Wombat Book --- NewSell
by Dr. Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

This html-coded online version of the Wombat Final 15/5/06 9:12 AM -- wombatbook.pdf, was prepared by Darlene Sartore with some additions, clarifications, minor adaptations and color texting. This version is for use only by course presenters certified by An Ever Better World Internet Academy. Permission granted from author on March 5, 2007.

Chapter 4 -- Customers DETEST OldSell
Why do customers detest oldsell and
why has oldsell produced such poor results –
making a joke out of the selling profession into the bargain?

Pdf pages 53 - 65

‘Did you close the sale?’
– Sales Manager to Salesperson

Doctor of Selling?

In 1981, I was awarded the world’s first PhD in Lateral Thinking. The degree, Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science from the California State Department of Education, was for using lateral thinking to propose a new theory of selling. My tutor was the ‘father of lateral thinking’, Professor Edward de Bono, Director of the Cognitive Research Trust (CoRT) at Cambridge University in the UK. At the commencement of the project Professor de Bono wrote, ‘Your application of the principles and attitudes of lateral thinking to selling in your NewSell approach is, to me, an interesting and powerful approach to an important area. What particularly interests me is your proposal to test theoretical constructs in a very practical manner in your field work.’

My external examiner was Professor George Gallup of the Gallup Poll at Princeton. He was the marketing giant who invented market research. On the successful completion of the newsell project (which ended up involving 40,000 employees at 24 New York City hospitals) Professor Gallup wrote, ‘Newsell is the first new strategy for selling in 50 years! You have presented a new approach to a very old subject with proof that your ideas do work. I find some parallels in your thoughts about selling and my own views on how advertising works.’

To develop a new theory of selling, the first thing I had to do was to find out what the current or traditional theory of selling or salesmanship was all about. I had to look at the definitions of selling provided by various experts and the general view of selling that prevailed in the marketplace.

Definitions of Selling

Here were some experts’ definitions of selling:

1. Selling is the process of determining the needs and wants of a prospective buyer and of presenting a product, service, or idea in such a way that a buyer is motivated to make a favourable buying decision. (John W. Ernest and Richard Ashmun, Selling Principles and Practices (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), p. 3).

2. Selling is the process of persuading or aiding the prospect in the purchasing of a product or service. (Gary Miller and C. Winston Borgen, Professional Selling Inside and Out (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1979), p. 12).

3. Salesmanship . . . the art of persuading another person to do something when you do not have, or do not care to exert, the direct power to force the person to do it. (Fred A. Russell, Frank H. Beach, and Richard H. Buskirk, Textbook of Salesmanship, 10th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), p. 9).

4. Selling is the personal or impersonal process of assisting and/or persuading a prospective customer to buy a commodity or service, or to act favourably upon an idea that has commercial significance to the seller (The American Marketing Association, Definitions of Terms (Chicago, 1961), p. 7).

5. Salesmanship is defined as the process by which the salesman provides a buyer with maximum satisfaction by determining the buyer’s needs for products or services and by persuading the buyer to purchase specific goods to fulfill these needs. Underlying this definition are two key elements: one, the buyer’s need, and two, persuasion (N. Hampton and H. Zabin, College Salesmanship (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), p. 6).

6. Professional salesmanship . . . may be defined as the process of analysing a buyer’s need for a product or service, recommending the product or service that best satisfies the need, and persuading the buyer that the price is fair, the source of supply is satisfactory and now is the time to buy. (B.R. Canfield, Salesmanship: Practices and Problems (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), p. 6).

7. The selling process. The first step is to locate those who are, or should be most interested in what you have to offer (Leon Epstein, Where Do You Go From No: Selling Simplified (New York: Sales Research Institute, 1951), p. 5).

Customers’ Opinions on Selling

In addition to the definitions of the experts, it was necessary to get the opinions of ‘the person in the street’: the customer. Since it’s the individual members of the marketplace who are the target of our selling activities, their opinions provide a reflection of the current state of the art. Over a three-year period, different individuals and groups of individuals were asked to write down, in their own words, their opinion of the definition of selling or salesmanship. Among those given this proposal were sales managers, sales professionals, students, executives, technicians, interior designers, architects, artists, housewives, doctors, and others. The examples given here are typical of the responses:

1. Selling, according to my definition, implies the ability to convey all the necessary information in order to ‘close the sale’. Through the use of total communication the salesman uses his techniques in order to persuade the customer to purchase his product, etc.

