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Archive for the “Salesmanship” Category

The great secret of sales is that being good is the selfish thing to do.

I’m sure goodness is the last thing that pops into the popular imagination when anyone thinks of sales. Sales and goodness are immiscible, to most people’s way of thinking. Effective sales is as much a moral proposition as working for Greenpeace, the March of Dimes, or the Catholic Church. (Well, maybe more than the Catholic Church given the fallen nature of some of the priesthood.) Sales is a vocation that should be a calling every bit as “other” centered as any of the so-called helping professions like ministry, social work, psychiatry or nursing.

The cliche of the sales ethos is most memorably summed up by Michael Douglas playing the smarmy M&A corporate snake oil purveyor Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. “Greed is good.” (My personal favorite testosterone-fueled salesman is Alec Baldwin as Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross personifying a stone-cold amoral hunter–a fierce closer, a killer and a “winner” at any and all costs.) Or the TV car salesman riding on the back of a hippopotamus, screaming “Deals! Deals! Deals!” into the screen.

Vince Lombardi is famous for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Much as I admire Vince Lombardi, I don’t agree with the tone of his statement even in football, and certainly not in life. But I can assure you as a salesman for my own executive sales company Corporate Rain International, the way of winning in entrepreneurial sales is simply the path of service, truth and genuine care for potential clients or buyers. The really good salesmen I know are people who truly care about their clients. And by this I mean a soul deep caring, as to a fellow inhabitant of God’s universe, not the ersatch empathy or facsimile fellow feeling of the manipulator.

The “winning” of the salesman, and a true “selfishness” leading to long-term sales success, lies in really being good, bone deep good. Or as close as we can expect to be as imperfect beings. Just as physicians owe their service first to their patients, so salesmen owe their truth and passionate caring to their client at a soul deep level. This is not a treacly, wussy, or pollyannaish idealism. It is a winning and selfish practicing of goodness.

In fact selfish salesmanship, in the larger picture, is serving all members of society by the way you do business. Capitalism itself, in it’s best form, is simply dealing with customers and suppliers in mutually beneficial exchanges of goods, services and money. That’s how I try to see myself as a capitalist. That’s how I see myself as a entrepreneur. That’s how I see myself as a salesman.


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Tim AskewEleemosynary. It’s one of my favorite words that almost no one knows the meaning of. It’s a word that will stump almost every spelling bee champion. It derives from the Greek “elos” meaning compassion and “eleemosyne” meaning alms. In contemporary terms eleemosynary means “relating to charity or charity donations.”

We’re approaching a new year, a time for new thoughts and new plans aborning. Yet I find myself looking back this week. And, as usual, I wish I’d been more efficacious at embodying the eleemosynary values I believe in and trumpet. The litany of little omissions and sins could lead me into a veritable orgy of self-recriminations. Ah, hypocrisy. However, as always, I try to post about practical concerns of entrepreneurship and salesmanship. And, I guess, thereby, write about everything else, too.

The truth is that an eleemosynary entrepreneur is ultimately more selfish than competitors driven only by desire for lucre or personal aggrandizement. Almost all religious faiths bespeak this basic verity, most notably Buddhism in its doctrine of Karma. Personally I am a kind of weak-kneed Christian. I attend church consistently to discipline the habit of focusing for an hour a week on what is of ultimate value. Hopefully this commitment has at least a faint echo in my business actions during the week. Gandhi famously said we must embody the change we wish to see in the world. Oh, dear. I seem to be falling short.

Nevertheless, my belief is that generous giving, both of the spirit and of finances, is ultimately the most selfish of actions. My deepest hope for my company Corporate Rain International is that it institutionally embody the selfishness of deep kindness, unsentimental compassion, and communicated grace for all it touches. Including myself.

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Andre AgassiI am very wary of celebrity autobiographical tell-alls.  These tawdry tales are often filled with narcissistic self-pity or ironic condescension or self-congratulatory grandiosity clothed in ersatz humility.

Not so the new autobiography of Andre Agassi entitled “Open”.

One of my jobs when I was younger was tennis pro and I’ve continued to follow tennis over the years. Even before this remarkable autobiography, I admired the grace, artistry and passion of Andre Agassi.  I admired his calm, his court savvy, his fierce spirit.  Barbra Streisand called Agassi “the Zen Master”.  While I agree with Barbra Streisand about very little, I do agree with her about this.

Last Sunday (November 8, 2009), I was deeply touched by an excellent interview with Mr. Agassi conducted by Katie Couric on “60 Minutes”.  In addition to being a fine piece of broadcast journalism, it limned Agassi’s spiritual journey with a superb dramatic arc.  For me, it was compelling television.  But more than the skilled professionalism of the piece, what stood out for me was the authenticity of Andre Agassi.

The interview was hyped on the revelation that Agassi admits he used crystal meth for a year during his tennis career and lied about it to the powers that be.  However, this rather minor revelation of a young man’s sin, to me, was not what made the piece extraordinary.  What made the interview powerful was that without real guidance or education (Mr. Agassi never graduated high school), he willed himself to become a deeply and profoundly authentic person – a person he didn’t even know he was when he began his journey.  His pilgrimage from liar, fake and lost soul to authentic human wholeness struck me as particularly heroic in that it was largely internal, solitary and autodidactic.  A profoundly lonely but determined odyssey.  While direct and confessional, Mr. Agassi was clear-eyed and without self-pity.  Admirable.  Even astonishing — and even more astonishing for the fact that he chose his path from a place of unanchored anomie: ungrounded in faith or family.

So you may say “How can you know Andre Agassi is not just a big ol’ self-absorbed phony out hyping his book”?  Well, I guess I can only point to the judge, who, when asked to define pornography simply said “I may not be able to specifically define it, but I know it when I see it”.  Me too.  Which brings me, rather elliptically, to sales.

I’m a salesman and my company, Corporate Rain International, is a sales company that specializes in c-suite sales, mostly of services.  For me, the key to successful salesmanship is simply authenticity.  That soulful core is the pure essence of good salesmanship.  A good salesman is authentic.  He knows who he is.  He tells the unalloyed truth from a centered space and people respond.  I hope I am neither a naïf nor disingenuous when I state with absolute sincerity that authenticity is the key to selling.  But you have to be authentic before you can sell authentically.  Though not a salesman, Andre Agassi is a remarkable case study and example of achieved authenticity.

So thank you Andre Agassi for becoming yourself.  You are, as Barbra Streisand so aptly put it, “the Zen Master”. Bravo, Andre.

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