Serve Don’t Sell

If you want to learn how to work on your business instead of in it; or want to make your company a place where your team members are passionate about their jobs, you won’t want to miss our next EntreLeadership Podcast. Debuting next Tuesday, I will be answering questions from you and other leaders.

From time to time, I also be answer questions on my blog, too. Today’s query is from Bill, who needs help with sales.

Bill: I feel the main thing I am lacking in running my business is sales. I’m not very confident in it yet, and in my business, I am selling to some of the toughest of leads–new car sales managers or general managers. Do you have any tips that could help me to get started?

The most important thing about sales is discovering the reason why someone would buy your product. We shop emotionally, but we buy intellectually.

In other words, don’t sell me anything. Instead, spend time doing four things:

  1. Qualify me
  2. Build rapport with me
  3. Educate me
  4. Close me

Start by making sure that I can actually make the call on the sale. And then, discover what I’m  missing and how your product will fill the need. Then, show me exactly how.

On top of that, passion sells. If you’re crazy passionate about your product, then I will be more likely to listen when you begin to ask me questions.

Don’t fall for all of the sales gimmicks of trying to get people to purchase. What you’ll eventually get is buyer’s remorse. SERVE the daylights out of your customer and they will buy.

Question: What tips do you have for a new salesperson?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

123 thoughts on “Serve Don’t Sell”

  1. So, I may be the only one in the world, but if I show up at your establishment, I’ve probably already decided I want to purchase whatever it is I’m looking at. I research and decide to buy before I ever get to the store.
    So with me, the most important thing a salesman does is build rapport. Are you friendly? Do I feel comfortable working with you? Do I feel like you respect me?
    If I’m comfortable with you, we’ll deal, if not, I’ll go somewhere else. Simple as that. Since I’ve pretty much sold myself on the item before I walked in, you’re basically selling me on you as a person and by extension, your company.

    1.  @Skropp I totally agree with you. I once worked for a major retailer in their tools area. It was in the late 90’s when the e-commerce was just taking off, but many people did their research on the tools, brands, prices and came to the store to make their purchase rather than online. Those were usually the easiest sales I made because it was all about the customer service and making a connection with the buyer. It is still true today in that many, in certain product categories, will research online then go into the store to make the purchase where they can hold/touch the item before the final purchase.

      1. @ChristianNick …in those cases your absolutely right, customer service is paramount! Sometimes I feel like I should argue or have objections just to make the salesman “work” for the sale a bit, haha

        1.  @Skropp  @ChristianNick Ha ha!  That reminds me of the commercial where the guy is standing in the showroom with 2 heads.  He is trying to act calm and collected with the salesman, and the second head is singing and carrying on about the car he wants to buy.  The guys says something like, “sorry, I’ve been researching online about this car.”  Great stuff.
          All kidding aside, research beforehand is a must.  Otherwise you’re counting on the salesperson’s point of view only.  Biased research is probably worse than no research, but a well-educated buyer is the most prepared.

        2. @skottydog @ChristianNick Great point Scott! I certainly try to be educated. It helps you recognize if you’re getting a good deal, and whether the salesman is feeding you a line of bull…

        3.  @lilykreitinger  @Skropp  @ChristianNick  Yeah, Lily!  Like, say, for an iPhone!  The more research I do, the more i want it.  However, when I research the price tag, it squashes the impulse buy!

        4.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger  @skottydog  @ChristianNick Love, love, love my iPhone.  It took a mere 6 months for me to get used to using it – now I couldn’t operate without it  

    2.  @Skropp  It sounds to me like the company qualified you through their marketing and providing you the information you need online to decide that you want to purchase from them…. right?  And not, you’re not the only one in the world who does that 😀

      1. @lilykreitinger Touché! You’re totally right. The selling steps didn’t change, the company just made it easier for their salesman by doing a great job qualifying and educating me! It definitely can rise or fall on the salesman building rapport though….

        1.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger When I worked at Best Buy (we all sin, don’t judge), there were tons of people who would do an enormous amount of research on products… the most interesting ones used Consumer Reports and took the magazine with them to the store. Only when they got to the store did they discover that the highest rated Consumer Report product was replaced– six months ago– by a newer model. Even people’s (misguided) research lets you serve them in a sale!

