111 Obvious Thoughts on Selling | Creative Commons | Sales

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by Tom Peters
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“Everyone lives by selling something.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
1. “Strategy”overrated,simply“doin’stuf”underrated.SeeKelleherandBossidy:“Wehave
a‘strategicplan,’it’scalleddoingthings.”—HerbKelleher.“Executionisasystematic
processofrigorouslydiscussinghowsandwhats,tenaciouslyfollowingthrough,and
ensuringaccountability.”—LarryBossidy&RamCharan/Execution: The Discipline of
Getting Things Done. Action has its own logic—askGenghisKhan,Rommel,COLJohn
Boyd,U.S.Grant,Patton,W.T.Sherman.
2. What are you personally great at?(Keyword:“great.”)Playtostrengths!“Distinctor
Extinct.”Youshouldaimtobe“outrageouslygood”/B.I.W.atanichearea(ormore).
3. Areyoua“personality,”adefacto“brand”intheindustry?TheDr.Philof...
4. Opportunism (with a little forethought) mostly wins.(“Successfulpeoplearetheones
whoaregoodatPlanB.”)
5. Little starts can lead to big wins.Mosttruewinners—thinksearch&Google—start
assomethingsmall.Manybigdeals—Disney&Pixar—couldhavebeendoneaslittle-er
dealsifyou’dhadthenervetostepoutbeforethevaluebecameobvious.
6. Non-obvious targets have great potential.Amongmanyotherthings,everybodygoes
aftertheobviousones.Also,the“non-obvious”areoftengoodPartnersfortechnology
experiments.
7. Thebestrelationshipsareoften(usually?)not“toptotop”!(Oftenthebest:hungrydivi-
sionGMseagertomakeamark.)
First prepared for presentation
toGEEnergy01.24.2006.
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8. IT’S RELATIONSHIPS, STUPID—DEEP AND FROM MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS.
9. In any public-sector business, you must become an avid student of “the politics,”
the incentives and constraints, mostly non-economic, facing all the players.
Politiciansareusuallyincrediblylogical—ifyou(deeply!)understandthematrixinwhich
theyexist.
10. Relationships from within our frm are as important—oftenmoreimportant—asthose
fromoutside—againbroadisasimportantasdeep.Allies—avidsupporters!—within
andfromnon-obviousplacesmaybemoreimportantthanrelationshipsattheClient
organization.Goal:an“insanelyunfair‘marketshare’”ofinsiders’timedevotedtoyour
projects!
11. Interesting outsiders are essential to innovative proposal and sales teams. An
“exciting”sales-proposalteamisasimportantasaprestigiousone.
12. Istheproposal-salesteamweirdenough—weirdoscomeupwiththemostinteresting,
game-changerideas.Period.
13. Lunch with at least one weirdo per month.(Goal:alwaysontheprowlforinteresting
newstuf.)
14. Gratuitouscomment:Luncheswithgoodfriendsaretypicallyawasteof(professional)
time.
15. Don’t short-change (time, money, depth) the proposal process. Miss one tiny nuance,
onepotentialincentivethat“makesmyday”forakeyClientplayer—andwatchthewhole
gig be torpedoed.
16. “Stickingwithit”sometimespays,sometimesnot—ittakesalotoftriestoforgethebest
pathin.Sometimesyouneverdo,afteraliterallifetime.(Ah,life.)
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17. WOMEN ARE SIMPLY BETTER AT RELATIONSHIPS—don’tgethungup—particu-
larlyintechfrms—onwhatindustries-countries“womencan’tdo.”(Orsomesuch
bullshit.)
18. Work incessantly on your “story”—most economic value springs from a good
story (think Perrier)!Insensitivepublicorquasi-publicnegotiations,acompelling
storyisofimmensevalue—politicsisaboutthetensionamongcompetingstories.(If
youdon’tbelieveme,askKarlRoveorJamesCarville.)(“Storytellingisthecoreofcul-
ture.”—Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld,
JamesTwitchell)
19. Callthis18A,or18repeat:Becomeafrst-rateStoryteller!(“Akey—perhapsthekey—to
leadershipistheefectivecommunicationofastory.”—HowardGardner,Leading Minds:
An Anatomy of Leadership)
20. RiskAssessment&RiskManagementismoreaboutstoriesthanadvancedmath—i.e.,
brilliant scenario construction.
