In The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino tells us how to become a successful sales person in the form of a parable.
Although it was written in 1968, all of the advice in it is timeless. In fact, if you’ve spent some time reading books in the personal development realm over the past 10 years, you’ll notice a lot of the themes Mandino touches on being re-introduced in a scientific manner.
What’s old is new again, as they say.
So let’s dig into this parable, which starts over 2,000 years ago.
Around the time of Jesus there is this guy named Pathros, who is widely recognized as the Greatest Salesman in the World. He has a employee named Hafid, who takes care of his camels. He also happens to be his adopted son. Like most people who take care of camels, I suspect, he longs for more.
Specifically, he has a young woman named Lesha that he wants to start a family with and take care of. Camel boy wages just won’t cut it.
So he asks Pathros if he can become one of his salesmen instead. Reluctantly, Pathros agrees and gives Hafid a test. He is to go to sell a fancy robe in a city where no salesman has been successful in a very long time. Sell the robe, the challenge goes, and I will give you more responsibility when you come back.
Hafid fails spectacularly. Not only does he fail to sell the robe, he gives it away to a family in need. But something peculiar happens on the way back home – a bright star follows his path the entire way. A star so bright that Pathros, waiting patiently at home, feels like this is a sign that he’s to turn over his secret scrolls to Hafid.
(We won’t ruin the rest of the parable here for you – you’ll have to buy the book if you want the details)
The scrolls come with 3 conditions. The first condition is that he has to follow the instructions contained in the scrolls. The second condition is that Hafid has to give half of his earnings to the poor. And the third condition is that he can’t share what he learns in the scrolls with anybody, until he receives a sign that he is to pass them on to a “chosen” person.
So, today, you are that chosen person and you about to learn what it takes to become the Greatest Salesman in the World.
The Scroll Marked I – Today I Begin A New Life
Failure, in almost any circumstance, can be defined as our inability to reach our goals in life.
Scroll I tells us that there’s a method to overcoming this common problem, and that you must follow it.
Specifically, you’ll leave behind your old ways of being and habits, and adopt newer and better ones. Because let’s face it, the old ones weren’t working.
The new habit, which you will begin today, consists of reading each scroll (or, in our case, applying each principle you learn) for thirty days.
The scroll instructs us to read it silently when we wake up, in silence after the midday meal, and out loud just before going to bed.
The goal is to repeat the words daily so that they become part of your conscious thought, and through repetition that they will also become part of your unconscious thought.
There are 10 scrolls, so you’ll do this over and over for 10 months.
In a world that demands daily, weekly and quarterly results, that seems like a lifetime. But one of the secrets of becoming the Greatest Salesman of All-Time is patience.
The Scroll Marked II – I Will Greet This Day With Love In My Heart
Great my day with love in my heart? Aren’t we supposed to “swim with the sharks”? Aren’t we supposed to “sell or be sold”? Aren’t we supposed to “dominate the market”?
But Scroll II has us pause and consider something critically important – that if we don’t wake up every single day with love in your heart, what will you fill it with?
The world is a hard place. You’ve made it even harder on yourself by getting into sales. You face, and will continue to face, rejection on a daily basis. You’ll fail much more than you succeed. If you aren’t careful, pretty soon your heart will be filled with bitterness and despair.
So the question you need to ask yourself is, what approach is going to help me make more sales? With a heart full of love, or a heart full of bitterness? Do people want to buy from salespeople who brighten their day, or darken it?
To me, the choice seems easy.
The Scroll Marked III – I Will Persist Until I Succeed
We’ve all heard this advice before – keep trying and eventually you’ll succeed.
But good news – we’ve recently learned that there’s scientific proof to back this up. Angela Duckworth’s Grit tells us that the world’s most successful people have a much higher level of what she calls, unsurprisingly, “grit.”
What we need to understand is that success takes time. That even a small child can chop down an oak tree if they stay at it long enough.
Success doesn’t come to the smartest, the most talented, or the best looking (unless you are in modelling, in which case success goes to the best looking).
Success in sales comes to those who can stick with it the longest. Who can fight through the failures the longest. Who can deal with the most pain, and wake up the next day ready for more.
The Scroll Marked IV – I Am Nature’s Greatest Miracle
By now you should have figured out that success in selling doesn’t come down to learning the most skills, but to adopting the right mindsets.
Self-belief is critical to your ability to succeed.
No matter where you are starting from or where you are going, there are things that you can do that no other sales person on the planet can do.
And instead of trying to imitate other people – who are, by the same principle, uniquely talented in a different way than you – spend your time paying attention to what your special abilities are and using them to their fullest potential.
