Good Work—Edition Nº 22

A hand-curated newsletter devoted to exploring how we choose to spend the 90,000 hours that will make up our careers.
Andy Sparks
▪︎ 5 minutes read time

🎶 No Love Today by Chris Smither

"Ladies and gentlemen, either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community!"Harold Hill*

Growing up, we had a sandbox, where I loved playing with Micro Machines. I’d slam them together and have all kinds of fun, especially when we introduced a hose into the equation. So, when my Dad decided to stop by Toys“R”Us (RIP) on the way back from Home Depot (I grew up in the suburbs, can you tell?), I assumed we were going to acquire Micro Machines. I looked at my old man with admiration—his taste in toys, impeccable. As we arrived in the aisle stocked with possessions oh so coveted, I pointed at the one I wanted, and Dad said, “Tell me why I should buy this for you.” Having skipped sales class in the second grade, I was woefully unequipped. As we left the store empty handed that day—my father’s icy grin at my back—I was determined to become convincing.

To the non-salesperson, the world sales rolls off the tongue like a Fisherman’s Friend cough drop—yuck. Nobody likes being sold, and for good reason. The archetype of the salesman best portrayed by Ben Affleck in Boiler Room or Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (or in the iconic role written by Arthur Miller*)— doesn’t exactly paint an endearing picture of the profession. It tends to dissuade regular folk from setting themselves to the task of learning how to sell.

Sales isn’t just about getting paid to sell a product or service—it’s about convincing people to see things the way you see them. If you’re in a role that requires you to be part of a hiring committee, you’re selling. When you ask for a raise, you’re selling. When you try to get your memoir to an agent, you’re selling. When you’re trying to get out of a weekend with your in-laws, you’re selling.

The best salespeople—the ones who take home hundreds of thousands if not millions a year in pay—are storytellers. If you’re a good salesperson, you know that sales is really about figuring out what your audience wants and convincing them to trust you enough to help them get it. Sales, at its most functional, is a non-zero-sum game built on empathy, where both sides give and both sides get.

This Week


  • Two of the most frequently cited “sales” books are How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini. It’s worth at least knowing they exist, but if you stop your sales education there, you’re likely to pick up a few slimier sales habits.
  • The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life, by Philip Delves Broughton is my favorite book on sales. Broughton shares stories of real life salespeople from all kinds of backgrounds to rug salesman to television personality, showing the breadth of the skill we call sales.
  • If you’re anywhere near a startup with a sales team, you should stop what you’re doing and make sure members of your sales team have all read The Sales Learning Curve, by Mark Leslie and Charles A. Holloway. This one paper explains outlines a framework for understanding different sales skillsets depending on a company’s stage.
  • Introduction to the Sales and Marketing Machine, by David Skok is the first piece in a lengthy and in-depth series on how to build a sales and marketing machine. This post lays out the nuts and bolts of the different pieces of a sales and marketing org.
  • Like any trade, sales has its own lingo. “The Ultimate Smarketing Glossary: 62 Common Sales Terms Explained for Marketers,” by Lindsay Kolowich is a good reference if you’re feeling confused.
  • A few years ago, I heard Seth Godin recommend Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale, specifically in audiobook format. Having listened to it, I have to agree. Warning: it’s dated. Ziglar has such a distinct drawl that you’ll have a hard time forgetting many of his sales truisms.

That’s Good Work for this week. Looking forward to what’s next.

Andy and the Holloway Team

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