        2.  @Jonathan Henry  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger BAH!!!! Now that’s funny. And you’re right, it put them in a place where they don’t want to walk out the door now that they’ve gone to all the trouble. 

        3.  @Jonathan Henry  @Skropp  I have a funny Best Buy story.  My brother asked me to buy an iRig for him (thingy that connects his electric guitar to his iPad).  I asked the sales guy for it and he and I were both clueless.  I said I have no clue, but someone asked me to buy it.   He said, “Ma’am, do you know what your son is going to use it for? That would help me go to the right shelf to find it”  And then he found another associate to find it for us.   I had to laugh inside and felt like saying, my son is two years old, he would probably eat it.  This is for my brother.  I guess I must look that old… HAAA!!!

        4. @lilykreitinger @Jonathan Henry I’m not saying anything…but you did brig up that you’re almost old enough to be my mom…just an observation 😉

        5.  @Skropp  @lilykreitinger  @Jonathan  OK, I’m 39, so not quite old enough to be your mom. Let’s leave it at older sister… HA!  What cracked me up is that I didn’t say who I was buying for and he assumed it was my son.  It could’ve been my sister, or neighbor, or cousin.  He assumed it was a male and it had to be my son. He did not have a clue of what the product was. Poor sales skills, if you asked me.  I took it with humor, but someone could’ve been seriously offended by his approach.

        6. @lilykreitinger @Jonathan I didn’t THINK you were old enough to be my mom…I was just going with thevinfo I was given…haha. Great point about the service though

      1. @ChrisLoCurto Sell away brother. I already committed to buy your book…as long as its signed, and comes with a gum ball machine…hahaha

        1.  @Skropp  @ChrisLoCurto LOL re: gum ball machine! That’s hilarious. The infamous gum ball machine. I think when we get our ‘I’m with The Blog’ shirts done up, the gum ball machine needs to be the logo. 😉

    3.  @Skropp I’m with you man. I usually know exactly what I want before I go in to the store. The best thing a salesperson can do is build relationship, make me feel comfortable, and maybe add some extra info to what I already have. 

  2. I started writing a comment and it was so long, it just became a blog post. Ha!  So you can read it at     The light bulb went off because I used to think that I hate sales and I’m not good at it.  It turns out that I am.  I worked at a jewelry store three years ago and I loved it!   We raise poultry, so I sell fresh eggs at work and I like it too!   The secret for a high S/C person like me is to think of the way you can serve, make people happier, healthier or have better lives and you don’t have to be pushy at all!   There is no conflict and you will be OK if they walk away. 

    1.  @lilykreitinger Lily, I was just thinking the same thing, but decided to go with the rediculously long comment instead!  Meanwhile, I have not posted on my blog all week!  Should have done the same thing!

        1. @lilykreitinger I post on here more than on my blog too…but you guys’ awesome comments get my brain working and that leads to better posts!

        2.  @lilykreitinger @Skropp I mentioned to Chris last week that “a sign of kick butt blog is when people spend more time on yours than their own!”  Even when he’s on vacation!

    2.  @lilykreitinger I really like this LIly. We’re made to work in unique ways. If we learn how we’re designed to be, and ‘sell’ in congruence with that….great things can happen. 

    3.  @lilykreitinger Lily – if you believe in your product – or what you have to sell – and you believe it will benefit the potential client – it is a no-brainer!  You want them to benefit and you are thinking – wow, they are really going to miss out if they don’t buy this!  

