Mercuri Mail

The India Journal of Mercuri International Jan - Mar 2018

Sales is tough... but learnable

Into sales from the history of human evolution
Must Read
The Go-Giver
Collective learning is a cellular trait : Sales is no exception


Into sales from the history of human evolution

For a hundred thousand years or more, say anthropologists, our human ancestors roamed the earth foraging for edible plants and hunting animals. Then some 12000 years ago, they laid down the flints and spears to grow food and domesticate animals. The transformation of hunter-gatherers into farmers was humungous evolutionary leap. No less was the discovery of the hunter-farmer strategy in sales. And if you thought this was a recently coined idea, you’re in for a big surprise

An absorbing blog post by Carey Davis on History of Sales: 6 Things You Should Know traces the history of the Hunter/Farmer role specialization to the insurance companies started by Franklin in 1750s. Mid eighteenth century was an era of subscription services. Unsurprisingly, insurance industry too crafted a business model that offered a subscription-based service. “A salesperson would visit your home, present a pitch, close the sale and make routine in person visits to collect the monthly subscription payments” says Davis. As business grew and Customers multiplied it became a challenge for salespeople to divide their time between prospecting for new business and collecting premiums on policies already issued.

That was when insurance industry is believed to have hit upon the concept of role specialization. Around the 1870s the terms ‘farmers’ and ‘hunters’ found their way into insurance selling lexicon. “Producers’ generated new leads, followed through and closed deals. ‘Collectors’, on the other hand, picked up subscriptions of premiums. The model was a run-away success, inspiring other businesses outside insurance adopting this approach to their Customer relationships as well

You can read Carey Davis’ blog post here

Sales Lesson: Specialization in defining sales roles – Hunters and Farmers


Collective learning is a cellular trait : Sales is no exception

Human beings come outfitted with an astonishing ability for collective learning. The other species and organisms are no different. In fact, biologists like Rupert Sheldrake argue that any phenomenon becomes more probable the more often it occurs. The blurb of Sheldrake’s book A New Science of Life refers to how, after rats in Harvard lab learned to escape from a water maze, rats in Melbourne, Australia escaped from a similar maze much quicker. Human race has evolved in intelligence and adaptability by learning from one another.

There are innumerable examples of learnings from one domain applied to another, to create transformational breakthroughs. So too in sales, insights from one industry are often successfully transplanted to other industries and businesses

Frequently these learnings spring from sales challenges and drivers that straddle across industries. Mercuri International’s Sales Excellence Survey 2017, covering responses from 10 different industries framed this with an intriguing question –

Do drivers of Sales Excellence vary by the nature of the Industry? - Are there drivers that are common across industries?

Mining the responses, it found the following common global drivers in more than 1 industry:

  • Each member of your sales team has a systematic account management planning process for each of their Customers
  • Your sales strategy is documented in writing
  • A detailed description of the steps of the processes/work flows is documented in written form
  • The image of sales inside your company is excellent
  • Your CRM tool is integral to the company, populated with relevant information and regularly updated by the sales teams
  • Clearly, cross domain sales learning is not only possible, it is desirable as well
  • You can access the Mercuri International Sales Survey 2017 here

Must Read

The Go-Giver

You could call almost call it dejavu. A discouraging quarter. Mounting pressure. Desperate hunt for that one redemptive deal. A scenario any salesperson will instantly relate to. So, any of us can be Joe, the hero of this short but profound fable.

Joe soon finds a mentor who gives him the most contrarian possible advice – Shift your focus away from getting to giving! Joe then meets his mentor’s friends from varied business backgrounds. In what can be a memorable lesson in cross-learning, Joe learns from them 5 different laws of stratospheric success, which draw on the central theme of giving

A quick overview of the 5 laws:

1) The Law of Value - Your real worth is defined by how much more value you give than how much you get paid.

2) The Law of Compensation - Your income is decided by the number of people you serve and how well you serve them

3) The Law of Influence - Your influence is defined by how often and how much you focus on others’ interests first.