2. Selling – to give information about something which another might be interested in, actually ‘closing a sale’, collecting compensation for something which is going to another person.

3. Selling is persuading others to accept or purchase your product or service (or ideas).

4. Selling is getting people to buy (hopefully by ethical methods).

5. Selling is receiving money from someone for something they need that you have.

6. Selling has two meanings: (a) a specialised one – a retailer of goods, products; and (b) a generalized one – an individual who sells a concept.

7. Salesmanship is giving people what they want at the price they are willing to pay.

8. Selling – when you would like someone to try your product.

9. Selling – someone trying to give you something to make a profit.

10. Salesmanship – to persuade someone to buy a given product, especially when they are in doubt.

11. Selling – persuading someone to buy something they may or may not want.

Primary Observation:
Close the sale

The definitions and opinions above show that selling is seen as something the salesperson does to the customer. Most participants thought that ‘closing the sale’ was the dominant idea in selling, and they viewed the moment when ownership of the product was transferred to the prospect as the primary moment of selling. Their focus was always on the close, the destination or end result, rather than, say, the start, the journey or the process.

Examples: ‘Getting people to buy’; ‘persuading others’; ‘giving people what they want’; ‘determining the needs . . . and presenting the product’; ‘the process of persuading or aiding’; ‘the art of persuading another’; ‘determining the buyer’s needs’; ‘locate those interested’; ‘the buyer is motivated to make a favourable buying decision’; ‘the purchasing of a product’; ‘another person to do something’; ‘persuading others to accept or purchase your product’; ‘getting people to buy’; ‘actually closing a sale’; ‘persuading someone to buy something.’

Selling is viewed as something you ‘do’ to someone to ‘get’ a result of some sort. The salesperson persuades the prospect and closes the sale.

Customers’ Expectations

Customers have been taught to expect that it is the salesperson’s goal to ‘close the sale’ in each selling situation. But this is not limited to customers. This expectation also appears to be the main environmental factor that exists in the sales organisation. During the past 25 years I have worked with thousands of salespeople, their trainers and their managers in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. The clearest observation I have made is consistent everywhere. An expectation has been conditioned into:

  • sales managers that their salespeople should ‘close the sale’

  • salespeople that they are expected to ‘close the sale’

  • prospects that the salesperson is going to try ‘to close me’.

On numerous occasions I have asked individuals and groups the following: ‘What is the first question a sales manager asks a salesperson returning from a sales call?’ Invariably, the answer is: ‘Did you close the sale?’

Currently, most salespeople work in an environment in which their sales managers expect that they should always ‘close the sale’. This expectation is then projected onto the customer who thinks, ‘he’s trying to close me’. In addition, the method (well understood by the experts, sales managers, salespeople and the public alike) will use some form of persuasion or exhortation. Sales books, training courses, direct-marketing schemes, and television commercials, reinforce the customer view and educate the sales force that selling involves some form of exhortation that the prospects ‘should buy something’.

Exhortation and Pressure

In my research I was unable to find any sales training course, whether in books, on cassettes, or in seminar form, that did not teach ‘closing the sale’ as the primary focus. This means that each of these approaches involves exhortation, to either a greater or lesser degree. Sometimes the courses make a distinction between high and low pressure, but usually pressure is the method or technique they are teaching.

The Theory of Selling

The current theory of selling is the same as that which existed 80 years ago when the subject began to be formally written about. The traditional view is that salespeople should sell their prospects in order to get the sale.

The Current Theory of Selling:

The Salesperson Closes the Sale

This means that the salespeople ‘do’ something to their prospects. This usually involves persuasion, high or low pressure, or some other form of exhortation that the prospects buy . . . now!

The current theory of selling produces an expectation on the part of:

  • sales managers that their salespeople close the sale

  • salespeople that they should always close the sale

  • prospects that the salesperson will try to close me.

