The discontented client and the interesting salesman

A relationship manager for one of my clients shared this story with me earlier this year. He was trying to get an appointment to call on a desirable prospect but hadn’t had much success.  In an attempt to prolong the phone conversation the RM asked the prospect about the current state of the business, and the prospect made a comment about how bad things had gone recently, ending with “it’s really been our winter of discontent.”

The banker responded, “I’m sorry to hear that. You know, maybe I can make your winter of discontent into a glorious summer.”

The prospect replied with some enthusiasm, “Oh, so you’re a Shakespeare fan!”  And that led to a conversation about Shakespeare and that the banker and the prospect had both been English majors in college. They chatted a bit and the prospect ended up accepting the banker’s request to pay a visit. Successful call I would say.

Well, I was an English major too, and I loved hearing this story. Let me share the details about the quote.

richard-iii-Olivier-1955“’Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,” proclaims Richard III in the opening lines of the play by the same name (played by Olivier in the photo).  Richard is thrilled to have learned that his brother, of the house of York, has wrested the crown from Henry IV (house of Lancaster), and Richard has plans to steal the crown for himself from his brother through treacherous means. (Being a hunchback made him a little bitter about life.)

People often quote “the winter of our discontent,” but don’t understand its real meaning.  Richard is saying that the unhappy times are over and now it’s glorious summer.  Shakespeareans know the line well.

There’s a reason why I share this with you today because salespeople often ask what books they should read, and I always tell them, “Read good literature, and don’t bother with business books.”  Good literature will make you more interesting.  You’ll get nothing from the business best seller lists.

In 2013, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, spoke to the company’s interns. He told them he had a piece of advice for success, and they listened raptly.  He said, “Be interesting.”  He encouraged them to be well-rounded, to understand history to get a better feel for what is going to happen. He said that he learned nothing from all the business books he ever read that helped him in his own career.

People who work to be well-rounded become more interesting.  Why is this important to you in sales?

The best salespeople I ever worked with have a relaxed, consultative, conversational approach, and it is always through the art of conversation that deals get made.  Someone tells you something. You listen carefully to it. You ask a question to help the other person think about it more deeply, or you relate a fact or story to advance the concept.  You can dig through a wealth of great reading to help illustrate a provocative idea or lead someone else through the process of self-discovery, and all of a sudden others think of you as “the most interesting person they know.”

Don’t confuse well-rounded, interesting people with those who make inane and wasteful small talk.  Interesting people listen, add value and help others think differently.

Be interesting.

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

5 Responses to The discontented client and the interesting salesman

  1. When you suggest that we do not read business books, Are yours included? thanks, Alice

    • Hard to answer that one Alice, as I haven’t written any! But to be more exact, I think a broader range of reading, the classics for example, would help a salesperson become a more interesting individual. What books do you read to improve your performance? Thanks for your comment. Gregory

  2. Elena Giel says:

    Great blog Gregory, thanks! I agree wholeheartedly with the advice to “be interesting” because that is how you remain top of mind and why people want to work with you.

  3. Elena K'Meyer says:

    Hi Gregory. As an avid reader of classic literature, I found this post gratifying. Yet, as a fledgling salesperson, I think that being interesting might get you in the door, but it’s being knowledgeable and competent in your profession that will help you close the deal and keep the customer.

    • Absolutely right Elena, and I sure wasn’t advocating a lot of small talk, as you know I hate it. But when the RM is an interesting person he or she will get the deal done, assuming of course the right knowledge and hard work goes into it too, as you rightfully point out. Hope all is well with you. Gregory

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