The Secret to Sales Isn’t What You Think

UPDATED: May 8, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 10, 2022
The Secret to Sales Isn’t What You Think

When we think about giving, we tend to think of it as a selfless act. Best-selling author and keynote speaker Bob Burg doesn’t see it that way. To him, people act in their own interest nearly all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously. However, Burg doesn’t say this to be cynical; he just wants people to understand giving is a full-circle act.

What does it mean to be a successful entrepreneur in the pandemic era? To Burg, it means what it’s always meant: providing extreme value to the marketplace. In the latest episode of Brilliant Thoughts with Tristan Ahumada, Burg talks about why the message in his best-selling book The Go-Giver resonates with so many people right now. 

Burg and co-author John David Mann first published The Go-Giver in 2007 and then an expanded version in 2015. They also co-authored three other books in the series: The Go-Giver Influencer, Go-Givers Sell More and The Go-Giver Leader. The series has remained a popular choice among readers in the business world, namely for its claim that the key to success lies in helping people get what they want and need. 

The pandemic is reshaping value. 

The Go-Giver isn’t just a happy parable about giving and receiving, though they do go hand-in-hand. The story begins with a young professional’s uncertainty and disappointment as success continues to elude him—a theme that seems particularly relevant during COVID-19. Ahumada asks Burg if people are reading it differently during the pandemic.

“I’m not sure if they’re reading it differently,” Burg saus. “But I think what they get out of it is… if I’m going to succeed in my business, then I need to find a way to bring value to others in ways I hadn’t thought of before.” 

Whether readers are understanding this work in a new context or they’re grasping it for the very first time, it’s clear that something’s changed. In the past two years, Burg has seen the biggest shift in his emails. His readers message him just to say they finally realized it’s not about them; it’s about giving to others.

Giving comes full circle. 

What does it mean for entrepreneurs to give value? At a basic level, it means offering something the client wants, needs and desires. 

Before trying to sell something, Burg says it’s critical to ask yourself three questions: 

  • Do customers need this? 
  • Do they want it? 
  • Can they afford it? 

If the answer to those questions is no, you’re not thinking about their best interests. Selling a customer a product or service that isn’t in their best interest is much harder than selling one that is. 

Motives shine through even the best sales performances, and if you’re in it for the money, customers sense that. That’s why Burg says you should “temporarily suspend your self-interest” before giving a presentation. In doing so, you’re able to hear concerns, objections and questions and respond to them without getting defensive. This heartfelt approach gives the most value to buyers, which results in more buyers giving you their business.

“By the time you ask for the order, you’re simply asking them to take action on something they’ve already told you they want to do,” explains Burg. “Mainly though, they know you’ve been listening, and they know that you have their well-being at heart. 

Even though giving first can yield huge rewards, Burg realizes it’s not something most salespeople do. Giving first is counterintuitive because it appears to conflict with self-interest. To get to the point where someone is willing to give first, they need to realize that it’s going to ultimately benefit them, too.

What is Bob Burg reading? 

When it comes to favorite routines, nothing means more to Burg than reading. The best-selling author reads every day, always in the morning and often at other times throughout the day. He says it gives him energy and gets that good wisdom into his head early. 

Burg is not a casual reader; he takes many, many notes. During his video interview, he lifts up a book, which appears to Ahumada to contain more than 1-00 sticky notes. He writes most of his notes directly on the pages as he reads, but this book is special. Burg says it’s a first edition of Peace, Power, and Plenty by Orison Swett Marden, the founder of SUCCESS magazine.  

Among the books that Burg writes in, he mentions Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and The Art of Living Consciously by Nathaniel Branden. He reads constantly because he loves what he does and wants to be constantly learning. He takes notes because he knows he’ll learn things he wants to remember.

Brilliant Thoughts with Tristan Ahumada is no longer releasing new episodes on the SUCCESS Podcast Network, but you can still listen to the full conversation below.

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Rae Fitzgerald

Rae Fitzgerald is a freelance writer, fly-fishing enthusiast and musician on the Austin, TX-label Keeled Scales. She received her BFA in Creative Writing from Truman State University.