    Whenever I see the topic of sales on here, I sort shy away.  After all, I’m an MRI technologist.  I don’t sell anything, right?  Well, as many of you have said before (and on last week’s podcast as well), we ALL sell SOMETHING.
    So I thought of the four steps listed here and thought it was interesting how it applies to interacting with an MRI patient.  
    1.”Qualify me”…Do you have insurance?   Do you have a doctor’s order for the exam?  The prescription says “right shoulder MRI”.  Is that the one that hurts?
    Do you have any metal implanted in your body?  Pacemaker, aneurysm clips, etc?
    Okay, let’s get you on the table for your scan!  (You qualify for the sale!)
    2.”Build rapport with me”…MRI patients are FREQUENTLY anxious about the scan.  Either from having never had one before, being intimidated by it’s size, being strapped to a table, or finding out the hard way that they are claustrophobic.   But if they are apprehensive about the MRI exam, and they feel rushed by the technologist, you’ll be sure not to see them again…if they even stay to have the exam at all!
    Good MRI technologists are separated from bad MRI technologists by the same factor as any good sale…communication.   A simple, “This next scan is just three minutes.  You’re doing a great job holding still.  We only have about 10 minutes left.” trumps a tech that doesn’t talk to the patient for 30 minutes. 
    3. “Educate me”…Explaining the procedure to the patient BEFORE the scan alleviates fears.  They need to understand why there are in a tube to start with, why they can’t have any metal on, in, or near them, what all that banging noise is about, and why it takes so stinking long to get the great images that we do!  The more time we take BEFORE scanning the patient, the less time to takes WHILE scanning the patient.  In the long run, it cost both the technologist and the patient additional time when they are rushed into “the magnet”. 
    4.”Close me”…An act so simple as walking the patient back to the waiting room after the exam has ended makes them feel like you REALLY care about them.  Don’t laugh about that one.  It’s NOT common practice!  Commonly, the tech takes the sheet off the table as the patient is getting up, sets up a new sheet for the next patient, and mutters “Your doctor will get the report in 2-3 days.”, as they hold the door open for you to leave.   That just plain sucks.  
    Taking the extra minute it takes to “close” ensures that the patients will speak highly of the facility, the exam experience, and the technologist.  After all, Healthcare is a business, too.  A very competitive one, at that!  Positive feedback from our patients is what keeps our doors open!
    (By the way, I’ve been typing all this while my patient is being scanned.  I should probably check on him.   Ha-ha.  Just kidding.  Day off.)

      1.  @lilykreitinger I would never.  I have the day off.  And just for the record, I have been told in the past that I spend too much time talking to the patients.   I don’t work there anymore because they went out of business.  Strange, huh?

      1.  @Skropp  @skottydog We almost always get positive feedback in our department.  One of the MRI techs goes so far as to hold the patient’s hand the entire time, if they are scared.  

        1. @skottydog @Aaron Nelson That’s funny, cuz I almost started my initial comment by saying “I’m not a salesman, but…” then I thought of the podcast and decided I didn’t want to be attacked for saying I didn’t sell, haha

        2. W @skottydog  @Aaron Nelson We’re all sellers, marketers, logisticians, psychologists, strategic planners, tacticians and so on.  It’s quite amazing when you think about it!

  4. Well I’m taking these all in because I am trying to become a better salesperson. But here are a few things I have picked up that have helped:
    1. Never give up. Yesterday I followed up with a major prospect that had once been our customer, but who had to pause for a season. That was almost a year ago. Throughout that year of no business, we sent them our free weekly newsletter which provides practical help and ideas to work on their English skills on their own. Every month or so, I also sent short e-mails to just say ‘Hi, how are ya?’ (Often no response). Yesterday, I reached out again. Guess what? I have a meeting with them next Tuesday to start on a project proposal we sent them in 2011. Never Give up. See: and
    2. Focus on relationship, not money. I hate how it feels when salespeople just hit me with their product with no relationship. Feels yucky. 
    Thanks for the great post. “Listening!” 🙂

    1. @Aaron Nelson I love the never give up suggestion…especially coupled with your second one. Because a salesman who never gives up and is only focused on the sale is ANNOYING and I will leave faster than Chris in a Formula race!

      1.  @Skropp  @Aaron Me too man. Interesting and cool: do you know what my contact said to me yesterday -first line of their email: ‘Thanks for remembering me…’  

        1.  @Aaron Nelson  @Skropp  @Aaron That tells you right there in the email line that you are doing the right thing for your customers.  That’s awesome!

        1.  @Skropp  @JoelFortner I’ve seriously missed interacting with you all.  I’m trying to get a new daily rhythm down.  My new Air Force gig and marketing coaching biz have me slammed!  But it’s all great stuff and I love it!

        2.  @Skropp  @JoelFortner Thanks man! I’m trying. Had a great vidchat today with an ecommerce biz.  I was doing a free marketing audit with them. It was a blast!  I also quietly launched a new marketing blog recently. I’ll start promoting it soon. I’m excited about it.

