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Posted: November 17, 2011

The one-sentence sales theory

Half of selling is showing, the rest is....

David Sneed

When I left the Marines in late 1991, I had no job and no prospects. No one was looking for a guy like me. I needed a less dangerous skill set, and fast.

My inexperience forced me behind the counter at a men's clothing store, and, although the job wasn't how I pictured my life unfolding, I was lucky; it gave me a chance to pick up a talent that other people have to pay to learn.

The Jordanian store manager was an expert at selling clothes. When a customer came in for a new shirt, Mazin made sure he left with a tie as well. It never failed. And if it wasn't a tie it was a sport coat, or slacks. Good salesmen have good teachers, and Mazin was mine.

His technique wasn't high-pressure or devious. Instead, Mazin would smile as he walked over with "...this tie that matches that shirt puur-fectly." After working there for a couple of weeks I developed my sales theory based on his simple technique:

 Half of selling is showing - the rest is enthusiasm.

I didn't learn much about life while selling clothes, but I did learn something about sales: People buy what they see. Every salesman would do well to stop telling his customers, and start showing them.

I smile now when I remember Mazin's cheery accent saying: "You know what would look great with those slacks?"

Nowadays, when I'm dragged to the mall, I cringe. Not from driving on Wadsworth on a Saturday or finding a parking space (we're in a recession, why isn't there any parking?), but because I have to deal with teen-age clerks. Sometimes it seems like they took Discouraging Sales 101. Retail isn't a great job, I get that, but I worry that the kids aren't learning anything.

What they don't know yet is that life is all about sales.

I recommend that every person who works at any job read a book about sales as soon as possible. Once you learn to sell, you'll realize how important it is. If you want a promotion - you have to sell. If you want a bigger office - you have to sell. If you want a home-cooked meal - you have to sell.
Even the President of the United States has to do it. Every day, Mr. Obama has to sell himself if he wants support for his budget plan, or if he wants votes in November.

There are very few interactions where one party isn't selling to another, and if you want to sell yourself or your idea you really should know how to do it.

Here's a suggestion: How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger. You can get a copy from for less than a dollar. That one dollar purchase might be the best investment you ever make.

If you don't make it to a bookstore, at least remember the lesson I learned: Half of selling is showing, the rest is enthusiasm.

What's your one-sentence sales theory?
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David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

Good Points Debra. Nice trumps knowledge everytime By David Sneed on 2011 12 05
David, Thanks for a great article! Colorado's former real estate leader, Moore Real Estate utilized my favorite sales one liner... "No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!" All prospects want to know that the sales person understands them and their needs and really cares about them getting the right product or service for their needs. As the former franchise director for Better Back Stores, we joked in training that the first things you needed to learn were... "We see a lot of that condition here." and "That must be painful" And, while we found levity in these two lines... it was true on some level. People want to know you care about them and their needs. Most would rather buy from a nice person who cares, than from a PhD who knows it all! By Debra Rodriguez on 2011 12 05
Thanks Hope Marie. Remember, Everyone Has A Boss By David Sneed on 2011 12 01
This is a great reminder to all that, no matter what your title is, you are in sales. Even within your organization. Thank you, David, for prompting us "old dogs" to remember how important it is to become better at what we do. By Hope Marie on 2011 11 30
Loved this article. Everyone is in sales and knowing even the basics give people an advantage. Liz By liz wendling on 2011 11 28
Thanks, Julie, but this wasn't an article about your book, or even mine. It was a message to those who aren't yet great salespeople but depend on sales for a living. I thought I'd share something that I had learned once on the off chance it may help that one person become better at what they do (and increase their own well-being because of it.) I contrasted 'telling' a client with 'showing' a client -- not 'showing with reverence' as you probably talk about in your - probably a great read - book. By David Sneed on 2011 11 19
Great article, David. There is a real art to "showing" a product, which I'm guessing your boss was a master at. I compare it to using a prop on stage in my book, ACT Like a Sales Pro. If you don't handle it with the proper reverence or use a little drama in the displaying of it, it loses it's significance. Even stronger than showing is trying. I was determined not to purchase a skin care product from a direct seller but after she left it with me for a few days I was an easy convert! Great reminder. By Julie Hansen on 2011 11 18

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