I once had some trouble transferring email addresses to a new computer– which inspired this cartoon:guy trying to transfer email addresses from old to new computer by jumping up down squash into machineIllustration: Mark Armstrong

There is, of course, a procedure for doing an address file transfer to a given computer. All it takes is some online research and a little patience. OK, and maybe some aspirin… 😊

But it’s tempting to opt for muscle over research, patience, and finesse.

Marketing and sales strategist John Graham refers to task tunnel vision. As in: Just let me get on with it. I don’t need to read the directions or look at the user’s manual.

Sound familiar? I can hear myself saying it about a lot of things.

Mr. Graham says many salespeople tend to be self-defining: All they want to do is make sales. And this leads to their trying too hard and being unprepared.

Which drives people away: if prospects feel pressured to make a decision, they’ll say no in order to escape.

You have to be prepared in order to explain how your product or service will help the customer– which means researching prospects, talking to them, understanding their problems.

What customers really need is an advocate. Many of today’s products and services are complex, which makes it hard to choose. A salesperson who can help people sort things out and make good decisions builds trust. And more than anything else, customer trust drives sales.

Mr. Graham cites another cause of sales failure: refusing to learn new things. Barry Farber would call that having a poor work ethic.

And/or a poor homework ethic. He mentions an old truism: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Entrepreneur Adam Honig makes this sobering statement: “Possibly the biggest reason why some people don’t last long in sales is that they never embrace their profession.”

The best marketers and salespeople love what they do– and that includes researching prospects and their problems.

Mr. Graham also mentions two ego problems that hamper success: being impervious to criticism, and believing you can do anything– no help required, thanks. Grant Cardone would see that as an unwillingness to deal with emotions.

Doing creative work means dealing with emotional discomfort. True for sales, true for solving just about any problem.


1. Do your homework: nothing succeeds like research and preparation.

2. Learn patience: brute force never made a sale or transferred an email address.

3. Be an advocate: keep your focus on helping others.

4. Understand the prospect’s problem: listen, ask questions, ask more questions.

5. Build trust: help people make good decisions.

6. Keep learning: know your product or service; it’s essential for credibility.

7. Embrace the job: it’s very tough to succeed in sales if you don’t like selling.

8. Be open to criticism, feedback, and advice: they’re opportunities to learn.

9. Ask for help: you’ll learn something and people will like you better for it.

10. Get comfortable with emotional discomfort: especially if you’re trying to transfer email addresses to a new computer.

Originally published on Mark Armstrong Illustration.