top of page

What happens when you replace the word "sell"​ with the word "serve"​?

I recently met with someone I have known for some time. His name is “Jim” and he is a good person, a family man and treats his employees well. He has been in sales most of his life with great success. Jim asked what he could do to grow his business and close more deals. I asked Jim what he could do to grow his business and close more deals. I remember the smile on his face when he replied “sell more”.

Selling takes on many forms. It doesn't matter if you are on Wall Street or Main Street. We are all in sales. Whether you want to convince someone to eat at a specific restaurant, are trying to close a deal, convince your family that moving to a new city will be a good thing, launch a new business, apply for a new job, try out for a sport team, raise money or persuade someone to go on a date, we are all involved in selling.

I remember asking Jim what would happen if he replaced the word “sell” with the word “serve”? He paused, looked up and nodded his head. I asked “how do you feel when you are being sold?” Jim was quick to answer “not good at all”. I then asked “how do you feel when you are being served?” Jim smiled then nodded his head again. It was only a few moments after when he told me that he knew exactly what he needed to do. We ended early and out the door Jim went.

Over time Jim shared with me that his company went way off track. His team was focused on selling, not serving and this was not in line with his company’s mission and purpose. He met with his team and the first thing they did was to remove the word “sell” and replaced it with “serve”. His team shifted their focus away from themselves and on to their customers. Weekly sales meetings were conducted and each meeting was focused on how they could serve the needs of their customers and surpass their expectations. Jim’s company was quick to implement change and soon thereafter they experienced tremendous growth.

When change is needed, and it often is, it’s best to create additional perspectives on what needs to be changed. In Jim’s circumstance their focus was on sales and all that was needed was to create a different perspective. Changing their focus from “selling” to “serving” was the difference which made the difference.

Statistics show that we consumers love to buy things. I don’t know about you and for me, I love to buy things and I don't like to be sold. I enjoy when my interests are being looked after and I do not like being pressed to buy something. What’s it like when you experience a sales person that is focused on helping you get whatever YOU want to have? It’s nice isn’t it? A friend, John O’Connor, shared with me the meaning of the word “sell”. It derived from the Nordic word “serje”, which means to “serve”. The key to successful selling is to focus on the needs of the other person ahead of your own. Any other way is not serving.

Can you tell when a salesperson cares about you and really wants to help? I know I do and I am sure you do too. It feels good doesn’t it? Life proves success happens when we help (serve) enough other people get what they want. It was the late Zig Ziglar who said “If you help enough people get what they want, you can have everything you want”. When I first heard Zig say this it was like a light went on. For me, it meant I can be successful if I help other people. Could it be that easy? It then dawned on me, yes, it can. This perspective creates win-win outcomes for everyone. I don’t know about you but creating outcomes in which we all win is something worth exploring.

What happens when you want something and you are focused on how you can benefit? What happens when you switch the focus to what the other person wants? How does it feel? If you don't feel it I promise you the other person does. When you master the art of serving you master the art of success.

I chose this topic because when I learned to replace the word "sell" with the word "serve" everything changed. My life became more fun and success came with less effort. Relationships were stronger and connections were deeper. Things that used to not make sense made sense. What I learned is that when you focus on serving, focusing on what the other person wants, you are opening yourself up to unlimited possibilities. For me, I am a coach. I provide a service for a fee. When I focus on me and how I will benefit I am limiting my potential as a business person. The moment I focus on others, helping them achieve whatever it is they want to achieve, I open the door of unlimited possibilities. The switch from selling to serving is the difference which makes the difference for me.

From experience I have witnessed most problems (obstacles) business people face when running a company is when their attention is too heavily weighted on how they can benefit. It's only when they realign their purpose with creating the best customer experience that success becomes abundant. Remember the customer experience belongs to the customer. Let’s keep it that way.

The answer to the title What happens when you replace the word "sell" with "serve" is everything.

What I learned from experience is the best way to serve is from your heart. For example, put your hand over your heart and ask what can I do to serve this person? The answer will come as it always does.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page