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  • Bob Burg

“You've basically revolutionized the way we are doing business. . . Your teaching style is very, very effective.”

~ Thomas J. Bartosic, SVP, Career Sales, G.E. Financial Assurance

The Only Possible Way To Profit…

July 19th, 2013 by Bob Burg

Harry Browne The Secret of Selling AnythingRecently, on my Facebook page, I posted:

“Profit is a reward for satisfying the desire of someone else.”

~ Harry Browne, The Secret of Selling Anything*

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? And, it is. But it’s something many don’t realize. Yet, in a free-market based economy, that’s what it all comes down to.

If we desire to have a healthy and profitable business, we must please the marketplace of consumers we serve.

This is why Free-Market Capitalism, to the degree it is allowed to exist, by it’s very nature actually benefits the consumer even more than the business person. After all, it’s the consumer who ultimately makes the decision. And he or she says yes only if they value owning the product or service more than the money they are being asked to exchange for it.

Thus, only those business people who are focused on pleasing the consumer will have that healthy and sustainably profitable business.

As Harry said, the secret of success is:

“Find out what people want and help them get it!”

And, to do this, the successful salesperson must recognize that — when it comes right down to it — it’s all about the consumer, not the salesperson.

Your thoughts?


* This magnificent book was published posthumously from a manuscript written by a hero of mine and a treasured mentor, Harry Browne in 1966. It may be ordered in paperback form online via The System Press or directly by telephone at 1-845-757-5037. Or, you can order the kindle version at Amazon.com.

34 Responses to “The Only Possible Way To Profit…”
  1. I think there are a lot of situations where people could point out where the “free market economy” was “failing” but it would be very interesting to see how truly free that market was. Because it’s perfectly logical that it would work. It goes with human nature instead of against it. If you do it right, everyone gets what they want.

  2. Bob Burg said at 9:56 am on

    Beth: That’s an excellent point to bring up. And, from what I’ve found, whenever people point out a specific situation where the “free market” didn’t work and we discuss it (always checking premises), it is never actually the case that the situation was free-market based. There was always some type of “Cronyism” or other artificial non-market based mechanism that was the root cause. And, the reason is – as you said – that Free-Market Capitalism works in accordance with human nature. Exchanges are always willing, with both parties believing they will come away from the exchange and come away better off than they were before it. And, the one who must first feel they will be benefited is the potential consumer. Otherwise, the exchange will never take place. This is what Adam Smith (“The Wealth of Nations”) understood so well. Contrary to what most people today believe about him, Smith was not necessarily “pro-business; he was “pro-consumer.” And, he understood that when the consumer is pleased, business – hence, the nation – will thrive.

  3. Amy Wells said at 10:01 am on

    Your blog title is right on…..the absolute only way to profit is through meeting a need. When I think of profit, several things come to mind. One being money profit, and the most important being, the profit our client gains for what we offered.
    I have a new little team mate at my bridal salon, who picks up on the brides unstated need and steps up to meet that need. For example, a bride was focused on her hip area while standing in the mirror, so Reagen, without drawing attention to the obvious (big hips) walked over and placed a sash on the brides tiny waist, that made the hips less standiutish*. (*I chose that word on purpose. Lol) The happy bride bought the sash with the dress and Reagen profited in money and in the pleasure of being able to resolve a need, while most importantly the bride profited in having a pro see her need, without pointing out the obvious.

  4. Bob Burg said at 10:13 am on

    Amy: That is a terrific look at exactly what Harry meant by his quote. And you (and , obviously your awesome team of professionals!) have created an outstandingly profitable business by doing exactly those kinds of things.

    And, yes, regarding your idea about the term, “profit”, what I didn’t mention in the original post is that, indeed, the customer also profits. While the business profits financially, the customer profits by getting what he or she wants even more than the currency they are exchanging for it. That’s why, in his book, Harry actually defines profit as “The increase in happiness by replacing one situation with another.” He continues to explain: This identifies the nature of profit – the giving up of one thing for something that provides greater happiness.”

    As always, YOU are right on, my friend!

  5. Amy Wells said at 10:20 am on

    Thanks Bob. I love his definition. 🙂

  6. Amy Wells said at 10:21 am on

    I’m changing my Saturday meeting to this blog.;)

  7. Kumar Gauraw said at 11:13 am on

    Excellent food for thought, Bob! In fact, I was having a discussion with a friend this morning about Google and I happened to mention,”Isn’t it incredible that Google offers Gmail, Drive,Hangouts,YouTube and so many other services for absolutely no charge to everybody around the world?… and can you imaging how large they became doing just this?”
    My friend immediately replied,”The reason they do that is because they have so much money!”