21. Goodlistenersaregoodsalespeople.Period.
22. Lousylistenersarelousysalespeople.Period.
23. GREAT LISTENERS ARE GREAT SALES PEOPLE.(Listening“skills”arehardtolearn
andsubjecttoimmenseefortinpursuitofMastery.Avirtuoso“listener”isasrareasa
virtuosocelloplayer.)(“Ifyoudon’tlisten,youdon’tsellanything.”—CarolynMarland,
MD/GuardianGroup)
24. Thingsthatarefunnytome(American)areoften-mostlynotfunnytothoseinother
cultures.(Humorisasfne-edgedasitgets,andrarelytravels.)
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25. You don’t know Jack Squat about other peoples’ cultures—especially if you are a
typically myopic American.(Likeme.)
26. Are you a great interviewer? It’samakeorbreakskill.(ThinkBarbaraWalters—i.e.,
herskillatextractingunwantedtruthsfromprosinpersona-protection...infrontof
10sofmillionsofpeople.)
“If you don’t listen, you don’t sell anything.”
— Carolyn Marland, Managing Director, Guardian Group
27. Are you a great (not merely “good”) presenter?Masteringpresentationskillsisa
life’swork—withstupendouspayof.
28. Work like hell on the Big 2: LISTENING/INTERVIEWING, PRESENTING.Theseare
“theessenceof[sales]life”—andusuallypickedupinanamateurish,catch-as-catch-can
fashion.Mistake!(Becomea“professionalstudent”ofthesetwoareas,achieveMastery.)
29. Areyougoodatfowers?Think:FLOWERPOWER!(SeeHarveyMackay’s“Mackay66”—
whatyoushouldknowaboutaClient;e.g.,birthdays&anniversaries.)(My “fowers
budget” is out of control. Hooray for me.)
30. Youcan’tdoitall—beclearatwhatyouaregoodat,badat,indiferentat.Hubrissucks.
31. Thepointisnotto“proveyourself.”(That’sego-talk.)Letthebestpersonpresenttothe
Client—perhapsa“lowerlevel”geek.(“Controlfreaks”gettheirjustdessertsinthelong
haul—orsooner.)
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32. Thenumberswillmoreorlesstakecareofthemselvesoverthelonghaul—ifthe
relationship/sis/aresolidgold.
33. The Gold Standard in selling: INDISPENSABLE to the Client.
Noothergoalisworthy.
34. Neverstopgrowing-broadening-deepeningtherelationship.The key to
“indispensability” is to get the Client more and more … and more … and then more
… imbedded in “our” web.Hencetheso-called“sellingprocess”isonlythefrststep!
35. USE THE WORD “WE” … CONSTANTLY & RELIGIOUSLY!(E.g.,“We”—theClient&
me—“aregoingtochangetheworldwiththisservice.”)
36. Don’t waste your time on jerks—it’ll rarely work out in the mid- to long-term.
37. Genius is walking away from lousy “scores” (deals)—and accepting the attendant
heat. BigBusinessisthepremierhometoBigEgosoverpayingbyafactorof2to22
withbillion$$$$atstake.(ThinkJerryLevinandAOLTimeWarner.)
38. Youhaven’taclueastohowthissituationwillactuallyplayout—bepreparedtomove
fastinadiferentdirection.
39. Keepyourword.
40. KEEP YOUR WORD.
41. Underpromise(i.e.,don’tover-promise;i.e.,cutyourselfalittleslack)evenifitcostsyou
business—winningisalong-termafair.Over-promisingisSign#1ofalackofintegrity.
Youwillpaythepiper.
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42. Thereissuchathingasa“goodloss”—ifyou’vetestedsomethingnewanddeveloped
goodrelationships.Ahalf-dozenhonorable,ingeniouslossesoveratwo-yearperiod
canpavethewayforaBigVictoryinaNewSpaceinyear3.
43. It’sacompetitiveworldoutthere.New,innovativeproductsarehardertosellthanold
stand-bys.Nonetheless, you will be a long-term star to the extent that you are
willing to push the harder-to-sell-at-the-moment Innovative Products that cement
long-term Client success (Indispensability!)—evenifitmeansa#shitthisquarter.
