With this article, we continue the series of lessons we can learn from Jesus of Nazareth.
Again I’ll provide my disclaimer: With this series, we’re examining the sales techniques of the greatest salesperson of all time—namely Jesus of Nazareth.
This doesn’t mean I’m taking some kind of jaded view of Jesus, and only characterizing him as a salesperson. Nor does it mean I’m stepping all over religious toes and pushing Christianity. I am simply and only focusing on lessons we can learn from someone whose “product” is still selling incredibly well after an unimaginable two thousand years—and this is two thousand years after he himself is no longer walking the Earth. There certainly must be lessons there to learn—and there are.
For this post, I’m going to use two of Jesus’s parables (A parable is a short story designed to illustrate or teach a truth, principle or lesson).
Parable of the Talents
Note: a “talent” is a monetary unit of ancient Palestine. It consisted of a certain weight of silver.
In this story, a man was about to travel abroad and summoned his servants. To one he gave 5 talents. To another, he gave 2, and yet another he only gave 1. The amounts were based on each person’s ability. The man then left on his journey.
The servant who had received the 5 talents immediately used them to conduct business and gained 5 more. The one who had been given 2 talents also conducted business and obtained 2 more. But the one who only got a single talent dug a hole and hid it.
After a long time, the man returned from his journey and summoned the servants to settle accounts with them. The first, who had been given 5 talents, related that he had earned 5 more with the talents he had been given. The man praised him and said that since he had been found trustworthy with a few items, would be trusted with many more.
The second servant, who had been given 2 talents, then told the man he had earned 2 more talents, using the money he had been given. The man also praised this servant and also said he could be trusted with many more things.
Lastly came the slave that had only 1 talent. He told the man that he knew the man “reaped what he did not sow” and gathered grain that he did not himself grow. The slave said he’d become afraid to risk the money and hid it in the ground. He returned it to the man.
The man was angry. He told the servant that at the least he should have at least deposited the single talent with a banker so that it would earn interest until he returned.
Learning From This Story
We can see from this story—and from life itself—that people have different gifts. Some people are more capable than others.
This parable tells us that the more risk you take, the better off you are, as long as it’s not a stupid risk. It’s about taking what you have and putting it into motion. It is better to lose something than to wait and do nothing (as the man who buried the talent did).
Additionally, the servant who had buried the talent was basically blaming others—he was saying that others reap what they do not sow, and he was not going to take such a chance.
Salespeople sometimes blame others also, for their lack of effectiveness. It’s the company, the marketing department, or not enough brand awareness. They’ll say they don’t have enough leads, the product is not good enough, the sales manager is a jerk, the salesperson isn’t paid well enough. For everything, someone has to be blamed for the salesperson not having been active.
But those that succeed do so because they take responsibility for their own actions, take a risk, and step out there.
The Parable of the Soil
In this parable, Jesus tells of a farmer who went out to sow seeds. As he sowed, some seeds fell alongside the road and birds came along and ate them. Others fell on rocky ground where there wasn’t much soil; they sprouted very quickly because the soil was so shallow, and when the sun rose they were scorched, and because they hadn’t been able to take root they withered. Still, other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. But finally, there were those that fell on the good soil, grew and began to yield fruit—one a hundredfold, one sixty, and the other thirty.
Learning From This Story
We can easily liken the job of this farmer to that of a salesperson. Like a farmer goes out to sow seeds, the salesperson goes out and spreads their message.
Jesus was being quite realistic, and we can see this even 2,000 years later. Seeds spread don’t always fall in the right place. Likewise, a salesperson’s message doesn’t always land correctly, either.
A salesperson goes out and talks to people, or speaks to them by phone or Internet, or sends emails out. A salesperson can be very upset when prospects don’t respond.
But this story tells us exactly what happens—that “seed” could have fallen in the wrong place, in shallow soil or rocky ground. It could be that the salesperson is talking to the prospect at the wrong time or the wrong place. Or perhaps they are talking to someone who somehow objects to what the salesperson is selling. We are always somewhat surprised when our message doesn’t fall on good soil, and produce a crop.
Learn to Do it Right
The process is just to learn how to properly sow those seeds. We also have to learn what our conversion ratio is—one in ten, or even 1 in 100, depending on the product and the market. That way we have some prediction.
It’s vitally important that you go after the most fertile soil—and that means your target group. The better you have defined your target group or target buyer, the more you avoid sowing seeds where they won’t grow. You also have to use appropriate “seeds”—the company message, the presentation, an invitation, a book, an email.
Going back to our story, the farmer isn’t going to plant seeds out in the woods. He isn’t going plant at the wrong time, like in winter or late summer. He’s going to sow at the right time when the soil is prepared. Seeds are expensive—just as company promotion is expensive—and they cannot be wasted.
But even when the farmer is sowing seeds in the right place at the right time, some of them will still fall in the wrong areas and not grow. If we look at our story statistically, one-fifth of the seeds fell along the road, one fifth fell on rocky ground, one fifth were scorched and withered, one fifth fell among thorns, and one fifth fell on good soil.
So it’s 1 out of 5—which very interestingly is roughly the same ratio you have today between leads and opportunities! So even when you’re at the right place, at the right time, with the right materials, you have a 1 in 5 chance of winning. That message won’t always fall on in good soil. It’s the reality of life—sometimes prospects are stubborn and don’t want to hear your pitch, or are angry at a previous experience with a product, you’re just hitting them at the wrong time for their business, or they just signed a contract a month before you came along with a better offer. There can be 10,000 different things that can happen.
Does this 1 in 5 “hit rate” hinder us from going out and sowing? No! You keep going out, knowing that not everything returns, and learning and becoming more effective in your efforts as time goes on.
Combining the Two Stories
These two parables go totally together for a salesperson.
Each salesperson has a certain amount of ability, and you have to be honest about what you have. Work with what you’ve got. In my opinion, every person has something to contribute, and every salesperson is a wealth creator and a peace producer. You can be upset that you don’t have what others have, but doing so won’t help you. We all need to make the best of what we’ve got.
This doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and actually do better than people who seem to be better gifted. At the same time, though, you can’t wake up one morning and decide you want to be Mozart when you’ve never studied music.
Many people take a look at what they’ve got, and blame “what they’re not.” That really isn’t the way to go, either.
But summoning all your “talents” you then go out as a farmer and do your best to spread the right seeds, at the right time, and the right place. And even when do it correctly, you still have to be realistic and realize that despite all your ability and the best placement of seeds, some of them are not going to sprout.
This is how to make the most of your talents!
Note: The Parable of the Talents can be found in the book of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14 – 30. The Parable of the Soil can also be found in the book of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 1 – 9.