21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

(PhotoCredit: Steven Noreyko)

The "Duh" Factor That Every Small Business Needs to Succeed

August 13, 2018 - 11:00 am

When it comes to sales, there’s one “duh” factor that every business, big and small, must take into account. Find out what that is in the following excerpt from Stephen J. Harvill’s "21 Secrets of Million-Dollar Sellers," now in paperback from Simon & Schuster.


I had just finished up a speech to a roomful of financial advisors in Orlando and was leaving to interview another sales superstar. I stepped out of the convention center and got hit by that famous Florida heat and humidity. It felt like I was inhaling the Gulf of Mexico. After the briefest moment I was already in a deep sweat.

About a thirty-minute drive later I arrived at a large Porsche dealership, where, unlike me, not one car on the lot revealed any weather-related wear and tear. Even sitting there out in the elements, each one looked fresh off the factory floor.

Inside, the showroom was air-conditioned and immaculate. It looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and was filled with cars that resembled sculptures. This particular dealership can only be described as a Porsche superstore, and every vehicle was a fantasy car.

A salesman came up to me. “Beautiful, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are,” I replied.

“You know one of the best things?” he continued. “The smell.” I hadn’t focused on this, but he was right: The entire room smelled like a new car. Still, at this point in my study of top producers, I was noticing pretty much everything about any encounter I had with a salesperson, and what I had noticed just now was that there had been no “May I help you?” or “Anything I can show you?” from this guy. Instead, just a couple of friendly observations.

“You must be Steve,” the salesman said when I told him I was looking for Jeff. Jeff had mentioned I would be stopping by, the guy continued, escorting me to a conference room while explaining, “He’s just finishing up a ‘like’ meeting.”


A “like” meeting

I hadn’t heard it phrased that way before, but I did recognize the concept from other interviews. Hmm, I thought. Might be a pattern. Turned out it was.

Inside the conference room, Jeff and three colleagues on his sales team were wrapping up their meeting. On a whiteboard was a series of statements:

21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers

  • So much knowledge
  • Freedom from pressure
  • Beeline from purchase to service
  • Follow-up after purchase
  • Soft touch

I realized pretty quickly, as you probably have, too, that these were all things the dealership’s customers had said they liked about the sales experience. Looking at that whiteboard, I’d had a realization that could not have been more obvious.


People like to do business with people they like

Duh, right? But as basic as it is, this little truth is also absolutely critical to sales success. There are two reasons why.

First, consider the opposite statement: People will go out of their way not to do business with people they don’t like. If you receive bad service at a restaurant, you will go out of your way not to return. If someone suggests that restaurant in the future, you’ll probably say, “I’m never going there again. I hate that place.”

Second, consider this: Most salespeople, including your competition, spend little to no time figuring out what their customers actually enjoy about them.

So if there’s one way you want your customers to feel about you, the word that should come to mind is “like.” (This might go against conventional sales wisdom. I have heard more than one person say that being trustworthy is more important than being likable. Huh? Have you ever heard a customer say, “Oh, Steve. I trust him, but I don’t like him at all”? Never. “Like” leads to “trust.” It’s not the other way around.)

But back to Jeff. Jeff is the leading salesman at his Porsche dealership, which is one of the world’s largest and most successful. The “like” meeting was, in fact, a regular event among all the members of the dealership’s sales force, who gather in small groups to go over exactly what their clients enjoy about buying expensive cars from them. Some of the information is culled from client surveys. Some comes from the salespeople themselves. (They’re all required to keep sales journals and record observations about each client interaction.) The “like” meetings have a purpose: The dealership wants to be able to replicate the behaviors and actions that make their customers happy.

As for Jeff, his status as this dealership’s top salesman has to do with his super-laser focus on “like.” In an organization in which “like” is already important, Jeff studies each sales survey, makes meticulous notes in his journal, and listens intently as his colleagues discuss their client successes and their missed opportunities.



“Like” is all about emotions. There’s nothing rational about it. In fact, oftentimes people don’t know why they like something. Why do you like pineapple upside-down cake? Why do you like the song “Desperado”? Who knows. You just do.

In sales, “like” is about your clients’ feelings. Specifically, it’s about how you make them feel. Do they leave happy after doing business with you? Do they feel they’re in good hands? Do they think you’re nice? If you are the orchestrator of these feelings, you are a maestro of “like.”

That’s critical to building your book of business, because “like” taps into the emotional connection customers make between the product or service they just purchased and the person — you — who made that purchase happen. Customers usually buy on emotion and later justify that buying decision with a backfill of logic, reason, and judgment.

Here is the real power of “like”: Even when things are not equal — when, for example, your competitor’s product or service has slightly better pricing or features — a customer will return to the salesperson he likes. Your customer is searching for a mutually beneficial and rewarding purchasing experience. He gets this when he likes you.

Just think about it: What better sales strategy can there be than to discover what your clients like about you and…do more of that?


In the past twenty-five years, Stephen Harvill and his Creative Ventures team have helped some of the world’s most respected companies realize their true capabilities through pioneering methods in organizational dynamics and strategic thinking. He now runs a boutique consulting firm, working with organizations of all sizes—his client base includes Apple, Pepsi, Samsung, IBM, General Mills, Wells Fargo, Southwest Airlines, and Microsoft. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife.