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Simon Says . . . the salesperson is never the one telling the story.
Published 9/6/2022



Frank was one of those notorious customers about whom every sales group tells stories. Any sale made to Frank was small, the commission even less than small, and the pain and suffering Frank put the salesperson through were legendary.

“I remember the time,” said Andy, “that Frank and I went at it for close to an hour. He thought he could nail me with his knowledge of how our product was built and why it was overpriced. Took him to the mat. He finally admitted I knew my stuff. Didn’t get any order, but I got his respect.”

“So that’s why,” asked Melinda, “he’s now my client? No one else in the office wants to deal with him?”

“For sure,” responded Andy, “best of luck. If you want to get anywhere with him, best you know all the obscure little details.”

Three days later, Melinda met Frank for the first time at his office.

“I understand you have a new valve that I might be able to use, that titanium one. It’s overpriced for what it does.”

“That’s interesting you say that. Could you tell me how you decided that?” For the next 10 minutes, Melinda just sat and listened, occasionally nodding her head.

“And to top it off,” he went on, “your technical support isn’t the best.”

“Our technical support isn’t the best . . . that means . . .” she asked.

Frank again went on for five minutes to end with, “You know, you’re the first salesperson from that company that has ever listened to me.”

“By listening to you, does that mean I’m doing my job or am I in trouble with you?”

“Oh, no. You’re not in trouble. In fact, I’ve been thinking of making some drastic changes in the manufacturing department. I think your company has some of the stuff I need to do it.”

“Tell me more about these changes.”

Frank not only did 90 percent of the talking for the next half hour, he even gave Melinda a copy of the construction blueprints and made her promise she would work up a quote.


listening paying attention


Melinda listened, questioned, and will probably make more than a dollar or two.



If you know by heart the 101 all-time great closing lines, are you a successful salesperson? Maybe.

If you know everything there possibly is to know about how your product can be used, how it is made, and how it stacks up against the competition, are you a successful salesperson? Maybe.

If you have the most sophisticated and well-thought-out prospect tracking system, and use it, are you a successful salesperson. Maybe.

If you arrive at your sales job at seven in the morning, eat lunch at your desk, and get home by nine that night, are you a successful salesperson? Maybe.

If you keep meticulous records that make getting reimbursements a snap, are you a successful salesperson? Maybe.

If you subscribe to the latest sales training videos, and listen to them, are you a successful salesperson? Maybe..

How do you define a successful salesperson? Simple. Do your bank deposits get larger and larger? That’s the only measure of a successful salesperson.



A salesperson’s job is to get his prospects and clients to tell him a story. The story line is how much they need what the salesperson has to sell. The conclusion of the story is the sale. Notice that the salesperson is never the one telling the story.

How do you get them to tell you a story and include you in the final chapter? By asking them questions and then waiting for answers. Let them fill in the details. Remember, it’s their story, and if you start telling it for them, they’ll be annoyed. Annoy them enough and you’re out the door.

Everyone is convinced that their story is the most important. Give them a chance to tell it. Remember, the prospect and client don’t care at all about your story so don’t bore them with it. Telling your story doesn’t make you money no matter how interesting it is to you.

When their story starts to get dull, ask them a question. “That’s really interesting you selected to include that . . . tell me why.” Wait, they will.



Don’t sell. Do this instead; listen, question, listen some more, question some more, go to the bank. That’s being successful.


©1992, 2007 Sandler Systems, Inc and TEM Associates, Inc.  All rights reserved.  S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Professionals are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.

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