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Gratitude in Sales? And Happy Thanksgiving!

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
13 min read

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Gratitude in Sales? And Happy Thanksgiving!:

Full Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Show. I am Liston and I am here to help you build a better agency, a better consulting business, a better professional services business and I wanted to say thank you and express my gratitude. And in today’s episode I will be talking all about gratitude in sales.

I know, this is like crunchy granola hippie stuff, but Thanksgiving is coming up. It is my favorite holiday and I wanted to talk to you about how I use and really internalize gratitude when I sell. Before I do that though I did want to invite you to a strategy session with me.

If you are looking to scale up sales at your agency, at your consulting firm, at your professional services firm and you’re looking for training, custom consulting or coaching there are a variety of ways that I might be able to help you. And I would love to talk about your individual sales challenges if there are any.

So, if that seems remotely interesting to you we’ll get on the phone for about an hour and I will give you at least three actionable insights that you can use and apply to your business right away. All you have to do is go apply for a strategy session with me. That url is

As I said in the opening, Thanksgiving is by far my number one favorite holiday. The reason for that is simple, is Thanksgiving is all about being together and about giving thanks. It’s about getting together with family, getting together with friends. There’s no pressure for gifts, other than maybe the dish you’re bringing to the potluck if you’re going to a potluck.

But it doesn’t come with the transactional and material baggage that say Christmas does. I love Christmas and it’s a great holiday but it’s become something that it wasn’t originally intended to be, which is a huge focus on gifts and almost a competition between people about who you can give the better thing.

And I don’t like that so much about Christmas. I like the celebration of life, celebration of spirit. I love the music. I remember going to church as a kid listening to the music of Christmas and I don’t know, maybe it’s because I don’t go to church anymore, but that part of the spirit of Christmas feels like it’s just been so commercialized now.

And so that’s one of the reasons I love Thanksgiving so much; is it really is about all that other stuff minus the gifts. And so I love that. And what I do for Thanksgiving every year, my wife and I go town to LA, which is where I’m from, Los Angeles, the Valley to be specific, if I have any Valley people listening to this.

And we have several Thanksgivings. I have one with my mom and step-dad and sister and I often meet up with other friends. And we always have this big friends, what my friend Ben has dubbed, the second Thanksgiving. And there’s probably around 20 of us who get together. And we’ve been doing this for years and years and years.

If Ben, you’re listening to this, I just want to give you a personal shout out. It’s an amazing thing that we do to come together and share on Thanksgiving and be together. And when we started people weren’t married, there were certainly no kids. And now everybody’s married and most people have kids. So that should give you some idea of how long this has been going on.

One thing that we do when we get together is we go around the table and everybody says what they’re thankful for. And my goal here in this podcast episode is not to be preachy to you, but just to emphasize the importance of remembering our blessings, what we are fortunate to have. And whether you’re religious or not doesn’t really matter.

Certainly there are things that you are lucky to have and should appreciate in your life. And so I wanted to take this episode to talk about gratitude. Now, the big question is, is there room for gratitude in sales? And before I get to that I just wanted to let you know what I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for you for being here.

I can’t tell you how amazing this is that you’re here listening to this right now. I would not have imagined this when I started my career, and so I just wanted to thank you for being here. I really appreciate you listening to this podcast, you spending some of your time with me. Even if it’s not on a regular basis just the fact that you’re listening right now is amazing.

I’m also thankful for my wife, who is my best friend and I feel very lucky that we were able to not only meet but all of the adventures that we’ve had. The fact that we’ve moved from Santa Barbara, California, which an amazing place. That’s where we went to grad school. Up to the Bay area where we lived near San Francisco, north of San Francisco and Sausalito and then Corte Madera.

If you’ve not been to Sausalito and you ever visit the Bay area I highly recommend you plan for a stop there. Take the ferry across the bay from San Francisco into Sausalito. Have lunch and look out on the water. It’s an amazing enchanting place. And then eventually we moved up to Portland, Oregon where we’ve been for three years and we just have a great, great life and existence here.

Our neighborhood is wonderful. We go for walks all the time. So really grateful for my wife and all that we’ve been able to share and build together. I’m also grateful for my family and friends. I mean, that’s an incredible stroke of luck that I have so much family that I’m still in touch with and I still love and care about and who care about me.

I’m very grateful for my friends. I was mentioning second Thanksgiving and how my friends get together, and all of those people, we’ve known each other for at this point a minimum of 20 years. Many of us have known each other since junior high. And so I think it’s crazy that not only do we still know each other, but we still like each other.