PART OF YOUR JOB: TAKE CLIENTS ON AN ADVENTURE THAT PUTS THEM
AHEAD OF THE GAME CALLED (GAMECHANGING—hopefully) COMPETITIVE
ADVANTAGE!
44. Think“legacy”—whatthehellisallthisreallyaboutforyouandtheworld?(“Tellme,
whatisityouplantodowithyouronewildandpreciouslife?”—MaryOliver)
45. THERE ARE NO “MODERATES” IN THE HISTORY BOOKS!
46. Keep it simple!(Damnit!)Nomatterhow“sophisticated”theproduct.Ifyoucan’t
explainitinaphrase,apage,ortoyour14-year-old...youhaven’tgotitrightyet.
47. Know more than the next guy.Homeworkpays.(Ofcourseit’sobvious—butinmy
workitistoooftenhonoredinthebreach.)
48. Regardlessofprojectsize,winningorlosinginvariablyhingesonaraftof“littlestuf.”
Little stuff is and always has been everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!—or, “one man’s little
stuff is another man’s 7.6 Richter deal-breaker.”
49. In public settings in particular, face saving is all.Whensomethingchanges,allowthe
otherguytocomeoutlookinglikeawinner,especiallyifhehaslost.(Evenifyoumust
accepttheeggonyourface—hewillalwaysrememberyou!)
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50. Don’tholdgrudges.(Itistheultimateinsmallmindedness—andincrediblywastefuland
inefective.There’salwaystomorrow.)
51. IT’S ALWAYS “THE POLITICS”—wee private sector deal or giant public sector
deal.(Everyplayer,smallorlarge,isanglingforsomething.Masterthecalculusof
advantage.)
52. To beat the “turnover problem” in key Client posts amidst long negotiations,
invest outrageous amounts of time building a wide & deep set of relationships with
mid-level (& lower!!) “plodding” “careerists.”Theinvisiblecareeristsarethebedrock
uponwhichrepeatedsuccessisbuilt!(My“CapitolHillAxiom”:It’sthe24-year-oldLA
whointheendbriefstheSenatorrightbeforeshegoestotheFloortovote.)
53. Speakingof“she”:GenderdiferencesareEnormous—dealingwithawomananddealing
withamanarediferentkettlesoffsh—youmustbecomeanA+studentofgenderdif-
ferences.(E.g.:Menaretypicallymoreinterestedintheshort-term“score.”Womenare
moreinterestedinthelong-termconsequences.)
54. “LITTLE PEOPLE” OFTEN HAVE BIG FRIENDS.
55. Thisisnotwar,damnit.Allpartiescanwin(ornotlose,anyway).Andlosingbidders
canwalkawayfromadealwithincreasedrespectforyouandyourteam.
56. Never,everdumponacompetitor—theTomWatsonIBMglory-daysmantra.
“Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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57. Never forget the “Law of Cousins!”Indevelopingnationsinparticular,powerbrokers
atalllevelsareatleastcousins!Considerationforasecondcousincanpayofbigtime.
58. Speakingof“favors,”jailsucks.
59. Work hard beats work smart. (Mostly.)
60. REPEAT: HE/SHE WHO HAS THE MOST-BEST RELATIONSHIPS WINS.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE ESSENCE OF THE WORK OF THE SALESPERSON. THE
HARD ... AND LONG ... WORK OF THE SALESPERSON.
61. Manovs.mano“hardball”isseldomtheanswer—endrunsbasedonandpatientmulti-
levelrelationshipbuildingviadeeper-widernetworkswin.
62. Ifthedealiswiredfrombelow,trulywired,thentheso-called“bignegotiations”are
essentially irrelevant.
63. Ifeveryquarterisa“littlebetter”thanthepriorquarter—thenyouarenottakingany
seriousrisks.
64. Phones beat email.
65. A THREE-MINUTE CALL TODAY CAN AVOID A GAME-LOSER OF A FIASCO NEXT
MONTH. There was always a time when a little thing could have been addressed
that headed off a subsequent big thing.Astoavoidingthatcall,didn’tsomeonesay,
“Pridegoethbeforethefall”?
