Sales Speech: Eat Your P’s If You Want to Grow Rich … by Peter Bennett

November 29, 2012
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Paul Revere

Paul Revere

I’m here today to talk to you about Selling’s 5 Ps: Prospecting, Preparation, Presentation, Persuasion, and Post-Sale

The First P: Prospecting

How many of you here today know who William Dawes is? I thought so!

On April 18, 1775, he jumped on his horse at midnight to warn his fellow colonists that the British were marching on Lexington and Concord, Mass. Yet, you’ve probably never heard of him.

However, you’ve most likely heard of that other guy, Paul Revere, immortalized in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Why did Dawes fade from the pages of history while Revere became famous?

Revere was a prospector, networker and connector and Dawes was not. Revere was intensely social and gregarious, with an uncanny genius for being at the center of events. Besides being a silversmith, he was a fisherman, hunter, card player, theater-lover, frequenter of pubs and a businessman. When he knocked doors, people listened. When Dawes knocked doors, few answered because they didn’t know who he was.

So the lesson is, get out from behind your desk and get out there. Meet people, be with people and build relationships.

Things always have a way of happening when you’re out among people.

Somebody who was always out there was Herbert Vogel, who was a postal clerk his whole life. He died this year at age 90. He never made more than $23,000 a year. His wife Dorothy was a reference librarian. But the couple somehow amassed a multimillion dollar art collection. How did they do it? They prospected. They befriended struggling artists, often asking to purchase a painting, drawing or sculpture despite their modest income. Sometimes, they’d exchange services like babysitting or pet-sitting for a keepsake or memento. More often than not, the undiscovered artist, desperate for a sale and the emotional support, obliged. In more than 30 years, the couple crammed almost 5,000 works into their one-room, rent-controlled New York City apartment, never selling one. A few years back, they donated their treasures to the National Gallery of Art.

The point of prospecting is to get out there and make things happen. You may not always know where you’re going, but people – customers – will have a way of finding you.

When the naturalist John Muir started out, he didn’t know he where he would end up.

In his early 20s, he walked from Louisville, Ky. to Cedar Key, Fla., about 1,000 miles, with the intent of catching a steamer to South America to explore the Amazon. By the way, before he left, he had asked his father for a little money for his journey. His father replied, “No, depend entirely on yourself.”

When Muir got to Florida, he found that there were no steamers leaving for South America, so he caught one to California by way of Cuba and New York, and of course, after he got to the Golden State, he put Yosemite on the map and became the founder of the Sierra Club, etc.

So, the lesson is, don’t call it a day too early when things don’t always go your way. Keep looking and hunting.

You have to stay in the game, and keep working new angles and looking for new turf.

Mark Twain found new turf. When Mark Twain was a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi, he was making more money than the Vice President of the United States. But when the Civil War came, the river was closed to all traffic, so he was out of work. He joined the Confederacy for about a week. After discovering he wasn’t cut out for soldiering, he headed west and struck a literary fortune.

Another 19th Century prospector was Alexander Graham Bell. In trying to invent a hearing device for his hearing-impaired wife, he inadvertently invented the telephone.

Do you see a pattern here? Prospectors don’t lay back. They keep covering ground.

In the 1950s, Ray Kroc was a guy who sold paper cups and malt mixers for a living. When he found out that some San Bernardino burger joint owned by Dick and Mac McDonald was buying more of his machines than any of his other customers, he paid the brothers a visit. Shortly, he was pitching them on the idea of franchising their restaurants.

When Howard Schultz saw that a little northwest coffee company was buying up all his coffee makers, he flew across the country to learn more about the coffee company with the funny name, Starbucks. The rest is history.

Therefore, talk to new people every day. While you’re searching for prospects, never forget that you are a prospect, too. So, look sharp, be sharp, wear your nametag and always be ready to let people know who you are and what you do.

The Second P: Preparation

Nobody prepared for a game like Kurt Warner, who led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000, and almost did it a second time with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

Once, he was asked how much time he thought he put into practice each week? After thinking for a spell, he said, “About 50 hours.”

He broke it down: “I watch film from last week’s game, then there’s film on our new opponent, then we get the playbook to study, then we start sequencing the plays we want to run, then we go out on the field and practice the plays, then we condition, so altogether about 50 hours a week.”

Thus, if a football game consists of four 15-minute quarters or an hour total, Warner’s practice-to-play ratio was 50-to-1. But then the interviewer realized that because Warner only played on offense, his real practice-to-play ratio was more like 100-to-1.

Warner was hugely compensated for the minutes he played each week. Asked what his best football memories were, he didn’t talk about the money he was paid but rather helping lead two down-on-their-luck football franchises back to greatness.

So, follow Warner’s Winning Ways:

•    Mastery before money, and
•    Relationships before revenues

In your real estate world, that means knowing all of your products and services inside and out, and the benefits they provide. And then like Warner, hit the practice field long and hard so that when you do come face to face with your clients for those few precious seconds and minutes, you’ll turn in a super performance.

