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The Business of Selling: 12 Rules Every Seller Must Follow

January 31, 2024

If you’re a part of the business of selling and you care about your clients, your personal development, your career, and your company, then I have a message for you.

It’s 2024 and we’re still failing our customer, prospects, the companies we work for, and ourselves.

Evolution of Sales Tools and Strategies

In the past 20 years, there have been crazy advancements in the area of sales tool, from CRM’s that do just about everything short of your laundry, to data and insights applications that deliver full profiles of your clients straight to your laptop. Shit, there are even apps that tell you when to call a prospect and what to talk about.

Beyond tools, we’ve had new organizational structures like inside sales, inbound marketing, ABM (account based marketing), and plenty more. All with the goal of making selling, faster, more efficient, and more predictable.

Selling has been turned on it’s head by these advancements. It’s never been “easier” to sell.


Impacts of Technology on Selling

Despite these advancements, it appears we are doing less selling than ever. We’ve become slaves to the machines. Many sales professionals still find themselves struggling to make impactful sales. We must acknowledge that while the tech has simplified some aspects of selling, it has also led to a dependency that has diminished our core selling skills.

It’s time to get out shit together and become the valuable purveyors of change that prospects expect from us. Too many of us are operating from 20th-century sales rules that no longer apply, and that’s no longer acceptable.


The Business of Selling’s New Rulebook

Rule #1: Give a shit about your customers and prospects

I mean genuinely give a shit about your prospects and buyer’s success and business.  Put them first, become an expert in their business, be able to bring value to them before you ask for something in return.  Your prospects are the ones with the money; they are the people with a problem, treat them that way. I don’t suggest you be their bitch, but for sure stop looking at them as an ATM. The new business of selling is putting your customers and prospects first. Build your selling methodology around them, and you can’t go wrong.


Rule #2: You don’t matter

Your prospects and customers don’t give a shit if you’re the top rep, are going on Presidents Club or are on a PIP. They care about their business and are looking for you to make a difference in THEIR world. They have their own set of goals, objectives, and needs that have nothing to do with you. Stop getting upset when they cancel a meeting, don’t show up to a call or choose the competition. It’s not personal. You nor your product are at the center of the universe. Pull up your big boy pants and move on.  The truth is, it’s probably your screw up that cost you the deal in the first place.

If you want to sell better, just keep in perspective, you don’t matter.


Rule #3: Stop sending stupid emails

The number of stupid emails salespeople send out is at an all-time high. Stupid emails are emails that do nothing for the recipient. They are selfish requests for time, and rarely offer anything of value for that time. Stupid emails unnecessarily interrupt a prospects day. No, your buyer doesn’t want to give you 15 minutes in their crazy busy schedule to tell you about their organization or discuss how you can improve their business.

Just stop.

If you can’t offer something of value, in the email that’s not product specific, don’t send it.  Learn how to create emails that create value for the recipient. Learn to create emails that teach, educate and inform the recipient.

Learn to write emails that give more than their asking.


Rule #4: You’re not that good

It’s time you stop thinking that because you’ve made Presidents Club 5 years in a row and because you’re one of the tops salespeople you have nothing to learn. No matter how long you’ve been in the business of selling, you’re not that good. You have plenty to learn, especially if you’re over 35.

Sales is and has been going through incredible changes,  yet too many of you think that you’ve seen it all and there is nothing you need to know.  The business of selling is a fluid, and ever-changing environment and assuming that you’ve completed the learning journey is a mistake. Have some humility, be open to new things, expand your craft, and embrace deliberate learning.


Rule #5: Stop blaming the prospect

It’s not the prospects fault if they don’t return your call. It’s not the prospect’s fault if they choose the competitor. You can’t blame the prospect if they continue to push you on price. It’s not the prospects fault, so stop blaming them for your poor selling.

Prospects are busy, and they aren’t beholden to YOU! They’re trying to run a business. They have goals they’re trying to meet. They have bosses, employees, peers and more all demanding their time. You are not their number one priority. If a prospect is ignoring you, it’s your fault.

If a prospect is fighting you on price, it’s your fault. If a buyer chooses your competition over you, you didn’t do a good job selling. Don’t blame the prospect. Instead, provide more value, and stop wasting their time. It’s not the prospects fault; it’s yours.


Rule #6: Ask good questions

“What keeps you up at night?” . . . that is a stupid question. “What are you looking to accomplish?” . . . that is a stupid question. “What are your goals?” . . . that is also a stupid question. Most of the questions you ask are stupid questions. Why? See number Rule 1.

