The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Selling Anything

I’ve never read a book on sales. They seemed corny. Like many people, I always looked down on the concept of “selling.” It seemed like something lower than me.

To some extent, selling appears manipulative. You have a product where you give the perception it has more value than it has in reality. So you need to manipulate people to buy it. This seems sad, as in “Death of a Salesman” sort of sad.

I was a salesman snob.

I was wrong. And for the past 25 years all I have been doing is selling. Selling products, selling services, selling businesses, selling myself.

So here are the rules of this cheat sheet: None of this comes from a book. All of this is from my own experience. Which means it might not work for you. Which means it might go counter to the basic rules of salesmanship. I have no idea.

But I can say that over the past 25 years I’ve sold hundreds of millions of dollars of stuff. That stuff being everything in Pandora’s box that I had to sell just to stay alive. When I think what worked for me, here’s what I come up with:

A) Friendship

Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend.

One time when I was raising money for something, the buyer was going through a business catastrophe and was worried he would go out of business. I didn’t like him but I called him every day for three months at the same time to see if he “wanted to talk” and to offer my advice on how he should deal with his situation.

I eventually raised a lot of money from him even though the first time I met him he was honest with me and said, “it seems like you don’t know your industry very well.”

Which just goes to show: friendship outweighs almost every other factor in selling.

Unfortunately, our mutual dislike came between us. And eventually, I lost the business. The only good outcomes come when both sides like each other.

Now I only do business with people I like.

B) Saying No

If someone wants to do a big deal with you it’s hard to say “no.” But No is valuable for many reasons:

Opportunity cost. Instead of pursuing something you really don’t want to do, you could free up time and energy to find something more lucrative or something you would enjoy more.

Supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of you (through “No”) then the demand for you goes up and you make more money (and have more fun).

You’ll hate yourself. I see this every day, particularly in my own life. The reason I can write about this is not because I’m an expert. But because when I say “yes” to something I don’t want to do, I end up hating myself, hating the person I said “yes” to, doing a bad job, and disappointing everyone. I try try try not to do it anymore.

C) Over-Deliver

If someone pays $100 and you give them just $100 in value then you just failed. F.A.I.L.E.D.

You’ll never sell to that person again. That’s fine in some situations, but in most situations it’s no good. If someone pays $100, you need to give them $110 worth of value.

Think of that extra $10 as going into some sort of karmic bank account that pays interest (as opposed to a U.S. bank account). That money grows and compounds. Eventually, there’s real wealth there. And that wealth translates into wealth in the real world. Give and you will receive.

D) Never Take “No” For An Answer

This statement, which everyone knows, is usually applied incorrectly.

People think it means, keep pushing and trying new things until you get a “yes.” That’s not what it means. If you do that, you end up dead to the person you are trying to sell to.

Instead, remember point A. Be a friend. However flimsy that connection of friendship is. Follow on Twitter, follow on Facebook. Say nice things about the person to other people. Never gossip.

Who knows? You plant a seed and eventually the garden blooms.

E) Under-price (when it’s your passion so it’s easier to over-deliver)

I once wanted to do the website for Fine Line Films. I loved their movies. I met the guy running their site. He kept saying over and over again, “we can’t afford a lot” and I kept saying, “don’t worry about it” and would show him more and more of our work.

Eventually we did the websites for every one of their movies. $1,000 per website. We made amazing websites for $1,000. Then, when Con Edison wanted to hire us, Nevin at Fine Line was a reference. Price for coned.com (a basic four-page website): $250,000. And that was the first of five websites we did for them plus monthly maintenance.

F) Be The Source

One time I wanted to buy a company. At the critical moment, the owner called me and said, “what should I do? I have this other offer and I have your offer.” He described the other offer to me. I told him to take it.

I missed out on what could have been a lot of money to me. But there was a slight chance we would have all gone bust. Now he is thriving and eight years later he is a friend.

Often the best way to make friends and customers for life is to direct them to a better service or product than yours.

Be the source of valuable information rather than the source of your “product-of-the-day.” Then they will know forever that you are a trusted source.

G) Sell Everything

Your offering is not your product. Your offering is product, services, your employees, your experiences, your ideas, your other customers, and even (as mentioned above) your competitors. Sell them all.

When you are good at what you do, the product or service you offer is just the way people build the first link to you. It’s the top of a huge pyramid.

But the base of the pyramid, the real service, is when they have access to you and you can provide advice and the full power of your network and experience.

H) Sell The Dream

People can see what your product is right now. What they want to know is…the future. Will your product make them more money? Will it get them a promotion? Maybe even: will YOU hire them if they buy your product.

Everything is possible. When you get in the door, do not sell your product. People make a decision on your product in five seconds. Sell the dream. The dream has up to infinity in value. Build up images of the dream. Give a taste of what the dream is like. Let the imagination of the buyer take hold and run with it.

But then, you might ask, do I risk under-delivering?

Answer: Yes. Don’t do that. Be as good as the dream.

I) Fire Customers

If it’s not going well or if it’s leaving a bad taste somewhere inside of you, fire your customer. The sooner the better.

A bad customer (a bad person) spreads like a disease inside you, your employees, your other customers, your competitors, your future customers, your family, etc.

“But what if it’s my biggest customer? How do I pay the bills?”

I don’t know. Figure it out. You have to or you will die.

When I tell people to build their “idea muscle” (by writing down 10 ideas, good or bad, every day) it’s not so they can come up with great business ideas (although they might).

It’s so they can come up with ideas in situations like this. This is where being an idea machine saves your life and saves everything around you.

J) Welcome To The Pleasure Dome

Your best new customers are your old customers. If you need to make more money or build a new business then go to your customers (who are now your friends) and ask them, “I need advice. What other service can I provide you or anyone you know.”

We spend years building a garden. We plant the seeds. We tend the soil. We water the plants.

But we are also the sun. The sun shines no matter what. It doesn’t care which flower blossoms. The sun is always there providing value every second of the day.

Be the sun and you will become abundance.

I don’t know the buzzwords to make a sale. I’m not very good at shaking hands. I don’t take people out to baseball games or do any of the things I see other people do.

But I’ve been selling for 25 years. And whenever I’ve been dead broke, depressed, and suicidal, I’ve picked myself up and sold again and again.

I am a salesman.

[Editor’s note: James is the host of the #1 business podcast, The James Altucher Show. In the incredible first episode, James interviews a man that essentially reinvented the book-publishing industry. After writing a book and receiving hundreds of rejection notices, this man changed the rules and has since sold nearly 3 million copies of his book and he’s also made a lot of money. You don’t want to miss what he had to say. The easiest way to listen is to subscribe to his podcast through iTunes. Click here to listen.]
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