Once you adopt this mindset, you quickly realize that every challenge you face is really an opportunity for you to show the world how to overcome it in your own unique way.
The Scroll Marked V – I Will Live This Day As If It Is My Last
Again, you’ve heard this advice before. These days we talk about “being present” and go to “mindfulness” classes. But the principle of living in the moment has always been a principle required for sales success.
To achieve the results you need to achieve, the only thing that will help you is to give 100% of your focus and attention to the task at hand.
As Scroll V tells us, we can’t make sand flow upward in the hour glass. And we can’t make tomorrow’s sand flow through the glass before today’s.
This is the only day we have, and if you waste it by thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, you won’t be able to give yourself fully to prospects or customers you are dealing with right now.
If you were to be remembered only for your actions today, how would that influence how you do them?
Strive to make your last day, your best day.
The Scroll Marked VI – I Will Be The Master Of My Emotions
Out of all the principles found in the scrolls, this one is my favourite.
There’s a common misconception that we can think our way into a new way of acting. But science will tell us that instead, we act our way into a new way of thinking.
As Scroll VI says:
“Weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions; strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts.”
This has some very practical implications. The scroll continues:
“Each day, when I awaken, I will follow this plan of battle before I am captured by the forces of sadness, self-pity and failure:
If I feel depressed, I will sing. If I feel sad I will laugh. If I feel ill I will double my labor. If I feel uncertain I will raise my voice.”
Some people love their feelings and don’t want to give them up. When it comes down to it, they’d wallow in their self pity than get themselves back into action.
But successful people understand that they have the ability to control their thoughts and emotions, and the best way to do it is to act your way into the state you want to be in.
The Scroll Marked VII – I Will Laugh At The World
This one is all about not taking yourself, or the events that happen today too seriously.
First of all, whatever happens today – both good and bad – isn’t likely to seem significant to you ten years from now. Or to somebody in China today. So get on with it. Because “this too shall pass.”
Second, if you ever become too self-dignified to laugh at yourself, it’s time to slow down and get things into perspective.
The interesting thing about this mindset is that it frees you up to take risks today that your mind would otherwise try to talk you out of.
Worried about trying a new sales technique because you might look stupid in front of a prospect? Do it anyways. If you fail, you can always laugh it off, because this too shall pass.
And so on.
The Scroll Marked VIII – Today I Will Multiply My Value A Hundredfold
As Scroll VIII says, A mulberry leaf touched with the genius of man becomes silk (I had to Google “mulberry leaf”).
The point is that when you direct your action in the right way, you can create extraordinary results.
The best way to multiply the value of your actions is to get very clear about your goals, and to set them high. Much higher than you ever thought possible.
The scroll tells us to set goals for the day, week, month, year and your life. Consider your best performance of the past, and multiply it buy a hundredfold. That is your new standard.
There are a couple things to consider here.
First, when you set goals that seem impossible today, it becomes clear that radical action to change your behaviours is the only way you are going to get there.
Second, that you are almost certainly going to stumble and fall along the way. That’s just part of the deal. And if you’ve implemented the ideas from the rest of the scrolls up until this point, you’ll know exactly how to deal with it so that those micro failures become empowering instead of debilitating.
Here’s my favourite quote from the book, and maybe one of my favourite quotes of all time:
“Only a worm is free from the worry of stumbling. I am not a worm. I am not an onion plant. I am not a sheep. I am a man. Let others build a cave with their clay. I will build a castle with mine.”
The Scroll Marked IX – I Will Act Now
Remember, there is no tomorrow. Only today.
Your hopes and dreams are worthless, and your goals are impossible, if you don’t take action.
Action, and action alone, will create your success.
Procrastination is the biggest dream killer to ever roam the earth.
Keep moving and it can’t catch you.
Make your mantra “I Will Act Now”, repeating it as often as you can bear to repeat it.
The Scroll Marked X
So, you’ve made it to end. The fact that the parable was in the time of Jesus should have tipped you off that one of these principles would be about God. And so here we are.
This scroll instructs us pray for the strength and courage to implement the principles found in the scrolls.
Now, whether or not you believe in God, there is a principle here that’s valuable for everybody.
When you focus on the right behaviours instead of the end results you are trying to achieve, you are much more likely to succeed.
Find the strength to become the person you need to be, and the results will follow.
This book is a great reminder that in order to reach your goals as a salesperson, focussing on strategies and techniques alone is a recipe for mediocrity.
Those things are important, but when you combine them with the right mindsets and behaviours, your success becomes inevitable.