        3.  @JoelFortner  Missed you Joel – but I’m just back myself – I’ve had a huge national program I have been working on – creating the curriculum and designation for “Military Mortgage Specialist™” for our company.  And it has taken longer and more energy than I ever thought.  As you said – trying to get into a new rhythm.

    2.  @Aaron Nelson Just keep persevering  keep on keeping on.  Many people it will take seven tries before they respond.  We tend to give up after the 1st or 2nd try.

  5. The lovey “sales” quotes that I have ever heard comes from two people. These are the two that I always keep in my mind.
    1. Simon Sinek said,
    “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have (the what). The goal is to do business with the people who believe what you believe (the why).”

    This made a HUGE impact on how I sale, construct sales pages, messages, even sermons (I am a minister–teacher/leadership developer), and even write songs (I am a Christian Hip-Hop artist who goes by ReAsOn DiSciPLe). I do everything from what I believe and experience as the purpose from why I do it. I try to only sale to those who are passionate about what I am. It makes the “sale” SOOOOO much easier!
    2. Zig Ziglar said,
    “Help enough people get what you want and in turn you they will help you get what you want.” I don’t think that’s how it was actually said, but you get the point.
    I make more sales from just helping people in whatever they want when I don’t ask them to buy. I was testing a new ebook store and I didn’t do the presets and setting and when I uploaded the e-Book it sent a tweet and a link to Facebook. The book doesn’t go on sale for another two months. And several people bought the book from that link. I didn’t even have the PayPal account even set up yet. So I didn’t even have a place for the money to come.
    But I hope you get the point. I actually spent a whole year giving out before I even asked for anything. This was not the original strategy, I just sought to help and equips others in ministry by sharing things I learn and practiced from the Bible. And the rest as you say is history!

      1.  @Aaron Nelson That is a classic statement that Simon gave. I tend to almost keep that in the forefront of my mind, almost as a backup mission statement/goal behind my own mission statement goal when it comes to sales, marketing, and even evangelism. That’s good stuff. I watch that video over and over and over and over again, picking up something new every time I see it or hear it on my mp3 player.

      2.  @Aaron Nelson  @RicardoEquips Here’s the thing about this.  First off, I love Sinek and love this quote.  But using your Why as your marketing pitch can backfire huge and come across as totally corny if you’re not careful.  Rather you allow your Why to just shine through in your words and actions. Once you’ve built trust and rapport, I believe you can then be more overt about expressing your Why.  Hope that makes sense.

        1.  @JoelFortner Well, yea! I totally get that. I mean more of using your why more as a passion. It’s sort of like the same thing with the whole tribe building that Mike Hyatt was talking about. Or the tribe that Mike mentioned that Dave Ramsey. Also the same as us here gathering here on this blog.. It’s all basically on share passion. Even Jesus did this in John chapter 6. Many of his disciple walked back with Him no more because they couldn’t wrap their mind and hearts around what He was teaching with the whole drink my blood and eat my flesh thing. Peter was like, ‘Where shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal life!” It’s around what they believed. The Pharisees didn’t like Jesus. They were disciples of Moses. Jesus told them they seat in Moses’ thrown. So they kind of lost out at being followers of Christ and part of His tribe. The only people that really bought into Christ’s cause in the end was the 120 in the Upper Room in Acts 1. They were his hardcore “customers” figuratively.

        2.  @JoelFortner  @Aaron Nelson  @RicardoEquips You can look at Apple and iPhone and understand it completely.  You know their “why” – and love it.  

        3.  @LouiseThaxton  @Aaron Nelson  @RicardoEquips Ya know I never got Apple’s Why until I was told what their Why is. It then made sense. Only then though did I realize their challenging of the status quo (“Think different”) is what shined through and spoke to me as someone who tends to challenge the status quo. The lesson is you don’t have to be overt about it but you have to be intentional about you make it come to life in EVERYTHING you do.

        4.  @JoelFortner  @LouiseThaxton  @Aaron Nelson Exactly Joel! I never got it until I got this MacBook Pro from Full Sail University, where I attend for music business. I fell in love with apple. Now all of us (my wife and 2 of my 4 kids) have apple products of some sort.