    I thought that my friend couldn’t be more wrong (and I explained him that). But looking at what Google/Facebook have achieved, is because of their vision of helping people get what they want and in turn these companies reaped the rewards that others can only imagine. Isn’t that such an incredible example of free enterprise and what it can do if done right?


  8. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 11:36 am on

    Brilliant article Bob!!!!! And captured in one sentence that says it all!!!!
    “Find out what people want and help them get it!”
    The less successful or “The over night successful” wil asume to know and TELL people what they want – instead of asking and/or listening to find out what they really want and is of value!!!! That is why it is SO important to create trust, build relationships/friendships, because until the moment you have created this, you never will disclose, what people REALLY want and value!!!! It’s the same with problems, when you hear people talk about proplems, they do not come up with the actual problem, but what seems like being the problem. The true problem will not be disclosed untill they dare explore the area together with a person they TRUST.
    Lots of LOVE and hugs from Denmark

  9. Bill Ellis said at 11:43 am on

    You have a gift of delivering tremendous value in a very succinct way. I love Harry Browne’s definition of profit which you shared – “The increase in happiness by replacing one situation with another.” He continues to explain: This identifies the nature of profit – the giving up of one thing for something that provides greater happiness.”
    Another truth you stated is that when free market principals don’t work it’s because the situation is not representative of a truly free market.
    Can’t wait to get and read Harry’s book.
    Thanks for your post.

  10. Bob Burg said at 12:02 pm on

    Kumar: Indeed, my friend. They don’t provide value because they have money…they have money because they provide(d) value (they satisfied the desires of others). And, when they offer something at “no charge”, there is either some other way their service is being monetized or they are building it for future monetization, both of which are terrific ideas! How great it will be if/when one day, the world in general stops seeing money as an evil and instead sees it as simply an echo of value, which is exactly what it is.

  11. Bob Burg said at 12:07 pm on

    Lene: Thank you so much. I’m very glad you enjoyed the article! And, yes, the excellent point you make is very much in alignment with what Harry taught in the book soon after that: the more you try and tell someone else what they want the less the chances are of the sale taking place. The reason is because different individuals value different things in different ways. Thus, we can’t possibly know what they value (what they want) until we ask correctly and find out from them. And, your thoughts on trust hit the mark, as well, my friend!

  12. Bob Burg said at 12:08 pm on

    Bill: Thank you for your very kind words. I get very fortunate when all I need to do in these cases is relate the wisdom of someone else. I appreciate ya’, Bill!

  13. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 12:15 pm on

    Excellent point Bob!!!! I think we all tried this, that someone told we needed something, and after felt very “poor” because it did not fullfil “the real” need – LOVE your articles!!!!!!!!!!!! They always do something special for me!!!!!!! They goes right to the core of my heart, because they hit THE TRUTH. Thank’s again for creating such value Bob!

  14. Bob Burg said at 12:33 pm on

    Lene: Thank you for the great smile you put on my face. Very kind of you, my friend! 🙂

  15. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 12:44 pm on

    My pleasure Bob 🙂

  16. Brilliant post as always Bob, quite simple actually, it is always boils down to what are Your customers needs are, and then providing the solutions with passionate value. Value is great however I have found that if there is no passion behind it, it isn’t received as well as when someone delivers the same value with passion.

  17. Bob Burg said at 1:00 pm on

    Carly: Thank you. I think that, all things being equal, a salesperson’s passion for his or her product or service is, by it’s very nature, better than without it because often passion is one way of providing more value to the customer. I think the point of Harry’s statement, though, is that, when it comes right down to it, value is in the eyes of the beholder or potential end-user, and that it’s satisfying their desire which is what counts. I’m certainly not disagreeing with you whatosever; just not sure if it’s perhaps two different topics or maybe even a related one. In my opinion, your first sentence summarized Harry’s point 100 percent. Again, just my opinion.

  18. Robert M Brandt said at 6:25 pm on

    The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. Nuff said! Great read Bob as always.

  19. Bob Burg said at 7:31 pm on

    Robert: Thank you. While I believe Harry was talking about that which needs to take place even before customer service comes into play, once it does, legendary customer service is a large part of fulfilling that customer’s desires. And, certainly having exquisite customer service is a huge goal for any excellent company. Thanks for sharing with us.

  20. Gil Namur said at 2:34 am on

    I suppose it depends on how you define profit. If profit is defined in monetary terms, than perhaps that is true.

    But if profit has a deeper meaning, personally, I would say it this way.

    “Profit is a reward for satisfying the ‘needs’ of someone else.”

