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Must Read
Ravi's Corner


Sales is much more than Selling

As he confessed in his autobiography, he started out by simply being helpful. He would knock on the door and say “Good morning, madam, if there is anything wrong in your house that a good brush could fix, perhaps I could help you” Where do you think that would take the 11th of 12 children, born in a hard-bitten farm, with no more than a grammar school education, in early 20th Century USA? The pits, you might think

Not if you are Alfred Fuller. And you are into sales. When Alfred Fuller died in 1973, his brush-making business started with $ 375, was chalking up annual sales of over $130 million. Alfred Fuller himself had amassed many millions, as New York Times noted. Fuller belonged to the lore of American sales legends.

Arguably credited with perfecting door-to-door selling, Fuller not only became a storybook success, his salespeople, the Fuller Brush Man archetype, became part of American folklore. The big bad wolf in Walt Disney's “Three Little Pigs” disguised himself as a Fuller Brush Man. Unsurprisingly, the road to raising salesmanship to such an exalted status wasn’t a smooth one

The New York Times’ tribute to Fuller in its obituary said – “The ubiquitous Fuller Brush Man (later joined by the Fullerette) paid calls on 85 of 100 American homes. He made deliveries in Alaska by dog team; he sold to a doctor who set a dealer's fractured leg; he changed a customer's tyre, pulled a tooth, dressed a chicken, hung out the wash”

There was a timeless simplicity to his sales approach based on principles rooted in the 3 Ps:

  1. Price - his abiding belief that a humble brush sold with hard work, can produce substantial market value.
  2. Pitch - his politely phrased and carefully rehearsed script, one guaranteed to overcome sales resistance.
  3. People - his conviction that a salesforce, when sufficiently motivated, can move mountains. All three are as powerfully valid today as they were a century ago.

Here is how the Fuller Brush Co. website sums up his founding credo – “> make it work, > make it last, > and guarantee it, no matter what”

Fuller, whose autobiography was titled ‘A Foot in the Door’ had perfected a technique of getting into a prospect’s home. “On a rainy day” the New York Times’ revealed “he wore overshoes a size too large so he could get them off quickly. He was polite— “I'll just step in for a moment.” Sales call planning, anyone? The same astonishing attention to detail also helped Fuller use freebies to telling effect. Fuller and his dealers gave away, for free, a vegetable brush called the ‘Handy’. But after entry into the Customer’s home, that is!

Fuller’s motto, as quoted in New York Times’ tribute, was “With equal opportunity to all and due consideration for each person involved in every transaction, a business must succeed.”  To Fuller, it appeared, the answer to "why sales" was that, sales was much more than selling. It was the reason for his being. Or ‘Ikigai’ as they say in Japanese. 

Read New York Times’ tribute to Alfred Fuller here


What is your ‘ikigai’?

Is there something you love to do so much, you would do it for free? Something you would want to do every living day? And once engrossed, you hardly notice time passing by. ‘The reason for being’ is how Ikigai is understood in Japanese.

All of us have our Ikigais. The Greek equivalent is Moira, the higher destiny. Ikigai is something that isn’t hard to spot. When what you love to do fulfills a need in the world, your passion becomes your avocation. Then you get compensated for it and soon enough that activity becomes your profession. Sales does this to some people. Then selling becomes their Ikigai.

Deals closed, numbers run, quotas crushed, bonuses earned, championships won, sales is all of it and more. But sales as Ikigai? Hard to swallow? Lofty goals and higher purpose are all fine, salespeople will say, but who will take care of the run rates.

Three years back, Forbes Magazine documented the experience of a company named Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. The company notched up double digit top and bottom line growth through a simple shift. They made patient health the noble purpose of their sales organisation. This was done through small and far reaching changes such as framing conversations around how many patients’ lives were improved, while discussing financial results. During trainings salespeople were encouraged to rediscover the purpose of their sales effort - their own answer to "why sales?" - as one of making a difference to the lives of patients. The article recounts how Rick Russell, Chief Commercial Officer of the company confided shares the same sense of purpose with regard to patients. “It’s why I got into the industry 24 years ago” was the way he summed it up.

Sales fulfills vital human needs of every description and offers countless opportunities to serve a higher purpose beyond reaching targets. Which is why sales is not just a profession. It is the Ikigai of millions of salespeople across the world.

