Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something

If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard the saying that “nothing happens until somebody sells something.” Attributed to Jim Barksdale, it’s a source of pride for salespeople who understand the true value of what they do. It means that no IT systems would ever get installed, no trucks would ever move, no new homes would ever be built, and most food wouldn’t even get eaten, until and unless someone closes a sale. Do you doubt it?

Think about it for a moment: For the IT system, a salesperson had to demonstrate the system’s features, handle objections, and then ask for the order – all only after having found the IT director in the first place, and convinced him to be interested in talking about his needs.

For the trucking company, the load had to be ordered by a customer who was convinced by a salesperson to buy it; not to mention the fact that the trucking company had to be persuaded to buy the truck in the first place. (To be sure, I once found myself, 3-piece suit and all, on my way to a call, standing in the men’s room at a rural truck stop when a very large truck, grizzled driver stepped up to the next urinal. When he commented, somewhat menacingly, that I looked a bit out of place in a truck stop, the only thing I could say was, “Well, someone’s got to sell it before you can ship it.” He thought it was pretty funny, fortunately.)

For the house, a real estate agent or builder had to convince a prospective homeowner that this was where they should invest their savings and raise their children.

And for food, well, even though we all know that “people have to eat,” a seed salesman had to persuade a farmer to buy his seed. The fertilizer salesman had to persuade the farmer to buy his fertilizer. The tractor salesman had to persuade the farmer to buy his combine, but only after the banker had to persuade the farmer to borrow the money from his bank to pay for it. Once the crop was harvested, the farmer had to persuade the wholesaler to buy his produce (or settle for the auction). The wholesaler had to persuade the grocer to buy it and stock it. The trucking company representative had to persuade both of them to let him ship it. And although the persuasion doesn’t have to be very strong if you’re hungry, the grocer had to at least persuade you to come into his store (as opposed to someone else’s store,) to buy his food – and make it yours.

The reality is that it’s all just sales. And most of these transactions would never have occurred if somebody hadn’t sold something to someone, somewhere along the way.

Many of these sales, of course, are hidden from view. And many companies use sophisticated marketing techniques to ease the burden of persuasion. But it happens throughout the economy, not just in the US, but around the world, millions of times a day.

And not just in the consumer market, but it happens in the B2B market, as well, as you can see. Sales may not make the world go around, but it’s difficult to imagine anything that doesn’t depend on someone making a sale somewhere along the line.

Based on this view of the world, though, it sounds deceptively simple. That is, if you’re a salesperson and you’ve identified a prospect, all you have to do is meet. You give your pitch, and they ask you a couple of questions about your product. And if your answers are satisfactory, the sale is made.

But it’s not so simple, is it? First of all, you have to meet. And unless the prospect seeks you out, that isn’t going to happen without some effort.

Your business also faces competition that blocks out your message, steals your market share, and undercuts your prices. And since most prospects haven’t gone to “Customer School,” they may not follow the script.

As a result, thousands of books, and literally billions of words, have been written on how to find new business, particularly in the B2B market. And while some of these methods are pretty good, others are just awful. Regardless, being a student of the game, and studying and learning good techniques, should help make you more successful.

With that said, another critical problem with many sales and marketing techniques, some of which are formally taught as part of a good sales training curriculum, is that they miss an important point. Many neglect a critical step in the sales process. For while it may be true that “nothing ever happens until someone sells something,” it is equally true that “no one ever sells anything until they get in the door.”

That is, you can’t give your pitch, you can’t qualify the prospect, probe for needs or handle objections, and you certainly can’t close, until and unless you are communicating directly with the prospect. So while you may have great sales skills, until and unless you’re communicating directly with the prospect, and he’s engaged in the conversation, nothing’s going to happen.

In other words, so while it’s true that nothing happens until somebody sells something, no one ever sells anything until they get in the door.

And, that is where a whole hosts of problems arise. If you are selling your can be prospecting. And if you are prospecting, you can’t be selling. And if marketing is generating inbound inquiries, but they are not really qualified, then you have to spend money on a Business Development Rep. to get them ready for a sales person? Or, if you ask you sales person to do it, you are wasting a lot of your money and that sales person’s time. What gives?

Yet, this is why many people come to Except in this case, you are actually going to get the help you need in time to meet your business goals and objectives.

About the author

Founder and CEO at | Website | + posts

Jeff Josephson is the founder and CEO of, the one stop shop for all your sales and marketing needs. has found nearly a billion dollars in new business for their clients over the years, helping to overcome their barriers and challenges so that can meet and exceed their revenue, growth and profitability objectives.