Getting Out of the Way.

Over the years, as I've done training workshops for hundreds of groups of media sellers, I often make allusions to what I learned at the very first job where I ever had to really sell anything. At age 19 I sold Cutco knives, pretty much door to door. To many this might seem an odd and quaint path into 21st century media sales, but there is one primary lesson from that experience that comes back to me constantly, 33 years later.

For those unfamiliar with the spectacle of a Cutco sales call, it is extremely heavy on demos. (Those of you with structured PowerPoints and flash demos, take note.) Pennies are cut in half by shears, steak knives slide through leather as thick as a belt and soft bread is elegantly sliced flat-wise into so many paper thin sheets. Over time you got pretty good at the demos, very slick and deft. But a lot of times you didn't sell so much.

So here comes the bit of timeless sales advice. I got it from a manager whose name I've long forgotten. "You want to sell? Then let the customer do some of the demos. Let them cut something. They're ten times more likely to buy something from you if they feel like it's their sales call too."


So here we are in 2010 and all digital and clever and as salespeople we're still getting in the way. Instead of running open, inclusive meetings and allowing customers to project and visualize their own brands within our customer experiences, we're still focusing on what we have to say. We're sucking up all the oxygen and doing all the cutting. Inherently, great sales is a collaborative art. A little less you and a lot more them can make a hell of a difference.

But hey, I guess I'm just a guy who sells knives.