Sometimes, the best way to prepare is to find a quiet place away from all the hustle. Sometimes, you have to literally step away from the fray.

The best example I can give you on how this preparation technique works is to share how Sir Isaac Newton made all his great scientific discoveries in the 17th Century. He didn’t make them while he was a student at Cambridge. He made them in the quiet of the countryside.

He had to leave Cambridge for 18 months on account of the Black Plague that struck England in 1665 and the Great Fire that followed in 1666. He went to live on the family farm in Lincolnshire until the threat subsided. During that down time, he formulated many of his major contributions to science, including integral and differential calculus, many of the laws of optics, the universal laws of motion, and the law of gravitation.

So, find a quiet place to prepare. Soak in a hot tub, take a walk, turn off the radio on the way to work, etc. Find some peace.

Final point: The more successful you are and the more money you make, the more you should prepare. Darwin Smith, the former chief executive officer of Kimberly Clark, celebrated in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, showed how this principle worked. Upon his retirement from Kimberly Clark, he said, “I never stopped trying to be qualified for the job.”

That’s the way you have to be. “Riches don’t respond to wishes,” Napoleon Hill said. So plan and prepare how to obtain them.

The Third P: Presentation

This is what you live for and have been preparing for. When the lights go on, you have to perform. But don’t treat your performance as an audition when you sit down with your client. Simply be the prepared, polished, consistent performer you are.

Take your cue from Fred Rogers.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Rogers welcomed millions of viewers (customers) into his neighborhood because they knew precisely what they were getting — a familiar friend who wore a zippered cardigan sweater and tennis shoes. Indeed, he even kept his 143-pound weight the same, refusing to do anything that might make it fluctuate. He went to bed early and swam every morning and didn’t drink, smoke, or eat flesh of any kind.

He also made a point to behave naturally on camera rather than acting out a character. “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self,” he said.

He wasn’t flashy or a flip-flopper. There was no bait-and-switch. He just delivered the goods. He protected his brand (i.e., neighborhood or farming area) through honesty and constancy. He was extremely effective because he was extremely selective.

You can do the same.

In your presentations, aim for precision and concision, a rule unfortunately I always seems to violate. Furthermore, aim to complete instead of compete, to connect instead of correct, to coach instead of criticize, to serve instead of sell.

Let current and potential customers know exactly what you can do for them. Don’t make claims that you can’t fulfill. If there are certain values you subscribe to, share them, display them, and live them. Be consistent. In other words, if you’re selling “green” homes, don’t drive your clients around town in a gas-guzzler.

The Fourth P: Persuasion

I think this is the toughest “P” to get your arms around. To be great in the persuasive arts, you have to be comfortable in your own skin. You also have to believe that what you believe is far more important than what anybody else believes or says about you. Therefore, you have to be extremely confident and self assured. That’s how you build Disneyland out of an orchard grove, even though everybody thinks you’re crazy.

Like Walt Disney, you have to believe that no matter what is thrown at you — like a real estate deal that’s going to blow apart — you have what it takes to hold it together. You have to adopt a sales attitude like Brownie Wise of Tupperware fame, who said, “Remember the steam kettle; though up to its neck in hot water it continues to sing.”

You will continue to sing and sell if you maintain a calm, clear and optimistic outlook on what you want to achieve. At age 52, Ray Kroc suffered from diabetes and arthritis. He also had no gall bladder and was missing most of his thyroid. Reflecting back on that time when he was on the verge of building a hamburger empire, he said, “I was convinced that the best years were ahead of me.”

If you’re convinced that your best years are ahead of you, you’ll be convincing to others. If your vision and purpose are clear, you’ll be persuasive in any situation. There will be no objections you can’t handle.

You don’t have to resort to tricks or cut your commission. You simply have to say what you do and do what you say. When you’re reliable and the real deal, you become naturally persuasive and passionate.

To maintain your aura of authenticity and persuasion, simply take Will Rogers’ advice, “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

The Fifth P: Post-Sale

Fortune is in the follow-up.  Disney knows that a 1 percent increase in repeat business translates into millions of dollars in extra revenue. In 2011, Ford converted its No. 1 loyalty rating from the Polk automotive survey into $20.2 billion profits, the second highest in its history.

It’s not enough to just stay in touch, however. Keep working to anticipate your customers’ needs. Give them what they want. Not what you want.

Mark Twain was probably the most conspicuous person on the planet in the early 20th Century. In trying to explain his popularity, he said his writing was like water, while other writers’ works were more like fine wine. “A lot more people drink water,” he joked.


If you stay true to the 5 P’s of Selling, you’ll be rewarded with two additional P’s. Productivity and Profit!

For more Life Lessons on sales and other success principles, please visit

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