Three Sales Lessons I Learned From My Father – by Chris Snell

My wife, son, and I packed ourselves up this past Black Friday for our annual trip up to Maine to visit my Father.  We planned on having another Thanksgiving dinner with my Maine family on Saturday.  The trip was really nice and it was good to see all of our relatives from “Vacationland.”  What I didn’t expect was to pick up a few sales reminders from my old man.  You see, my “Pop” (as I call him), has been a lifelong sales-guy, selling anything from garage-doors in the 60’s before he left for Vietnam, to hardware when he came back, to radio ads in the 80’s, and commercial spots on TV now.  Through our Friday night dinner conversation at the local Applebee’s (the ONLY chain restaurant for miles in his town), to a very early morning conversation over freshly ground coffee, we talked a lot of shop, and, I’d like to share that with you.

The first thing I picked up from Pop was that when talking with your prospects, you’ve got to remember to pay more attention to what they want, rather than what you want them to buy.  It’s all well and good to have a plan of attack (which we all should), but nobody likes to be told what to do.  If we spend those precious few moments we have with a prospect telling them what we want them to need, we’re blowing the opportunity altogether.  Pop says that “selling is the process of reducing the buyer’s risk,” and we start doing that by giving them our undivided attention.  Pop understands that an attentive salesperson is going to be a successful one

Pop also reminded me that doing right by customers will pay off in the future.  He shared with me a story of a prospect who was interested in running some commercials at the local NBC affiliate, but was a little wary of what business they’d really receive from the few commercials they could afford.  Pop offered them an exclusive giveaway that could only be picked up from their store.  With the potential customer still a little shaky, my Father told the business owner to call a customer who had the exclusive last year.  The owner took him up on the offer, and once he was off of the phone, he was thrilled with the terms my Father had come up with for him.  By treating people right with the past season’s offer, my Pop ensured that he had a reference for a lifetime, and will likely do so with this season’s exclusive.

The last takeaway I had from the holiday weekend was just an amalgamation of a bunch of other conversations, but it boiled down this:  If you’re really going to help people through your product offerings, you’d better understand what it is you’re selling.  Knowing “just enough” isn’t good enough.  If you’re going to pay attention to what a buyer wants, you’re going to do that more confidently, if you don’t have to think twice about your product.  If you spend the bulk of the time with your prospect trying to overcome all of their objections because you’re afraid they’re not going to buy from you, you’re wasting everyone’s time.  Want future referrals?  They don’t come by trying to pull one over on someone so that you can hit your number.  However, if you have a confident conversation with them about what they need and come to a determination together that your service/solution can help, now you’re really cooking.  With knowledge comes confidence, and confidence allows you to put yourself aside during a sales conversation and really focus on the buyer.  Focusing on the buyer and offering them exactly what they need, ensures that you’ll have referrals for years to come.

Here’s hoping that your holiday was as useful as mine!  Before you go, though, what do you think?  Was Pop right?


Originally coming from a social work background, Chris Snell has been building inside sales teams since 2002.  Chris is currently the Inside Sales Manager for, where families go to find care-related help for their loved ones.  He lives in Southeastern Massachusetts with his wife and son, and you can connect with Chris on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.