12 Most Untraditional Ways to Sell Something

12 Most Untraditional Ways to Sell Something

Some people believe that “sales” is the only four-letter word with five letters. Selling conjures up many images, and sales roles take up two of the three most-hated professions (Number 1: Lawyer. Number 2: Car Salesman. Number 3: Realtor.) Yet the fact of the matter is that, no matter what your profession, you have to “sell” your ideas every day. Consider an untraditional view of what selling really is:

What if sales is really about persuasion? Or maybe, it’s about leadership — leading others towards your point of view. Or maybe — just maybe — it’s really about connecting, and reaching agreement with others, through a persuasive conversation.

How about a reframing of the sales game, for non-sellers, in 12 Most easy steps?

1. Selling vs. providing

Think of yourself as a provider — a provider of solutions. Providing insight is key to advancing your ideas. What’s threatening or uncomfortable about a great idea?

2. Selling vs. informing

Delivering needed information is necessary to support whatever insight you have just provided. Don’t over-diagnose; remember that information exchange is a two-way street.

3. Selling vs. talking

Not everyone is a trained salesperson, or expert in the art of persuasion. But we all know how to have a conversation. If you want to lead others towards a shared conclusion, think about how you can start the dialogue.

4. Selling vs. presenting

Why so formal, Gunga Din? If you aren’t comfortable with selling, it’s not going to get better if you add PowerPoint. See #3 above.

5. What’s in it for me? vs. why?

In ancient times (the days before Pinterest), this idea of “What’s In It for Me?” or WIFM was a mantra. Today, the message that people want to know is “Why?” Why you — why this — why now? Answer those questions and you move the conversation forward in a meaningful way. Think about wanting to lose weight: What’s In It for Me involves sacrifice, missing dessert, and going to the gym today. Ugh! But the WHY is much more compelling! “Why” focuses on results and outcomes. “Why” is what everyone wants to know — that’s why you should Start with Why.

6. Creating gravitational pull

If you want someone to step towards you, take their hand… and step back. Being persuasive doesn’t mean being forceful; it means drawing others closer to your point of view. You can’t help someone get closer to your ideas if you don’t understand exactly where they are.

7. Teaching vs. selling

If you can show someone, step by step, how their situation improves with your vision of the world, you’ve created a real connection between your ideas and your outcomes. The strongest persuasion isn’t through force of will, or powerful personality: honesty and passion are contagious, if you know how to express yourself effectively.

8. A clear value

What happens next is up to you, but what happens if we don’t move forward together? The most persuasive argument considers other viewpoints. When he worked as a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln would famously argue both sides of the case — earning himself the nickname, “Honest Abe.” Looking at both sides of the equation in an even-handed fashion is not the mark of a typical salesperson — it’s the mark of a trusted advisor and a wise friend.

9. Let’s talk money

What if there IS a transaction involved in your discussion? Approach it with honesty, and feel good about the number. Don’t diminish your message or your value, especially if you’re discussing the value of your ideas, your input and your contribution! “Don’t sell with your own wallet” is another good piece of advice — sometimes a price tag is just a price tag, it’s not up to you to comment on it.

10. Sell the wine before it’s time

Success really is all in the timing. Ask a great question at the wrong time and you’ll never get the answer you want. Need an example? Try this one: Will you marry me?

11. An untraditional way of getting engaged

Speaking of marriage, engaging someone in a conversation is the first step towards reaching any sort of agreement. What’s your best idea for starting the conversation? Remember, think about your listener (because that’s what they’re doing, right now!)

12. Closing, version 2.0

The most persuasive sales person — no, wait a minute… the most persuasive person — is the one who makes it easiest to say “Yes.” And what’s the easiest way to get a “Yes?” Offer someone an invitation. In the social media world, the idea of “Always be closing” has been shattered and replaced with the conversation. Make your conversation count, when you close your remarks with an invitation. Then, get ready for what happens when someone says, “Yes!”

Images courtesy of stopthegears. Used under Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Chris Westfall


Chris Westfall is the national elevator pitch champion, a professional speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of Five Great New Elevator Pitches. His next book, The NEW Elevator Pitch will be released in Spring 2012.

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Enjoyed the whole post, Chris - especially since I wrote a 12 Most post called the 12 Most Obvious Reasons I Suck at Sales ;). I especially liked the quote in #9 - "Don't sell with your own wallet". I always enjoy your posts, Chris - thanks for the contribution.


Chris, why are you teaching ppl to sell? There isn't enough commission to go around! Mine, mine, all mine!