3 Fundamental Sales Principles From "How To Win Friends & Influence People"

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David Ly Khim
David Ly Khim




As a salesperson at one point in his life, Dale Carnegie made his territory the national leader for the firm he worked for. He obviously knew what it took to succeed in sales.

Carnegie eventually ended his sales career and taught public speaking, earning up to $500 every week -- the equivalent of $11,800 today.

Fortunately for us, he packaged his insights into the now classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

In it, Carnegie lays out 30 principles that apply to various relationships. A few of the lessons ring especially true when it comes to sales development.

Problem is, when you’re hustling to hit quota, there’s not a ton of time to read all 214 pages. That’s why we summarized every principle into an easy-to-read guide.

For those even more strapped for time, simply review the following core sales takeaways from three of Carnegie's principles below. 

1) Get people to take action (read: buy) by arousing an eager want.

The key to this principle is to arouse the eager want -- meaning the person must already have the want to begin with.

Imagine I'm trying to sell you the best blueberry pies anyone has ever tasted. They’re made from 100% organic, locally grown blueberries from a family-owned farm just a few miles away. They've garnered rave reviews from pie lovers across the nation.

Now imagine you’re allergic to blueberries. You’ve never had the desire to eat blueberry pie. And you never plan to.

I’m going to have some trouble selling you that pie.

But what if I found out you love pumpkin pie? I can arouse that desire for pumpkin pie from within you.

This concept is at the heart of what Carnegie preaches: We’ve got to give people what they want, not what we want.

To convince someone to do something, ask yourself:

  • What motivates this person?
  • How can I frame this in terms of what they want?
  • How can I make this about them?

Find this principle interesting? Learn how you can put it into practice by jumping directly to this section of the How to Win Friends and Influence People Guide.

2) Make people like (and buy from) you by being genuinely interested in them.

It’s hard to say no to someone we really like. Likewise, it’s easier to sell to someone when that person likes you.

Carnegie uses dogs to explain this principle. Each time we come home, our faithful Fido couldn’t be more excited to see us. They give us their full attention and make us feel loved. So it’s hard to not like dogs.

Similarly, we naturally gravitate toward people who show an interest in us and make us feel special. Their behavior shows us we’re important and we matter.

That’s the core of this principle: If we invest time and energy to do things for the sake of others, we’ll be more successful in developing fruitful relationships.

For salespeople, there are two direct benefits to being genuine and caring about the person you’re selling to:

  • You gain a deeper understanding of the individual’s needs and wants.
  • You develop a relationship with that person.

Find this principle interesting? Discover how to flex your likeability muscle in this section of our guide.

3) Win people over to your way of thinking by dramatizing your ideas.

Facts don’t win people over -- emotions do. 

So if we want to grab and retain someone’s attention, we must present information in an engaging, even dramatic, way.

Take a marriage proposal for example.

We don’t simply say, “Will you marry me?” We slowly get down on one knee, we look at our partner in the eyes, pause for a moment, then ask. Those motions evoke more emotion than simply asking.

Find creative methods to present your ideas in an engaging manner. Speak to a deeper concern than logic. Appeal to more than the auditory sense. Emphasize the truth in a way that will strike a chord in the person you’re speaking to.

Find this principle interesting? Read more about cranking up the drama here.

Carnegie specifically refers to sales in these three principles, but they’re not the only ones that apply. Want to learn the rest of Carnegie’s principles? Review the How to Win Friends and Influence People Guide.

If you’ve read the book, how else have Carnegie's principles applied to you and your career? If you haven’t, what relationship development tips do you have for salespeople?

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