Every Sale is Merely the Creation of Value

Authored in 1929 by Williamson L. Barnhart  (W. L. Barnhart) in his book Practical Salesmanship with additions and editing in 2010 by Christopher Tomasulo.

Sales is Establishment of Value

In order to explain our meaning a bit more fully, it will be necessary for us to go back and study a typical sale in some of its barest fundamentals – to discuss what a sale really is and how it works out in actual practice.

A sale – any sale, and every sale – is merely the establishment of a value. That is positively all there is to it!

The salesman visits the prospect because he feels sure he has something to offer which will prove of greater value to the prospect than the continued possession of the amount of money involved, or than anything else the prospect could buy with the same amount of money. If the salesman doesn’t start with that premise, he has no business making the call. He has no real foundation for the sale.

Obviously, too, if the prospect knows anything about the object offered for sale, he doesn’t feel that there is a greater value in the object than in the amount of money involved. If he did see at once a greater value in the article he would purchase it at once without any sales talk being necessary.

Therefore, the sales talk is nothing more or less than the attempt on the part of the salesman to create a greater value for his article in the mind of the prospect, than the amount of money needed for the purchase.

Start the Sale with Appreciation of Value

The salesman should start with a conviction that his article is of much greater value to the prospect than the money involved, and the prospect obviously starts with the idea that the value is not enough to warrant the expenditure – otherwise he would have already purchased it, or would buy it the instant he saw it.

If the salesman, through his own belief in the value he is offering, through his enthusiasm, through his intelligent demonstrations, through his carefully thought out explanation of its advantages, can create a greater value for his goods in the prospect’s mind than the amount of money involved – the order is his! He doesn’t need to worry about objections – because there won’t be any. He need not worry too much about how to close – because if he creates enough value for his goods, the prospect will insist on his taking the order. If the salesman really convinces the prospect of the great value in the goods he is offering, the prospect would jump up and block the doorway if the salesman attempted to leave without taking an order.

And I have known cases where this has literally been done.

So we arrive at these fundamentals.

Any sale – every sale – is merely a creation in the buyer’s mind of a greater value in the goods offered than in the money to be paid for them.

If the salesman can establish this greater value for his goods, he’ll get the order. No power on earth can prevent it.

Objections Mean Insufficient Value

Conversely – and here’s the whole point of all the discussion up to this point – whenever anything seems to be blocking the way to the sale, whether it seems to be an objection, a delay, or a straight refusal to buy – it merely signifies that the salesman hasn’t created enough value for his product.

If he had created enough value, the objection wouldn’t have arisen. Nor would there have been any delay.

When we understand these fundamentals, how futile it seems to give salesmen whole pages of “answers to objections” without a word in the whole sales manual to indicate that the only reason objections arise is that the salesmen haven’t been able to create enough value for their product in the buyer’s mind.

The real solution of all the problems caused by objections lies not in the snappy comebacks of which pages upon pages are always printed, but rather in going back over the same ground once again with more enthusiasm, with greater conviction, and thus building up a larger appreciation of the real value in the article offered for sale. Repetition is underrated and highly effective. Of course, if the salesman doesn’t fully understand the value of the product or can’t convey it in a way that is appealing then the salesman should spend time on selling himself on the product first.

Creation of Value

On this question of the creation of value, I wonder how many sales managers consistently strive to build up in the minds of their salesmen a realization of the great value represented by the goods they are offering for sale.

Almost every advertising department has dozens of letters in its testimonial files from enthusiastic users of the product in which they say: “If I couldn’t get another, I would not part with the article your salesman sold me for ten times the cost.”, “I was skeptical I will confess before your salesman sold me, but now that I have your product, I find it so useful I wonder how in the world I ever did business without it,” and so on through all the changes of an extravagant hymn of praise.

But most advertising managers, with the smile of toleration and sophistication, say that such stuff wouldn’t ever do to use, because the public would laugh at the exuberant enthusiasm of the users who had written in about the product. So they carefully tone down their advertisements and literature, and studiously prune away all the superlatives, “to get greater credibility,” they say.

All Selling is Superlative

Of all the pure asininity in the whole advertising and selling business, this attitude caps the climax! Imagine taking from selling the one thing that really sells.

What utter foolishness to hide away all your superlatives, when all selling is superlative.

“Yes,” says the experienced advertising man, “but you are twenty years behind the time. Superlatives were all there was to advertising twenty years ago, and this style was discarded by all thinking advertising men because, with all the advertisers shouting that they were the best, the public didn’t believe any of them.”

Of course, the public didn’t believe any of them, because the advertisers and salesmen themselves didn’t believe their wild exaggerations. For there’s all the difference in the world between merely saying a thing because you because you think it will make you sales, saying it because you absolutely know it to be the indisputable fact.

So, if I was absolutely certain that I made the best work boots to retail at $135 or the best $12,000 car on the market, if I were so sure of it that I would gladly hazard every dollar I possessed or even expected to possess upon my ability to prove my statement before any fair-minded set of judges – if I really felt that way and were that sure of it, you bet your life I would tell the world how I felt and why I felt it and to the deuce with advertising rules against superlatives.

And if I didn’t feel that way, I’d hunt a new job and a new article to advertise and sell.

Giving Big Values

So I am sure that the best way to fit any salesman to answer all the objections that may be raised, is to feed him on superlatives and make him see the really tremendous value that he is giving the customer in every sale he makes.

