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The Giants of Sales

There are four men who changed how we sell. See what these über salesmen can teach you.

By Maggie Leyes

You definitely know his name: Dale Carnegie. But do you know the other three “Giants of Sales”: John Patterson, Elmer Wheeler and Joe Girard? If not, now is your chance to learn from all four of these masters. Tom Sant has compiled the sales wisdom of these larger-than-life salesmen and motivational gurus in a book appropriately titled, The Giants of Sales: What Dale Carnegie, John Patterson, Elmer Wheeler, and Joe Girard Can Teach You About Real Sales Success (

Sant chose these men not only for their sales prowess, but for the unique legacy that they have left the sales profession. Each honed a particular aspect of the sales business that you can put to work in your practice.

  • The process-oriented sales method: John Henry Patterson’s foray into selling “cutting-edge” technology (the cash register!) at the end of the 19th century helped him develop a systematic method of selling that still serves as a model today.
  • The relationship-driven sales method: Dale Carnegie needs no introduction. His seminal book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, was published more than 70 years ago and is a salesperson’s staple. He taught people the importance of developing a relationship, not just pushing a product.
  • The linguistic approach: Elmer Wheeler is a name that may not ring a bell, but a line he coined will: “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” He became the guru of using the right words to sell.
  • The tactical method: Joe Girard stumbled upon car sales in a moment of desperation, and ended up selling more cars than 95 percent of all the dealerships in North America. He also made it into The Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s greatest salesman. He perfected the technique for generating qualified leads.

Sant also came from a long line of master salesmen, and is one himself. He has worked with such powerhouses as Procter and Gamble, AT&T and Microsoft. According to Sant, “Sales is knowledge work, and if you’re not extremely intelligent, gutsy, persistent and competitive, you won’t make it.” The techniques he puts forward are those that have been tested and used by these four giants. “The principles that these people discovered still work today,” writes Sant, “because they are rooted in fundamental human psychology. I know they work because I used them to build my own business. I’ve used them to help my clients. And I have seen outstanding sales performers use them to win and win again.”

He covers each of these men and their sales legacies in depth. He gives you plenty of take-aways and tips that you can implement in your own sales process. In addition, he lays out the pros and cons of each system. At the end of each section, he has a chapter called, “Making it Work for You.” This part is perfect for those who don’t want to read the book cover to cover. It summarizes the main points and techniques of each of the four giant’s sales method.



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