Must Read

Selling with noble purpose

Do you wish your company had better closing rates? Happier, passionate salespeople? Then, get your salespeople to obsess about the difference they make to Customers’ lives, says Lisa McLeod in her book Selling with Noble Purpose.

She goes on to show how this “Noble Sales Purpose” (NSP) - the answer to "why sales?" - unique to your company can be developed in an easy to use three-step process. The book maps out strategies for sales leaders to craft an organisation that truly lives its noble purpose. Well implemented, what NSP can do could be remarkable. Lisa McLeod highlights how the NSP mindset can transform sales training, positively impact sales incentive plans and create an inspired salesforce, not just a motivated one, that brings a Customer-first approach into every sales interaction.

Anecdotes quoted in the book clearly demonstrate that NSP is not a woolly, nose-in-cloud ideal but a workable approach that can do wonders to sales motivation.  Stories from the field illustrate how an NSP can dramatically improve sales results. McLeod offers actionable ideas for organisations that want their sales to reflect their purpose. Most companies believe that if they make a profit their purpose is fulfilled. But the truth is, as the book memorably reminds us, if we fulfill our purpose, then we can surely make a profit. And much more!

(To buy this book, click the cover image above)

Ravi's Corner


  • A spark and She is Born
  • But dreams need means
  • My thoughts clear as crystal
  • My words perform
  • The kitty swells
  • A step at a time
  • Brick by Brick
  • She grows with diverse talent
  • The clay moulded
  • The Buyer honoured
  • The Student empowered
  • Promises kept
  • Hardship forgotten
  • Fresh as dewdrops
  • Forever getting better
  • Performance with a purpose
  • 30 years on, SHE is my reason for being


Sales ‘Ikigai’

  1. “True professional selling is simply sharing enthusiasm” - Dan Miller
  2. “A sale is not something you pursue; it’s what happens to you while you are immersed in serving your Customer” - Anonymous
  3. “Don’t find Customers for your products; find products for your Customers” - Seth Godin
  4. “Always remember to fall asleep with a dream and wake up with a purpose” - Anonymous
  5. If you work just for money, you'll never make it. But if you love what you are doing, and always put the customer first, success will be yours - Ray Kroc
  6. Make a Customer, not a sale - Katherine Barchetti
  7. “Salespeople move an economy of a nation. Someone could have invented the most amazing invention that is going to be a revolution for a planet, but that product goes nowhere unless someone sells it to someone else.” ― Michael Delaware, The Art of Sales Management: Lessons Learned on the Fly
  8. "To build a long-term, successful enterprise, when you don't close a sale, open a relationship." - Patricia Fripp
  9. The book salesman should be honored because he brings to our attention, as a rule, the very books we need most and neglect most – Confucius


Sales ‘Ikigai’ in Action

"People who sell well are a joy. They sell without needing to sell. The way they go about ‘selling’ elevates the act to the point where they are serving a Customer’s needs. They make us happy, they make us grateful. We look forward to meeting them again, to buying from them again. Our relationships with them become ones that we cherish.

Take for instance, my most favourite photo framer in the world. Her name is Veena. She has a small workshop tucked away off the Nandi Durg Road in Bengaluru. 

In most part, she restores period furniture and knick-knacks for art lovers. One part of her workshop, however, is devoted to photo framing. A few months ago, I had taken to her an old cloth embroidered by my mother that was in a state of disrepair. I asked her to frame it for me. She took one look at it and asked me to take the cloth to INTACH.

‘This is so precious’, she said. ‘At INTACH, they should be able to restore it after which we will frame it. If I just frame it for you, it will last a couple of decades. If they restore it first, it will last longer’ I took her advice and approached INTACH. They took a few months to return it after a thorough restoration job. After that I brought it back to Veena and requested her to frame it for me.

I have never had to tell Veena how to frame my pictures. She advises me on the many options I have and quite often warns me against something I may have chosen, something on which she could have probably made twice the amount of money…

…I have never talked to Veena, Susanta and Venkatesh about price. I don’t negotiate with them and I feel as though asking them for a discount would be an insult to the mutual trust we have. It is actually more than trust; it is friendship of a very special kind. I consider them my trusted advisors and hugely respect them for their knowledge. Each time I speak to them or meet them in person, I am eager to buy something from them. I feel restless until they let me do so ….”

Excerpts from Sell: The Art, the Science, the Witchcraft by Subrto Bagchi


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.

www.mercuriindia.com; | mary@mercuri-india.com

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