That question of value is one we should study more. What’s the value of a of a ton of coal? Not the price, but the real underlying value. When I first moved to New York from the coal fields I said the price of coal is too high. “The value isn’t there,” I said, because the price was $50.75 a ton and I had been used to paying not much more than half of that sum. Yet in war time I stood in line for hours for the privilege of buying at $180.50 and would probably have paid two or three times that figure rather than be without the fuel needed to keep our house comfortable in the bitter cold weather. So what is the real value in a ton of coal? What would you pay for it, if you couldn’t get another and had no other way to heat your house? Two hundred dollars? Five hundred? You’d probably pay every dollar you could afford.

We are all blinded to the real value of the things we sell and by the fact that there are always so many other articles that we could buy to serve the same need. Of course, when there are a dozen coal men in town all importuning you to buy; when there are oil burner salesmen, and a heat-with-gas campaign in full blast, it becomes very easy for the coal salesman to lose sight of the real value of what he is selling and to talk only in terms of price.

Should Know Real Values

But when all salesmanship is merely a question of creation of value in the mind of the prospect, there is nothing more important for the salesman to have always in his own mind – even though he never expresses it in words to the prospect – than an appreciation of the inherent value of the article he is offering for sale.

So if I were selling a $10,000 automobile – after first satisfying myself that it was absolutely the best $10,000 automobile in its class (If I discovered that mine wasn’t the best, I’d go work for the best) – I would next build up in my own mind an appreciation of the real value I was selling, not by comparing it with other $10,000 cars, or with those in the $15,000 or $20,000 class, but rather by determining what it would mean to one of my satisfied prospects to be deprived of his car without anything to take its place.

The price of the car may be only $1000, but by such reasoning it is easy to establish a value of $5,000 or $10,000. Very few satisfied car owners would part with their car and all it would do for them – that is to say, give up the auto and sign an agreement not to purchase another for a period of years -for five to ten times what it cost them.

The State of Mind as to Value

So it goes, throughout the whole realm of salesmanship. Whenever any article is honestly sold to a prospect who has a real use for it, a value five or ten times as great is created. It’s only because there are so many substitutes always being offered at similar prices, that we grow to think of price and value as more or less synonymous.

I hope I haven’t made this discussion of value seem visionary and academic. What I have intended to bring out is the state of mind which will enable the salesman to create the utmost value in the mind of the prospect. When he fully appreciates how much his offering may conceivably mean to the prospect, how great is the potential value, even though he only thinks in these superlatives and does not express them, a portion of his attitude will “get over” to the prospect in the form of an earnest eagerness on the salesman’s part to be of service. And so sales will be made when apathy and a “common sense” view of the question of value could never win.

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About Christopher Tomasulo

At home Christopher Tomasulo is your average dad with three kids. However, here at Covert Comm he is known as “Doc Sulo” and he mind-warps crowds with a tiny flutter of his left hand. He clothespins ideas to unsuspecting gray matter. He speaks lemon-yellow words that splash into ear canals and squeeze themselves into refreshing influence lemonade. It has also been said he's half-way decent at making complex persuasion and influence techniques simple.
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6 Responses to Every Sale is Merely the Creation of Value

  1. Thanks for posting this Christopher (and welcome back to the blog 🙂 )

    To sell is really very simplistic as you show above. Creating value in exchange for money.

    People make it a very difficult process, as I am guilty of doing!

    In my case I make it much more complicated because I do not communicate clearly what the value I provide is.

    Do you have any articles or ideas for how to 'pull out' the value from your offering so you can communicate it to your prospect?

    Thanks again

    • Christopher says:

      Thanks Casey.

      You wrote: "Do you have any articles or ideas for how to ‘pull out’ the value from your offering so you can communicate it to your prospect?"

      It would really depend on the product and the particular prospect, but if I had to give advice with no information on either, I would say look for problems. The best way to build value in the mind of your prospect is to bring up pain and then demonstrate, reveal or hint at how that pain or problem will be solved with your product.

      Do you have a list of features your product or service has?

      Do you have a list of the benefits those features deliver?

      Do you have a list of the problems and/or pains that your market faces?

  2. John Thomas says:


    I picked up (okay, photocopied a copy that I had transferred in to my local library) of this book on your recommendation a few years ago.

    One of the best books on salesmanship I've ever read (there have been many). Thanks for the reminder. May be time for me to re-read it.

    – John

    • Christopher says:

      I agree it's one of the best books on salesmanship. He touches on a lot of timeless points. There are some parts of the book I'd expand on or clarify but if I had to give a book to someone on how to sell without any input from me – I'd probably give them Practical Salesmanship.

  3. Ray says:

    Hi Chris

    Great article and nice to see you back in the saddle dispensing wisdom again, the world needs more like you.

    To Casey I would point out the pain/pleasure principle in selling. Either your product is relieving some painful problem and this is the answer to bring relief, or this product (or service) is bringing pleasure where no other product can.

    Remember that features and benefits are how you build value. If I wake every morning with lower back pain and feel that pain all day what would I pay for relief. $5 a day, maybe $10. Thats $1500 – $3000 per year. If your product is $500 and gives permanent relief what is the real value?

    Much more than what I am offering it at, the real value is priceless. And any person with lower back pain will break your arm to get that product at twice the price.

    Before you ever go to see a prospect you must fix in your mind all the benefits it can bring and then fit them to your prospects needs by carefull questioning as to their needs. Feed back their own words with you product providing the benifits.

    Sale done.


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