The B2B Sales Principles of Abraham Lincoln

Posted by Tom Hannon
on 05 June 2015

The Lincoln - Douglas debates are rife with sales techniques. That’s a disparaging remark considering the importance of the impending election and the ramifications it would have on the direction of the United States. But, none the less, my myopicy did not precede me to see what I could only see and therefore did see; some darn good sales techniques.

I would love to bore you away for some time rambling on about each and every quote I found in the debates that related to selling but you may have better things to do with your life. Fine. Allow me this one point, please:

I will paraphrase Douglas as he talks about Kansas and the slave issue there and how he is in favor of it and Lincoln is not. Douglas says that Lincoln trusts the people of Kansas to govern themselves but not to govern their own slaves. Lincoln replies, “No man is good enough to govern another man without the other's consent.”

A business, a sales organization, is not a democracy but it is not slavery either, at least not in this country it’s not. The sales people have chosen to stay for various reasons of their own and they are free to leave. So what is the best way to govern sales people? I believe it is to allow them to be as free as possible within the confines of limited rules, limited government. This is about profit. It just so happens to be ethical. The two are linked. But that’s a subject for another posting.

Here’s an example: I have a guy that works here and he’s a great salesman, naturally. And like a lot of naturally great salespeople, the very few that I have worked with, his personality is broad, vivid, expansive. That made it hard for me to manage him. I thought I had to pay close attention to him, micromanage, keep him focused on what I perceived to be the “message”. But that didn’t work. I couldn’t corral him. So I let him go. Go at it his way not fire him. And as long as he didn’t lie or misrepresent us, I let him be. He’s still here and he’s still one of our top people.

The problem was me, not him. I was over governing him. The thing that frustrates me more than anything else, being over governed, is exactly what I was doing to him. Now I’m aware of that. That revelation came to me from the Lincoln Douglas debates.

I thought I was being  indulgent my time watching a lecture about those debates. I was interested but am quick to judge an action that will not directly benefit me or my family or my business as a leisure activity. And although this was a weekend, I felt I had some work to do at the time. Good thing I didn’t do that ”work”. Inspiration can be found anywhere. The debates are a great place to look if you're into sales processes.