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The True Definition of "Selling"

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We can spend our whole life working in sales and yet not know its origin. That astounds me — so much so that I often ask salespeople, “Have you ever looked up the word sales in the dictionary?” Never in my speaking career has anyone in my audience responded to me with the correct root of the word.

So here it is. It comes from the word sellan, an Old English word meaning to give.

  • It does not mean to take!
  • It does not mean to sell door-to-door like a charlatan.
  • It does not mean to connive.
  • It does not mean to manipulate.

Can you imagine if all the newcomers that strike out in the sales world really knew what salesmanship was about? They would understand that true salesmanship is about true give-manship!

Get that or you ain’t got nothin’, folks.

In my view, we’ve got so many people living in this capitalistic society who are so involved in me, me, me. Rarely will anyone give a “dung” about what you want until you help them acquire what they want.

Thank you Lefty Lefton for this revelation: As salespeople, we must start with the prospective buyers’ most important question: “What’s in it for me?”

We have to make it all about them. It’s kind of an unorthodox, altruistic turn if you really think about it. If you satisfy them first, you’re going to get enough of what you want. But, you’re going to have to wait.

My point? Be more patient and sell more! Being from Louisiana, I call this “gumbo patience.”

Marvelous people, it’s a lot like cooking a good gumbo. You have to bring that gumbo up to a boil, then you have to slow it down. You don’t rush it. If you rush it, you’ll burn the hell out of the bottom of the pot, and the gumbo will taste like starch. You have to have a little patience. So, you put that gumbo on a low fire and you wait.

Word to the wise: Don’t overlook the “bringing it to a boil” point that I just made. Excellent communicators must never forget this rule: I must be red hot before I can expect you to get lukewarm. Remember that it’s our responsibility to inspire our prospective client to get “red hot” and boiling with desire to move forward.

It’s like one-day-old wine. Nobody ever drinks one-day-old wine. It’s not good until later. It’s the same way with sales. We have to wait and stay with our systems and go through the process. We can’t be so self-consumed with paying our mortgage, bills and insane expenses that we don’t stop and ask some good questions.

For more from Marvin LeBlanc, see:

How to Overcome 19 Straight Nos

6 Ways to Lead a Happier Life

The Myth of the Natural-Born Salesperson


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