Hard Not Complicated Tips – sale away sale away sale away

In this week’s Hard Not Complicated blog I wrote about sales from the perspective of creativity and especially two main points. I argued that if you’re not a stereotypical salesperson you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Reframe what it means to sell
  2. Reinvent sales in a way that makes sense for you

Today I want to offer a couple of quick tips on how to do that.


It’s easy to think of sales as an attempt to get something.

I want:

  • Customers
  • Contracts
  • Commissions

I like to flip this around. I begin my sales work by asking myself how I can help people. For me, a sales call is about answering one question:

  • How can I make you happy?

I have a set of products and services that can be put to use in a range of ways. If one of these ways solves a problem for the person I’m speaking to then I can make that person happy by doing that.

When you think about times when you’ve successfully persuaded someone to adopt your product or service, give you a job, assign you a task, have you noticed how they are happy when they do it? How they feel that a problem for them has been solved?

Happiness, in the sense of increased pleasure and reduced pain, is what it’s all about. If I can make someone happy by selling them what I have to sell, that makes me happy too.

If you have a team who are reluctant to be salespeople, try out the below approaches.

Make the Meaning Real: maybe your team have forgotten that what they do is meaningful, that it matters to people. Consider running a weekly meeting devoted to talking about customers who you have helped that week. Share feedback and have that team talk about how it makes them feel to have helped people live, work or play more easily, with less pain and more pleasure.

Take No for an Answer: many people feel like sales is a pushy business and they don’t want to be pushy people. When I worked as an on-street fundraiser (the guys with the clipboards and tabards who everyone hates) I was told that it was vital that people felt that it was OK to say no. By making this clear to people at the outset I was able to feel good about talking to them, knowing that there would be no hard feelings or awkwardness if they said no.

Not Selling, Searching: you might find it useful to reframe the idea of sales in your context with the knowledge that what you’re really doing is less selling and more searching for people who need your help. A sales call then becomes less a battle, a struggle to convince the potential customer that you are the solution, and more a collaborative process; your job as a salesperson is to answer the question “can I help you?” and be sure, at the end, if the answer is yes or no.


Reinvention is just a fancy word for starting over from first principals. It asks you to assume nothing about what you’re about to do, let go of all of your preconceptions and ask simply: what is it we want to accomplish?

If you’re struggling with sales then it may be that you’re trying to sell the way you think you’re supposed to sell, rather than selling the way that makes sense for you.

The challenge with reinvention, of course, is to get yourself free from what you already know. These approaches might help.

Don’t Put the Answer in the Question: in an interview given to Blue Peter, of all places, world renowned product designer Jonny Ive talked about how, at Apple, they try to avoid using words that would presuppose or bias the output of a design process. The example he gave was that if they were designing a lunchbox they wouldn’t call it “The Lunchbox Project” because the word “box” immediately pushes the mind towards a specific shape, assumes things like lids and hinges and handles. In sales you could do the same thing – instead of asking “how do we sell?” try asking “how do we find customers?” or “how do we build relationships?”.

Flip it: getting away from what you know can be hard, so why not take what you know and simply flip it 180? My favourite example of this is something called the disloyalty card. This was an idea from a bunch of independent coffee shops who being unable to take advantage of a loyalty card, as they only had a single store each, decided to band together and give people awards for trying out all the different independent coffee shops in the city. They took an idea, flipped it around, and found a new way to do things. This sort of work requires a degree of conceptual flexibility which can be hard to do, but be playful, have fun with it, and you might surprise yourself.

Ask Your Customers: in the end helping your customers benefits you and them. So why not get them involved in helping you to figure out the best way to work with them? And I don’t mean a survey, I mean actually involving them in the creative process. Find ways to interact with your customers that work beautifully for them as well as for you. You might find there is a whole new way of selling the would never have occurred to either of the groups separately.


The solutions you come up with, the way that sales works for you, will be unique to you. The Hard Not Complicated system is built on the belief that the solutions to your problems will always come from you. So above all else, you have to believe.

Learn to believe in yourself, your product, your methods and your ability to rewrite what you thought was possible, and you can find ways to do anything.

If you’d like to find out more about how I help clients the hard, not complicated way, drop me an email at aran@sabretoothpanda.com.


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