66. Behyper-organizedaboutrelationshipmanagement—youareintheanthropology
business.Studythegreatpols!BrilliantNRM(networkrelationshipmanagement)isnot
accidental!Itisnotcatchascatchcan.(Footballanalogiesarecute—butdeeppolitical
understandingpaystheprivate-schooltuition.)
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67. Think/obsessonROIR(ReturnOnInvestmentInRelationships).
68. “THANK YOU” NOTES: World’s highest-return investment!!!!!!!!!
69. Thewaytoanyone’sheart:Doinganicethingfortheirkid.(But,gawd,doesthistakea
gentletouch.)
70. Scoringofotherpeopleisstupid.Winners are always in the business of creating
the maximum # of winners—among adversaries at least as much as among
“partners.”
71. Yourcolleagues’successesareyoursuccesses.Period.(Trustme,mygreatestpersonal
success—fnanciallyaswellasartistically—hasbeencreatingabiggerpondinwhich
everyonewins,evenifmy“marketshare”isdown.)
72. Lend a helping hand, especially when you don’t have the time.E.g.,sharerelation-
ships—the more you give away the more you get in return(justliketheysayin
church).
73. Listenup:“ItwasmuchlaterthatIrealizedDad’ssecret.Hegainedrespectbygivingit.
Hetalkedandlistenedtothefourth-gradekidsinSpringValleywhoshinedshoesthe
samewayhetalkedandlistenedtoabishoporacollegepresident.Hewasseriouslyin-
terestedinwhoyouwereandwhatyouhadtosay.”—SaraLawrence-Lightfoot,Respect.
(I.e.,RespectisCool.)
74. Mentoringisathrill—andthepracticalpayofisenormous.Thebestmentorshavethe
wholeworldworkingitsbunsofforthem!
75. Hireforenthusiasm.Promoteforenthusiasm.Cherishenthusiasm.REMOVE NON-
ENTHUSIASTS—THEY ARE CANCERS.(“Nothingissocontagiousasenthusiasm.”
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—SamuelTaylorColeridge.“Amanwithoutasmilingfacemustnotopenashop.”
—ChineseProverb.)
“You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner.
You’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe.”
— Jack Welch
76. IT’S ALWAYS YOUR PROBLEM—you sold it to them.
77. It’s never over: While there may be an excellent service activity in your company,
the “relationship” belongs to You!Hencethe“aftersales”“momentsoftruth”are
atleastas—ifnotmorethan*—importanttotheContinuingRelationshipasthesale
“transaction”itself.(*Ivotefor“morethan.”)You’llgetyourbiggest“points”withthe
Clientforbeinganefectiveafter-the-factgo-betweenwithyourcompany.
78. Don’tgettoohungupon“systemsintegration”—frst&foremost,theindividualbits
havegottowork.
79. For God’s sake don’t over promise on “systems integration”—it’s nigh on impos-
sible to deliver.
80. Ontheotherhand…winnersclamberUptheValue-addedLadder,andofereverso
muchmorethan“mere”product.ALL SUCCESSFUL SALESPEOPLE ARE IN THE
“SOLUTIONS BUSINESS”—nomatterhowjargonythatmaysound.
81. “Systems”/“Solutions”sellingmeansgrapplingdirectlywith“culturechange”inClient
organizations.(“Thebusinessofsellingisnotjustaboutmatchingviablesolutions
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tothecustomersthatrequirethem.It’sequallyaboutmanagingthechangeprocess
thecustomerwillneedtogothroughtoimplementthesolutionandachievethevalue
promisedbythesolution”—JefThull,The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase
Margins, and Win the Complex Sale)
82. Shit happens. That’s what they pay you for.
83. Thisisnota“GE”or“Ben&Jerry’s”sale—itisaJoeJones/JaneJonessale.YOU ARE
THE “BRAND” THE CLIENT BUYS—especiallyoverthelonghaul.
84. Duh:Youmakemoney,thecompanymakesmoney,onrepeatbusiness.
85. Master—yes,you—the“PR”Game.“WordofMouth”isnotaccidental!You want Word of
Mouth? Make it happen!
86. GOAL #1: MAKE YOUR CLIENT A HERO—YOU ARE NOT THERE TO GET CREDIT.
(“Takingcredit”isforego-maniacs.Andlosers.)
