost the business.

The only good outcomes come when both sides like each other.

Now I only do business with people I like. The fastest way to lose all your money, mutilate your heart, and then kill yourself is to work with people you don’t like. I will never do that again.

Nor do you have to, despite what you might think.



B) Saying no

If someone wants to do a big deal with you, it’s hard to say “no.” But “no” is valuable for many reasons, and one big one in particular:

Opportunity cost. Instead of pursuing something you really don’t want to do, you could free up time and energy to find something more lucrative or something you would enjoy more. Opportunity cost is the biggest cost in all of our lives. We spend it like there’s no tomorrow.

And guess what? Eventually there’s no tomorrow.

When I say “yes” to something I don’t want to do, I end up hating myself, hating the person I said “yes” to, doing a bad job, and disappointing everyone. I try really hard not to do it anymore.



C) Over-deliver

If someone pays $100 and you give that person just $100 in value, then you just failed. You’ll never sell to that person again. someone pays $100, you need to give him or her $110 worth of value.

Think of that extra $10 as going into some sort of karmic bank account that pays interest (as opposed to a U.S. bank account). That money grows and compounds.

Eventually, there’s real wealth there. And that wealth translates into the real world.

People are 3-year-olds. They like to get presents. People want to do business with people who give them presents. Over-delivering is a present. And it makes you feel good. Give and you will receive.



D) Never take “no” for an answer

This statement, which everyone knows, is usually applied incorrectly.

People think it means keep pushing and trying new things until you get a “yes.”

That’s not what it means. If you do that, you end up in the spam box. Then you end up in a coffin. In other words, you end up dead to the person you are trying to sell to.

Instead, remember point A. Be a friend. However flimsy that connection of friendship is. Follow on Twitter, follow on Facebook. Say nice things about the person to other people. Never gossip.

Do the art of the “check-in.”

Send updates after the “no” on how you are doing, on how the product or service or business or whatever is doing. Not every day. Maybe once a month. Maybe once a year. Eventually you will find the “yes” with that person. It could be, and often is, up to 20 years later.

You plant a seed and eventually the garden blooms.