Sales begin and end with the ability to create relationships. In their book the art of woo, authors G. Richard Shell (author of Bargaining for Advantage) and Mario Moussa discuss using strategic persuasion to sell your ideas while building relationships that will last. They share the following stories about Andrew Carnegie and Abraham Lincoln in their chapter called “build relationships and credibility”:
Andrew Carnegie once described Abraham Lincoln’s gift for creating relationships with virtually everyone he met. Carnegie was in charge of the railroads during the Civil War and Lincoln “would occasionally come to [my] office and sit at a desk awaiting replies to telegrams, or perhaps merely anxious for informatoin.” Carnegie went on to note that “[Lincoln’s] manners were perfect because [they were] natural; and he had a kind word for everybody, even the youngest boy in the office. His attentions were not graduated. They were the same to all, as deferential in talking to a messenger boy as to Secretary [of State] Seward. His charm lay in the total absence of manner. It was not so much perhaps what he said as the way in which he said it that never failed to win one . . .I never met a man who so thoroughly made himself one with all men as Mr. Lincoln.”
Carnegie himself learned the importance of developing relationships through day-to-day interactions at a very early age. When he was a teenager, Carnegie worked as a messenger for a telegraphy company in Pittsburrgh, and he delivered telegrams to many of the city’s leading businessmen. To advance his career, he made a conscious effort to memorize all their names so that he could acknowledge them when he saw them on the street. In his autobiography, Carnegie elevated this activity to the level of a principle: “Slight attentions . . . often bring back reward as great as it is unlooked for. No kind action is ever lost. Even to this day I occasionally meet men whom I had forgotten, who recall some trifling attention I have been able to pay them.”
A business epigram sums up this idea quite simply: “No salesman ever went broke who knew the names of his customers’ kids.”
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