A lot of the existing material written for the training of salespeople has a mystical or metaphysical spin. Indeed many of the authors of these programs are also religious preachers from the US, men like Zig Ziglar and Reverend Robert Schuller.

In my opinion, one of the reasons why there’s so much exhortation, pressure and judgmentalism in selling practices is because of the old-fashioned ‘convert the sinner’ and ‘close the sale’ attitudes. All this preaching and evangelising is a turn-off. Perhaps this is why selling is held in such low-esteem by customers. The customer will be better served if there is more science in selling.

Business + Science

Is there is room for science in selling? I think there is, and I also think that there is an opportunity for a greater synthesis of the attitudes of the global business world with the organised mental techniques, *mensuration, and testing we use in science. (* measurable, having assigned limits. Mensuration is the branch of mathematics that deals with finding lengths, areas, and volumes.)

Business is a wonderful laboratory. Every business is an experiment in how to make a profit. Every business day provides an opportunity for a fresh start. With its highly measurable bottom line, business is an ideal setting for the scientific attitude. Science, too, can learn a lot from the pragmatism and flexibility of the business attitude. In other words, I would like to see more science in business, and more business in science.

What is science?

Scientific theories are essentially different to religious theories in one way. Scientific theories are fallible. They are made to be challenged, dismantled and reconstructed whenever they are proved to be factually wrong. They embrace change. The amazing march of science in the past 300 years is a testimony to this feature of fallibility. Science never wants to discover the ‘best’ truth, but rather a better one than the one we have at present.

On the other hand, religious theories are made to be ‘absolute truth’. Because they are based not on fact but on belief, through subjective inspiration, they are the absolute or best truth and, since best cannot be improved upon, they are defended against change. This feature kicked off the second millennium with the brutal religious wars of the crusades, a fight which has continued for a thousand years.

In religious theory, for example, an assertion is made: ‘This is what Jesus said. Trust us because it’s the absolute truth.’ As a result, thinking is then directed towards defending that position from change since ‘absolute truth’ cannot be made better.

In science theory, a different approach is taken. The question is asked, ‘Yes, but what did Jesus really say?’ Then the questioning attitudes and techniques of scholarship supported by the search for hard evidence are used to uncover a better understanding of the ‘more likely’ sayings of Jesus. The process continues, never reaching the best truth, but always reaching a better truth.

The same applies to selling. It is not enough to believe that a salesperson closes the sale. In science, we need proof that this is possible. I’ll address this further later in this book.

The Synthetic Millennium

As you read this, don’t forget that you are living in a world where the human species is on the verge of decommissioning natural selection and designing its own future. As we said goodbye to the ‘Mystical Millennium’ we learned how to explain to ourselves by darwinian evolution how our species came to be and why it is the way it is. At the end of the old millennium, we found geneticists busily mapping out the entire human genetic code, the detailed DNA blueprint for the programming of our species. Just imagine what this now means!

In the Synthetic Millennium, we see the human species about to switch from darwinian to ‘volitional’ evolution. We’ll soon be designing our genes for volitional selection to choose how we want our species to evolve. Will we choose to enhance traits like intelligence, height or manual dexterity, or will we choose to diversify our talents and pluralise our temperaments? We’ll soon need to make some very difficult decisions of the *Faustian variety. The American biologist, Edward O. Wilson, puts the question this way: ‘How much should people be allowed to mutate themselves and their descendants?’ (* Faust in German legend was a man who sold his soul to the Devil in return for youth, knowledge, and magic powers.)

Choices, choices, choices

The Synthetic Millennium will be characterised by choice. Not only will we be choosing the future design of our species but, on a daily basis, buyers will be called upon to make more and more choices than ever before. The time has come to take a serious, scientific approach to the important business of selling.

This html-coded online version of the Wombat Final 15/5/06 -- wombatbook.pdf, was prepared by Darlene Sartore with some minor adaptations and color texting, for use only by course presenters certified by Ideal Network Academy. Use permission herein granted from author Michael Hewitt-Gleeson on March 5, 2007.

Hardcopy book and pdf format sources NO longer online, might be available from links at
WOMBAT SELLING: How to sell by Word of Mouth

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