And there are so many interesting and awesome people who just happened to have been associated for so long. And so I’m super grateful about that. I also am grateful for my internet friends. Now, whether you are selling for someone else or you’re marketing for someone else or you’re the owner of your own business I really recommend gathering some internet friends.

Now, in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich he talks about these mastermind groups. And so if you haven’t heard of that it’s basically a group of people who get together, hold each other accountable, have things in common. They’re generally very motivated, ambitious people, smart people. You would trust everyone else’s advice and value their advice.

And this year I’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to people like that. I mean, this podcast is a vehicle for building what I affectionately call my internet friends, but also sort of mastermind type relationships where I can go to people and ask them harder complicated questions and they can tell me their experience or just give me advice based on what they think.

That’s amazing, so I’m super grateful for that. And I’m also very grateful for my health. Knock on wood that I still have it. And I spend a lot of time trying to remain healthy, and so super grateful for that. That’s what I’m grateful for. I’m certain I’ve left off a few things. But the final thing I’m grateful for is that I have help in this business.

I have someone who edits my podcasts. Thank you Juan. He’s amazing. I have someone who is my assistant. Thank you Tiffany. She’s amazing. I have Diego who writes for me. He’s wonderful. And even though I’m sort of the brains behind this business there’s absolutely no way I could achieve what I have without their help. So thank you all for your help. I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the big question. Is there room for gratitude in sales? Well, I think the answer for me obviously is yes otherwise I wouldn’t be recording this podcast. However, it really depends on who you talk to. Now, just to kind of demonstrate the default disposition of a lot of people who talk about sales and selling, sales literature is chock-full of military metaphors.

So a lot of people will talk about your weapons in sales, that you have to go out and kill your prospects and crush your goals and take aim at people who are your targets. And you’re either going to win or lose and along the way you have to destroy objections. And so there’s this very kind of me versus you zero sum game idea that a lot of people have about sales.

And if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while you know that I certainly don’t agree with that. I think that sales should be a proposition that allows both parties to become better off. So, the party that paid money, the buyer, they get more value than they paid through that transaction. And the person who received the money, the seller, is giving more value.

At the end of the day we’re all better off, and that’s the kind of thing that we want. There’s a matchmaking element to it where I can give you what you’re looking for and beyond if you give me what I’m looking for, which is to get paid a certain amount. That for me is the way I look at selling. Now, if you see selling as zero sum then throw all of this advice out the window and you can go ahead and unsubscribe from my podcast because you’re probably not going to like a lot of my advice.

Now, if you do see it as zero sum there is this notion that gratitude may also be mistaken as a sign of weakness. Well, why is that? Well because showing that you’re grateful can reveal weakness in that you need something from someone else or that you need something at all. So if we look at the Miriam Websters definition of gratitude it says, “The quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Now, our prospects aren’t necessarily showering us in kindness, but just like I told you I’m grateful that you’re here right now listening to this, whenever someone takes the time to talk to you in your business who’s a prospect and they’re looking to maybe buy something from you they could be doing literally anything else.

They could be talking to some other provider. They cloud be listening to this podcast. They could be outside. They could be calling in sick. They could’ve canceled the meeting on you. Anything, they could be doing anything other than talking to you. And so this isn’t to say that you should worship your prospects or worship your clients. That’s different.

We’re not subservient to them, but it’s okay to be grateful and express gratitude for their time, for them being there, for them believing and trusting in you enough to even have the conversation. It’s not a matter of hierarchy when we’re grateful. It’s a matter of communicating thankfulness. That doesn’t make us subservient to someone else.

I just want to clear that up. So, how do I express gratitude when I sell? I want to preface this by saying I really advocate for the long game or the infinite game. If you’re not familiar with what an infinite game is I recommend going and reading the book Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse. And as defined in the book Carse says, “The infinite game includes any authentic interaction from touching the culture that changes rules, plays with boundaries and exists solely for the purpose of continuing the game.

The infinite player displays self sufficient strength.” What this is saying is in an infinite game there’s no winners and losers, there’s only a continuation of the game itself. And so if you’re in it for the long run, if you are not here just to focus squarely on this quarter or crushing your goals for the year, you’re going to focus on that first thing, authentic interaction.

Now, if you’re looking to exit your business in the next 12 months or if you’re looking to get the biggest bonus you can and then leave your company in early 2019 obviously this is not going to apply to you. You’re going to have an incentive to push forward, but just know that it will come at the expense of doing what’s in the best interest of your client, and therefore not really displaying much gratitude.