    And …

    “Find out what people ‘need’ and GIVE IT to them ”

    But then, I guess I am getting away from Free-Market Capitalism …

  21. Bob Burg said at 7:12 am on

    Gil: Always great to see you. Harry’s actual definition of “profit” is “the increase in happiness by replacing one situation with another.” This is why – in a free-market exchange (i.e. both parties are willing participants) there are “two profits”…the buyer profits by having the “thing” he/she wants more than he/she wants the money, and the seller profits by having the money he/she wants more than the thing. So, indeed, profit is not only monetary; it covers anything that produces more happiness than before the exchange. I hope that clarifies.

    When you change the word, “desires” in his definition to “needs” I think it’s fairly self-evident to those of us in sales (which I know you have a distinguished background in) that needs, wants, desires are sort of a wrap-around and that it depends on what you sell. I guess we could also say that having a “need” satisfied can fall under desire, but I think the focus is then on semantics rather than on what the author was really saying. Someone might need a new roof, even though they really don’t desire one. However, they do desire not to have a leaky roof. The point of the article was more a focus on principle than semantics, if that makes sense, Gil.

    Regarding your next point, when you say “GIVE” it to them, I think there is a time and place for everything. If you see a person who is homeless and hungry and obviously has no means of eating, then of course GIVE them some food or some money or whatever you think will be most valuable to them in that situation. If you are running a business, it’s a good idea to charge your customers/clients or you won’t have a business to run and value to provide. Of course, to run your business successfully and make a healthy profit, you must continually satisfy their desire (or fulfill their need) with your product/service.

    Thank you for joining the conversation.

  22. Gil Namur said at 10:52 am on

    Hi Bob,

    Thank you for your gracious reply to my comment which on re-reading, certainly did not convey exactly what I had in mind and reads an awful lot like … Jerry Maguire!

    What I meant to say in the first part was this. I have always believed that when speaking with potential or existing clients, trying to find out what they ‘need’ is far more important than just closing on the ‘want’ part. Often, folks ‘think’ they ‘want’ a certain product or service, when in fact they ‘need’ something quite different. If we can determine that need and satisfy it, we will have built trust and laid solid ground for an ongoing relationship which leads to repeat business. The profit then is much more than just the margin or commission on the sale.

    That said, I am not saying we should not sell them what they want! Just find the balance 🙂

    As to the second part … lesson learned! Do not write comments like that at 11:45 at night before re-reading them! You’re reply is of course 100% correct.
    Let’s just leave it at that … a Jerry Maguire moment … ahem!

    Thanks Bob. I hope you have a great week!

  23. Bob Burg said at 11:09 am on

    Thank you, Gil. Great week to you, as well, my friend!

  24. Doug Wagner said at 2:33 pm on

    Great quotes and post. Nothing like keeping things simple.

    Of course the trick is figuring it out and delivering the value consistently at a cost that brings you a profit.

  25. Bob Burg said at 2:47 pm on

    Doug: Yes, indeed!

  26. Lorette Pruden said at 6:35 pm on

    How hard can we make this as salespeople?

    “Find out what people need” = ask them. Don’t tell them what you think they need. Of course, the art is in the ask. Not the ‘ask’ for the close, but the ‘ask’ for the need. IF we do that part right, and IF part of helping them get it is working with us, then we may get the privilege to ‘ask’ for the close.

    And it’s still hard to stay focused on them in the excitement of the conversation.

  27. Bob Burg said at 7:01 pm on

    Lorette: Thank you. Terrific and insightful points, all!!

  28. Frank said at 8:48 pm on

    I agree. I do see one issue though: When a society refuses to control it’s desires – or allows inordinate desire to dominate – then the free market system can break down quickly and have devastating implications. If I am free (encouraged?) to satisfy my desires immediately by indebtedness, then a bigger issue begins to mount for all parties (involved and not involved).

  29. Bob Burg said at 10:34 pm on

    Frank: Thank you for joining the conversation. If I may, it’s not a “society” that refuses to control its desires. A society is nothing more than a collection of individuals; all of whom make choices based on their own individual values. There’s nothing about that which would cause a free market system to break down. In fact, just the opposite; a free market is the best regulator of behavior because good choices get rewarded and bad choices get punished. Thus, people are a lot more careful regarding their choices. We do not currently live in a free-market based system but what is known as a mixed economy. If you “follow the money” so to speak you’ll see the breakdown has not been a function of free markets but that of misregulation, socialism and cronyism; none of which are the character of a free market in which government’s legitimate function is to protect its citizenry from force and fraud, while otherwise staying out of people’s way and simply creating the environment for people to live their lives however they see fit in pursuit of their own happiness (providing, of course, that one don’t infringe upon anyone else’s right to do the same).

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