87. “Decentmargins,”overthemid-tolong-term,areaproductofbetterrelationships,not
better“negotiatingskill.”(Mostly.)
88. Intheimmortalwordsofex-GEViceChairmanLarryBossidy,moreorless,“Realism
rocks.”(“Bullshitartist”and“greatsalesperson,”contrarytoconventionalwisdom,are
DiametricOpposites.“Truthteller”andGreatSalespersonismorelikeit.)
89. BethefrsttotelltheClientbadnews(e.g.,slippeddelivery);hisintelligencesources,
andhehasthem,willtellhimfast—youwanttobetherefrstwithyourstoryandto
enhanceyourrepasTruthteller!
90. Worklikehelltogetareputationasavaluedindustryexpert,tobecomeanindustry
resource.
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91. WorktheTradeAssociationangleforallit’sworth—itmaytakeadecadetopay
of—e.g.,whenyoubecomeanofcerorareonanimportantpanelortestifybefore
Congress.
92. PAY YOUR DUES IN THE CLIENT ORG AND IN YOUR OWN ORG!
93. It’s all bloody tactics.
94. Youmust...LOVE....theproduct!(Period.)
95. YOU MUST LOVE THE PRODUCT!
96. Don’t over-schedule.“Runninglate”isinexcusableatanylevelofseniority;itisthe
ultimatemarkofself-importancemixedwithcontempt.
97. Ittakestimetogettoknowpeople.(DUH.)
98. Women are better salespeople.(SeeAddendum.)
99.Theveryideaof“efciency”inrelationshipdevelopmentis...STUPID.
100.MBWA (still) rules.
101.“Preparingthesoil”isthe“frst98percent.”(Ormore.)
102.WORK THE PHONES!
103. Rule5K-5M:5Kmilesfora5-Minutemeetingoftenmakessense.(Yes,often.)(Evenwith
constrainedtravelbudgets.)(Thanks,super-agentMarkMcCormack.)
104. Becomeastudent!Studygreatsalespeople!(IncludingPresidents.)(“Natural”isalittle
bittrue—butthenNaturalsarealwaystheoneswhostudyhardest—e.g.,JerryRice.)
105. Becomeastudent!Yes,youcanstudyRelationshipBuilding.So,study…
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106. Bewarecomplexifersandcomplicators.(Truly“smartpeople”...simplifythings.)
107.Thesmartestguyintheroomrarelywins—alas,heusuallyisawarehe’sthesmartest
guy.(Andneedn’twastehistimeonthat“softrelationshipcrap.”)
108.Be kind. It works.
109.Beespeciallykindwhentherearescrew-ups.(There’splentyoftimelatertoplaythe
GreatAccountabilityGame.)
110.PresidentsnevertireofbeingtreatedlikePresidents.
111. Luck matters. So: Good luck!
ADDENDUM: WOMEN ROCK (AS SALESPERSONS)
Andtheanswersare?
“TAKETHISQUICKQUIZ:Whomanagesmorethingsatonce?Who puts more effort into their
appearance?Whousuallytakescareofthedetails?Who fnds it easier to meet new people?
Whoasksmorequestionsinaconversation?Who is a better listener? Whohasmoreinterest
incommunicationskills?Who is more inclined to get involved?Whoencouragesharmonyand
agreement? Who has better intuition? Whoworkswithalonger‘todo’list?Who enjoys a
recap to the day’s events?Whoisbetteratkeepingintouchwithothers?”
Source:Selling Is a Woman’s Game: 15 Powerful Reasons Why Women Can Outsell Men,Nicki
Joy&SusanKane-Benson
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
FortunecallsTomPeterstheUr-guruofmanagementandcompareshimtoRalphWaldoEmerson,
HenryDavidThoreau,WaltWhitman,andH.L.Mencken.The EconomisttagshimtheUber-guru.His
unconventionalviewsledBusinessWeektodescribehimas“business’sbestfriendandworstnight-
mare.”Tomdescribeshimselfasaprinceofdisorder,championofboldfailures,maestroofzest,
professionalloudmouth(asaspeakerhe’s“aspitter”accordingtothecartoonstripDilbert),corpo-
ratecheerleader,loverofmarkets,capitalistpig…andcard-carryingmemberoftheACLU.
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21.111ThoughtsOnSelling
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