4) The Law of Authenticity - The biggest and most valuable gift you can offer is yourself

5) The Law of Receptivity - To give effectively, you must be open to receive

Joe goes on to become an outstanding success. So, can all of us. Because isn’t giving, all?

Takeaway Quote from the book’s foreword by Arianna Huffington

“Too many people think, ‘Oh, sure, once you’ve achieved success and financial stability, then you can afford to be a giving person!’ But in this book, Bob Burg and John David Mann – who, among other things, have given us the term go-giver – tell us that, in fact, being a giving person is how you achieve success in the first place, however you define success”

Sales lesson: The global financial meltdown of 2008, was triggered by banks that indulged in mis-selling of risky loans to thousands who could not afford them. The banks paid billions to settle the investigations that followed. These banks saw themselves as sellers of loans, not as providers of stepping stones to sustainable financial prosperity. Such mis-selling and conflicts of interest were avoidable.. only if businesses around the world remembered one of the first lessons of selling – What isn’t good for the Customer, cannot be good for the seller. Legal but harmful isn’t on. Ever

Ravi's Corner

God’s Clay
  • Divine hues
  • Rich and delicate
  • A melange of fragrances
  • Mild lavender
  • Heady rose
  • Heavenly jasmine
  • Amidst tiny blossoms, sweet as a baby’s
  • breath
  • Strung together
  • With lemon grass
  • The blooms steal your attention
  • Make you smile and heave with joy
  • You feel the texture, smooth as velvet
  • And are filled with wonder at Nature’s power
  • To delight and create a silent dance within
  • All from the same earth
  • One and the same
  • Yet different
  • We grow in learning and grow through it
  • God’s Clay
  • So universal and yet unique


  1. Breakthrough innovation occurs when we bring down boundaries and encourage disciplines to learn from each other ― Gyan Nagpal (Author of Talent Economics)
  2. Real estate sales was perfect training for the experience to go into public life because you learn to accept rejection, learn to meet new people, learn to work with people and find common ground. That's the way you sell houses... that's also the way you win over constituency - Johnny Isakson
  3. So long as new ideas are created, sales will continue to reach new highs - Dorothea Brande
  4. Your most unhappy Customers are your greatest source of learning – Bill Gates
  5. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all - Danny Meyer
  6. To succeed today, you must become the respected, trusted advisor people want to see, instead of the dreaded insurance agent people want to avoid! - Lew Nason
  7. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling lemonade or software; you have to be outgoing, passionate, and fearless to succeed” – Chris Myers on Three Sales Lessons You Can Learn From A Simple Lemonade Stand
  8. Nothing you've read or learned is nearly as important as what the person across from you is about to say -- if you just shut up and listen. Besides, when you speak first, you're giving away information and potentially committing yourself to a position - Steve Tobak
  9. Almost the first thing suppliers say is that they want to ‘understand my business’, but when I talk to them, it becomes clear that most salespeople have no idea about how businesses make the decision to buy IT – Dominic Connor in Computer Weekly


Imagine this. You are made Director Sales of a luxury hotel for 24 hours. What would your day look like? Browse this list and you are guaranteed to smile ….

10 things successful hotel Sales and Marketing Directors do every day

  1. Determine the Day’s Top Priorities and STICK to Them
  2. Evaluate Your Hotel Product
  3. Monitor Your KPIs
  4. Speak with Revenue Managers
  5. Check Progress of Top 20 Sales Opportunities
  6. Speak to Guests and Corporate Meeting Attendees
  7. Monitor Your Comp Set’s Activity
  8. Learn: Read Up on Industry Trends and Upcoming Events
  9. Give Praise
  10. Review Your Performance Against Targets and Goals

You can read the detailed action points under these to-do items here

Sales lesson: Did you find the list any different from the one you use already? Nothing dramatically new, except for the business specific details, right? Smile …. the timeless lessons of selling are the same regardless of what you sell!


Mercuri Mail is a thoughtful compilation of meaningful articles drawn from Mercuri India archives, and from timeless management literature. Edited by Jaishankar Balasubramaniam & Sridhar Srinivasan of Mercuri Goldmann (India) Pvt. Ltd. This publication is for private circulation only.; |

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