You’re asking questions to sell your product or service.  You’re asking questions that benefit you, not questions that help identify and solve real issues or challenges your prospect may be struggling to address.  Your prospect knows what his or her goals are. They know what they are trying to accomplish and asking them questions they know the answers to, so you can attempt to sell them your shit, isn’t selling. It’s just annoying.


Rule #7: Yes, you have to use the CRM

The CRM is there to help you, and if you use it correctly, it will be your best friend. If you don’t think the CRM is useful, then you’re using it wrong. Today’s CRM’s do so much more than store a few names and numbers. They are central data hubs that can supply you with everything you need to engage with your prospects the right way. If the data in you CRM isn’t helping you, if you find the CRM to be a pain in the ass, take a good look in the mirror, ’cause it ain’t the CRM.

The CRM is a tool, like any other tool. It’s only as good as it’s handler, and the 21st-century business of selling requires great CRM handlers.


Rule #8: You’re not ready for a promotion

Hey millennials, gen-z, and wily veterans, you’re not promotion material.  Just because you’ve made quota a few times or even been on President’s Club your entire life, promotion to sales management has nothing to do with your ability to sell.  We already have too many unqualified sales managers screwing up sales organizations because they were promoted for being great salespeople. Sales management is about leadership.

It’s no longer about turning the screw but getting others to turn the screw. If you want a promotion, start learning to lead.  Embrace how to motivate, influence and drive people, because that’s what sales needs in sales management. Just ’cause you’re a badass sales person doesn’t mean your promotional material.  You’re not ready!


Rule #9: You’re not exempt from ANYTHING

Yup, you’re a great salesperson, you’re crushing it every month. You’ve never missed quota. You’ve always been on President’s Club. Your customers love you. You’re Ms. reliable.  Great, but that doesn’t mean you get special treatment.

Today’s business of selling is a team game. Put your shit into the CRM. Show up at the team meetings. Support the other reps on the team. Share best practices. Be present at company functions. Be a visible, productive part of the team and the entire organization. Just because you’re the top rep doesn’t mean you get to operate from a separate set of rules. You’re not a lone wolf; you’re not special, so stop acting like it. Doing your job well doesn’t entitle you to special treatment. You’re not exempt from anything.


Rule #10: Stop pushing your product

Feature-function selling is dead. It’s not selling, and no one cares about how many features your product has or how bits it can process or how many fizzy wizzies it has. Buyers are trying to get stuff done, and your annoying pitches about how great your product and company are is frustrating and wasting everyone’s time. It’s 2024.  Buyers can look at your site, trial your product or ask others what features you have. Selling features isn’t being helpful.


Rule #11: Do your homework

Take the time to learn a little something about your prospect.

Do the research, know what your buyer does, what the company does, know what division he or she operates in, understand who their competition is, know what their overall corporate goals are, know what’s important to them.  Your buyer is not an unknown entity; they produce content. They write blogs. They may be public. They have a social media presence, etc. There is no excuse not to know someone before you reach out. Put in the time, stop being lazy and get acquainted with the people and companies your calling.  It’s not their job to educate you on who they are.


Rule #12: Elevate your game

The business of selling is a craft. You’re not a carnival barker, working a crowd to find the unsuspecting sucker who’ll drop the last of his hard earned money on your rigged game. You’re a sales professional who’s value is in providing solutions to companies big and small.

Your job is to help businesses increase revenue, reduce churn, improve customer loyalty, save money, improve processes, and more. These are not small, immaterial efforts. As a sales person, you have the ability to substantially change the game for hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of individuals so act like it. Expand your business acumen. Elevate your communication game. Improve your critical thinking skills. Become a sophisticated sales leader, relied on for insight, advice, and direction.

It’s time sales people. It’s time we step up our game. The world demands it!


This is the new business of selling

It’s time for sellers to elevate their approaches to meet the demands of the modern market. Embrace these new rules and continuously build up your skills. If you’re already following some of these, great, keep going. These concepts shouldn’t be new to anyone, yet we see hundreds of sellers a year who can’t be bothered to change. The selling business needs a face lift and it starts with these 12 rules.

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  1. Pratheesh Raj

    Great article, Keenan! You’ve articulated the challenges and shifts in the sales landscape excellently. I particularly resonated with your emphasis on putting customers first, understanding their expectations, needs and focusing on providing genuine value.


    How can sellers shift their focus from selling product features to understanding buyers’ needs and helping them achieve their goals effectively?


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