    1.  @RicardoEquips One of the great books”Start with Why” – I love it!  And interesting that he says it is not “psychology” – it is BIOLOGY – and talks about the brain!  

        1.  @JoelFortner Nice! I was in the US Army back in 1998 to 2001. I got out THREE WEEKS before 9/11. I got out Sept 16th, 2001. I had moved from a based near New Orleans called Fort Polk to Tallahassee, FL. Now I am back home here in Orlando, FL.

        2.  @LouiseThaxton Are you serious! Cut it out! lol! That’s the base I was on! I know Leesville very well. lol! I got a Ticket for speeding out trying to get back to the base, get this …. after trying to pay off another speeding ticket. lol! My Sgt was not happy with that. lol! I was so young back then. I was about 19 to 22 then. I’m 33 to be 34 on 12/12/12.

        3.  @JoelFortner I was just a Military Police officer at first and then said, “This is tough.” And when into my natural trade, chef/cook. I’ve been in the kitchen since I was 16. I come from a family of cooks are music folks. Now I am at Full Sail University taking up music business here in my home city Orlando. I live here and I am an online students. The teachers look at me like I’m weird like, “Why don’t you just sign up for the campus?” I tell them I got a wife, 4 kids, I pastor a church, I am a equal partner and on the board for a local Christian record label (as well as a hip-hop artist/producer, tour/event planner, promoter) blogger of 5 blogs, I have a ministry leadership developer over my church and my other ministry, I write e-Books on hip-hop ministry (9 right now on Amazon) and the list goes on. Then the teachers are like, “I need to figure out how to manage my time like you.” I say it’s easy, prioritize RELATIONSHIP, make a to do list, get things on the calendar, and keep something like a pad or whatever to write down all you thoughts, plus pray to God to keep you sane! lol!

        4.  @JoelFortner Joel sometimes I don’t know how I do it. I’m not tired or stressed out. I have the peace of God that passes all understanding. I’m always reading books on my Kindle or the Word of God. Plus I still have a day job. I’m a cook by trade!

      1.  @uma_maheswaran Welcome! I’m sort of like John Maxwell Jr. I actually during certain times of the day think of my own Twitter quotes! lol! It’s part of my critical thinking time. I keep a pad just for that. I actually bought two books full of quotes. It challenged me to (as the Bible says), “Let’ you words be few.” So I try to also write shorter when I teach, preach, blog, or when I write e-Books. Plus emails. Some of the women on my team hate when I talk short. The think I don’t want to talk when I do that. They are talkers and they expect me to talk long as much as they do. I’ve been trying to train my self to be quiet more because I will talk for days if you let me. lol!

  6. People want to buy and have to buy.  But they do not want to be SOLD. As I told one of my sales professionals upon hearing her asking for someone’s business – “People do not give you business because you want it or need it -they give you business because they want and need what you are offering – and they think you would be the best resource”  

    1.  @LouiseThaxton Precisely! As Chris said, buying is greatly emotional.  Selling is greatly logical.  When you sell by serving, you get more of an emotional match which is when trust and rapport is built.

  7. In my business – mortgage home loans- the four points definitely work.
    #1 Qualify me – the first thing someone wants to know before they begin to look for a home is “Am I qualified?”  We have to do a good job on that to win their trust.  
    #2 – Build rapport with me – this happens in the qualification process.  It is here that someone can “shop” the rates and closing costs, etc.  It is about the relationship you build in these first few calls – and how you handle any challenges, etc.
    #3 -Educate me – Mortgages are a little tougher now.  So, the education process is a little deeper and a little more detailed.  But I find the more I educate the borrower on the process, the challenges we could encounter, the do’s and don’ts while the process is happening, the easier it is.
    #4 – Close me – Bottom line, they may love me to death and want to be my best friend.  But if I can’t close the sale and put them in a home, then what’s the point?
    Great 4 points – and it works in my business! 

  8. i have at least one publisher (website), but they don’t have enough page views to draw advertisers. i need a way to have ads to serve until we aggregate enough traffic to sell space to big advertisers.

  9. by burger, do you mean flattened cow served with microwaved bread buns topped with lettuce and other green things that would make a billy goat puke, all these which can be found a riff raff lower class restaurant or ‘maccy ds’? i think not dear 3rd cousin Lady Felicity Pamper McFud

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