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We are all selling something. Whether it’s an idea to an investor, a change to our employees, a product or service to a prospect or getting your kid to eat his broccoli. Variations of these sales jobs have been going on around the globe for thousands of years in homes, marketplaces, ships and seashores. In all these cases, the goal is to close the deal. Closing the deal means getting people to do your will (follow, change, buy your product) because of your personal influence. You can see from this that whether your role is to serve as a leader or salesperson, your goal is the same: to influence!

From this perspective, I’d say that sales is the oldest profession even ahead of prostitution. Being that old, there must be some secrets to sales success that have been discovered over the millennia of recorded history that we can apply today.

In fact there are two secrets that have proven successful time and time again. One is over 2,000 years old and the other is 3,500 years old. The combination of the two can be a powerful formula to having influence and getting people to willingly follow. In this post, I’ll share with you the first secret.

The 2,000-year-old sales secret

This secret comes from the person who I look to as the greatest leader to ever walk the face of the earth Jesus. You might be attributing this assertion to my personal faith, but I’d submit that whether or not we share the same belief in who Jesus was and is, you can’t really deny that he has influenced billions throughout history.

In the case of your “sales job,” it can be a little tempting to resort to a power play when things are not going as smoothly as you would like. The words (especially for parents), “Do it because I say so,” can easily flow out of our mouths.

Yet Jesus accomplished his influence without using power because he didn’t have any power. Our 2,000 year old secret isn’t based on power. It is built on authority and as James Hunter in The Servant says, “Authority is always built on service and sacrifice.”

When we peel back these concepts of service and sacrifice, we see the underlying characteristics of humility, love, transparency and vulnerability. This gets us to the first part of the secret which is how we show up in a selling or leadership situation, rather than what we do when we get there. It is ultimately our honesty, humility and selflessness that will endear us to others and allow them to trust and depend on us. Patrick Lencioni calls this “getting naked.”

The second part of the secret that I’ll share with you in my next post is easy compared to the hard work of this first one. When working with a client or reflecting on this myself, here are a few questions that I use and to help get you started:

  • Who in your life has led you with influence and authority? What characteristics did they display in doing so?
  • What would it look like if you show up for the sales process with humility, love, transparency and vulnerability? What fears go along with doing that?
Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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