Sharks, Snakes, Lawyers and Salespeople

Tony Hughes


The challenge for all of us in sales is to break the stereotype and be business people of integrity rather than a sales people of persuasion. This is an excerpt from my book, The Joshua Principle, and I thought you might enjoy it. To set the scene, Joshua Peters is trying to close the biggest deal of his life with David Thomas, the CEO.

"David, we're solving a serious problem here and it requires proper investment - what's our solution being compared with?"?

"Nice try but I would prefer you focused on reducing your price."

Joshua changed tack. "I think now is the right time to organize for you to meet another CEO where we've already delivered. They have a similar profile and can provide evidence that we're low risk and best value - that we'll deliver."

David looked sideways at Joshua. "When I was running my last corporation, I hosted an achiever's club trip for our top sales performers and their partners. It was a lavish affair and we did an exclusive dinner at an oceanarium. The tables were arrayed in front of a massive viewing window. Anyway, as often happens, people drank too much and the leading salesman ended up showing off by climbing on the railing above ground where people were smoking. Staff yelled at him to climb down and he slipped and fell into the water. All hell broke loose. We were all seated having dessert down below when, all of a sudden, there was all this commotion. We were horrified watching him thrash around as a shark began circling. It sensed his panic and went for his legs ..."

"What happened?"

"Nothing - it darted away at the last second. There was no way it was going to bite him."

Joshua was hooked. "Why not?"?

David leaned forward. "Professional courtesy."

The two men laughed before David continued. "I also tell that joke to every lawyer I meet. The only variation being that it's a lawyer who falls in. Please don't take it personally."

"No offence taken. Most salesman jokes use a snake as the metaphor but I thought it was very funny. Next time we meet I'll explain the difference between a software salesman and a software program. It has a comparable punch line that you can use to good effect. Our fifteen minutes is up, it's time for me to go."

The two men walked to reception and shook hands. "Thanks Joshua for coming to see me. What's the punch line of your software salesman versus software program joke?"

"You only have to punch information into the software once."?David smiled. "I know just the vendor to use that on."


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: Paul Stevenson


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