I find that when I talk to people at software companies who are selling their software for whatever … A little hobby of mine is collecting different types of software for different reasons and then not using it. But when I talk to sales reps at a lot of these software companies what becomes clear is they don’t give a shit about me.

They want to sell whatever they’re working on at the time and they make promises that the software later does not fulfill. Now, it’s in the interest of that player, the salesperson, to make the sell. But it’s not in the interest of the company to make the sell when what they really have is someone who’s dissatisfied and when I’m asked about it in the future I will not recommend the software, and in fact recommend against it.

So just know that I really advocate for playing the long game or the infinite game. I’m building a long term business. I’m building long term relationships, which means I’m not going to be putting a lot of pressure on people to say yes to me today. It means I’m willing to allow them to not work with me now, and I’m willing to accept that as a totally fine outcome.

Now if you want to know more in depth about my opinion on that topic you can go back and listen to episode 36 from last week about the sales cycle, Should You Push It Forward, or Stay Patient. And you can also listen to kind of my credo, which is serve don’t sell, and that’s episode two. Way back in the early days of this podcast, episode two, Serve, Don’t sell.

I advocate for the long game, and so with that in mind here’s how I use gratitude when I sell. The first thing I do is I try to always go the extra mile. Now I’m not perfect at this, so I don’t want to give you the impression that 100% of my time is dedicated to going to the extra mile. That’s definitely not true.

But I think going the extra mile really does show people that you’re grateful without even having to say it. And so one thing that I would say is video messages are huge. I’ve taken the time to set up my office in such a way with the lighting, with the video camera, with the microphone where I can record a quick video message instead of just replying to an email.

And that video message really gives people kind of this above and beyond experience that they’re just not use to. And so I really, really, really love sending video messages, and I think that’s a way to express gratitude to my clients. I also try to give value before receiving value. So, whenever I talk to someone I’m always looking for what their goals are, what initiatives they have going on at their company, who they’re trying to meet, what types of connections do they need.

And through that process I’m often able to make introductions between my prospects and other people I know or clients and prospects or referral partners and prospects. And I’m not holding out on that. I’m trying to give value from the moment I see these people. I will also do things like record a podcast based on a topic that came up when I was working with someone through the sales process, and then I’ll send it to them.

I’ll say, “Hey. You mentioned this thing when we were talking. I would love for you to take a listen to this podcast because it inspired me and I just wanted you to know that and be able to take a listen.” And here’s the thing about gratitude from a really practical perspective.

If you’re machiavellian or super utilitarian, there is a utility to gratitude, which is when you tell people that you’re grateful, and especially when you show them by doing something for them, from a psychological perspective that’s creating something called a social obligation.

Now, I’m not doing it in order to create a social obligation, but that is a side affect of what’s happening. Surely you’ve heard of the concept of karma. Well, from a very practical and evolutionary perspective this is probably where it comes from. If you put a lot of good deeds out into the world you’re more likely to get some back.

Now, this isn’t to say that your only goal is to just show up and do what everybody else wants. Of course not. This needs to be within the context of you offering help, you offering service, you offering gratitude in a way that may further your business and may further your sales efforts, but it also might not. And that’s okay, right?

So I think that that’s the key distinction is you’re not doing it in order to get something in return. You’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do and because that’s how you would want to be treated. And if you do enough of it it will come back to you. Now, the last thing I want to talk about here is mindset.

I’ve given the advice and I stand by it that you should see yourself as holding something valuable and worthwhile for your client. You can solve important problems for them. As a consultant, as an agency, as a service provider you have expertise than can make your client better off. That is still true. At the same time you wouldn’t exist if it were not for them.

Not any individual, but your clients in general, people in general who need your help. There’s a little bit of a symbiotic relationship there, right? You wouldn’t be valuable if there weren’t a market of people valuing you. And that is the kind of mindset that I want you to have when it comes to gratitude in sales is to remember, to be reminded, to understand, to internalize this idea that you’re valuable but so are those other people who need your help.

That is my Thanksgiving message to you today. I will not be publishing my regular two part interview this coming Thursday and Friday. Go enjoy Thanksgiving with your family, with your friends. I’ll be back next Monday with another solo episode. And once again I am grateful that you took the time to listen to this. I am grateful that you’re a listener and I hope you have a fantastic day and a wonderful Thanksgiving. Bye.

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