Sell without Selling Out

Paul, Andy. (2022). Sell without Selling Out.  New York:  MacMillan Publishers

“Insist on Yourself: never imitate.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


If you are working in sales, and the sales managers or organization instructs you to use the script provided to increase sales, and it just doesn’t fit your values or personality, this book may give you some hope. (Bill’s Note:  I think this has application to education and nonprofits.  Substitute sales with the word learning or teaching).  Genie Z. LaBorde wrote a book called ‘Influencing with Integrity.’  Influencing is different from manipulation.  Sales can feel like manipulation at times.

When forced to work differently than who you are as a person, internal and external conflict happens.  Yes, supporting a family by having employment is primary.  Long-term, living a divided self, will take its toll. (Thank you, Parker Palmer, for the concept of divided self)

Andy Paul suggests the following.

            *What we do, as sellers, isn’t complicated. We listen to understand what the most important thing is to our buyers. And then we help them get it.

            These Four Core Pillars can help match what we have to offer and what the needs of the consumer are:

  • Connection
  • Curiosity
  • Understanding
  • Generosity

“Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

Atomic Habits, James Clear

            Forrester Study – executives consider less than one fifth of the meetings they have with salespeople to be valuable. And we wonder why people dislike meetings. Your job as a seller is to listen to understand what the most important things is to your buyer. As Edgar Schein in his book ‘Helping’

And ‘Humble Inquiry’ ( ) for the summaries suggest:

  1. Level the relationship so there is no one up and one down
  2. And focus on what we want to accomplish, “What problem are you trying to solve?”

Most sales managers want consistency and predictability.  To be honest that is what many school district leaders want also.  Unfortunately, people are always  not consistent and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  (Bill’s Note:  I think we need expanded repertoire to accommodate and embrace increasing diversity as well as the emotional agility (Susan David) to use that repertoire depending upon the task at hand.

Here is a chart that may help explain the difference in ‘selling out’ and ‘selling in’ keeping your values and ethics intact while providing a product or service.

Selling Out

Selling IN

Pitch Conversation
Tell Ask Questions
Persuasion Influence
Change Minds Help make up minds
Taker Giver
Transaction Transformation
Stays on-script Curious
Knowledge Understanding
Know-it-all Learn-it-all
Prioritize orders Prioritize Outcomes
Product pusher Problem Solver
Process People
Sells products (drills) Sells outcomes (holes)
What’s important to me? What’s important to the buyer?
Salesy Open-Minded
Low win rate High win rate
Closer Seller
It’s all about me I win when the buyer wins
Extract value Give value
Sales process Buying process


Paul uses the term Salesy to identify the goal for sales at the expense of relationship or need.  Of course, we want ra elationship and be of service.  In high pressure situations sales may be the outcome desired by the salesperson rather than solving the issue at hand.

Karen Phelan, in her book ‘Sorry, I Broke Your Company’ explains how having prescribed ways to proceed can actually have a negative result for the organization.  For a summary, see ‎

Here are some suggestions that Andy Paul writes in his book:

  • Define the problem they need to solve
  • Make sense of the information that they provide
  • Understand their options for achieving their most important thing
  • Calculate the
  • value of my solution
  • Make an informed decision

Being salesy is the antithesis to everything that is good about sales

PRO TIP: you know you’re on the right track when your buyer tells you, “You don’t act like a salesperson.”

There is another table on the comparison of being a Sales Boss and a Sale Leader.  It identifies behaviors that can determine how you might be managed.  This can be used to help determine the alignment between you as a direct report and your supervisor.

Knowing that most interactions depend on a positive relationship, the following question can and should be answered for profit or nonprofit organizations.

“Tell me why I should buy from you?”

Here are some additional questions to help you clarify your goals.  “Why You?”

  • Why should I work with you?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • Why should I invest my time in you?
  • Why should I collaborate with you?
  • Why should I take advice from you?
  • Why should I buy from you?
  • Why should I risk my money on you?
  • Why should I accept you?
  • Why should I hire you?

There is always a personal judgment going on with interactions between seller and buyer, teacher and student, direct report and supervisor, etc. It is a personal judgment:  your values, your integrity, your credibility, your trustworthiness. Connection is the building block of influence.

I found the following acronym helpful as a self-check:

M – Motives: Are your motives transparent to the buyer?

I – Integrity:  Do your actions align with your words?

C – Credibility:  Do you have the knowledge and capability to perform?

E – Execution: Are you living up to the commitments you’ve made?

Questions create opportunities.  Statements generate defensiveness.

French Maxim: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Two Questions a salesperson or a teacher might ask:

  1. What is the one thing that is the most important to the buyer?
  2. To whom specifically is this one thing most important?

When is the right time?  All the time.

Another important point made is: It’s not the person with the most information who holds the advantage in any competitive sales situation.  The influence advantage belongs to the person who has the understanding of that information. Knowing information is easy. Understanding it takes work.

One of Bill’s quotes is: “Knowledge is Important AND Insufficient.”  When I wrote that I meant that a person must be able to implement that knowledge to solve problems.  I may have to adjust it to also include “understanding the information (data) for it to be most useful.

This point is also important.  Do you add ‘value’ working in the organization?  What is the value needed and do you possess that value?  If so, the organization benefits from your participation. Paul’s question is: Is your Value, Valuable?

Paul ends with a metaphor, ‘Don’t Be a Sales Zombie’

By Selling In he includes the following descriptors:

  • Make authentic human connections
  • Develop greater credibility and trust
  • Unlock doors with your curiosity
  • Make your buyer feel heard and understood
  • Give generously of your value and vision to the buyer get what is most important to them

In AA, Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Traditions, the eleventh tradition is be a program of attraction, not promotion.  Andy Paul makes the case that ‘selling in’ is about attracting customers, clients, and consumers by the ethical actions and solving their problems, not just the bottom line of sales.

As usual italicized portions are direct quotes.  There are more stories and ideas in the book than I have represented