The Greatest Salesman In The World is a business classic that will help you become better at sales by becoming a better person all around.
I’m not good at sales. Never was, never will be. I can speak enthusiastically of all things I believe in, but I’m very bad when it comes to making a targeted effort to close the deal. Luckily, the internet allows us to build careers where we can skip the in-person sales pitch some of us dread so much. And yet, we still need the skill itself.
Being in the middle of launching my first, big product, Write Like A Pro, I thought why not learn from one of history’s best sellers. The Greatest Salesman In The World was first published by Og Mandino in 1968. As opposed to offering sleazy tricks, the book suggests the simplest way to be more convincing in all aspects of life is to become a better person in all aspects of life.
Taking lots of inspiration from Christian spirituality, the book helps you adopt ten valuable habits in ten “ancient scrolls.” It reminds me a bit of The Richest Man In Babylon. Here are my 3 favorite lessons:
The most productive thing you can do to sell stuff is to love other people.
Never give up, but never proceed unprepared.
Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, try to control your emotions.
Regardless of whether you want to become an artist, land your dream job, or actually sell stuff, we all need to master the art of persuasion. Let’s learn how to do it from The Greatest Salesman In The World!
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Lesson 1: The best salespeople love unconditionally.
One of my favorite writers about love, Kris Gage, says love is an action, not a feeling. The emotional state of being in love comes and goes, but the choice to love? That’s always available to you. So when Mandino suggests you should “love everything and everyone,” it’s not romantic infatuation he talks about. It means approaching everyone you meet with kindness, appreciation, and understanding.
It’s not hard to see how this makes you a better salesperson because it’s simply a way of improving all your relationships. These relationships and the trust we form in them will determine how willing people are to buy from us. Or to invest in us. Or to hire us. And so on.
Even the people who don’t like you can’t help but be startled when you approach them with love. At the very least, their toxic behavior towards you will eventually fade. How you best adapt this idea is up to you. You could use affirmations, reminders, or a talisman. As long as it reminds you to be kind, it’ll help.
Lesson 2: Always persist, but take breaks whenever you need to.
Mandino was a big believer in taking action. In one of the later scrolls of the book, he repeats the phrase “I will act now” 18 times. The hardest part of sales, maybe in life altogether, is getting rejected. But you never know which attempt is the last time you need to try in order to succeed. That’s why persistence is always a good strategy.
However, there’s one important part of making it work: taking breaks. It’s easy to get inspired when you read motivating words or watch an awesome video, but the process Mandino describes in the books isn’t about brute force. Rather than just always attack, he suggests you pause when you first encounter an obstacle.
In that moment, you’ll notice an urge to give up, to run away. Resist that urge and reframe the obstacle as a challenge. Once you’ve done that, you can try tackling it. If you fail, you can simply retreat to that initial state, observe from afar, recover your energy, and try again with a new, positive frame of mind.
Lesson 3: Control your emotions in everything you do.
The two big components of success in anything are self-awareness and emotional control. If you know how you function and how to best manage your impulses, it’s gonna be hard to stop you. But if you constantly react based on your feelings, you’ll have a hard time.
The sales example here is the frustrated door-to-door salesman, who blows his last appointment of the day because he hasn’t sold anything before. If you can’t contain your anger, you’ll throw it in someone else’s face and whatever you hoped to gain from them is gone. This is also how relationships fail, how business deals fall through, and how athletes lose the match.
To control your emotions, you must learn to recognize them as they arise, then use your thoughts and actions to balance them. When you’re angry, find compassion, when you’re sad, remember a joke, when you’re self-conscious, speak up, and so on. If you realize an emotion is becoming excessive, think of an appropriate counter-reaction, then deploy it.
Once you can do that, you won’t just be better at sales, you’ll also live a happier, calmer, more contented life.
My personal take-aways
If The Greatest Salesman In The World feels to spiritual for you, remember that it was written some 50 years ago. Back then, Christianity’s influence in the Western world was much bigger than it is today. That said, I think all religions have things to teach us. If you can look past certain terminology and concepts, you’ll find there’s a lot to learn from this humble and noble approach to selling.