Mark Twain & Selling Success

by Mark Bowser

I came across an interesting quote the other day from Mark Twain. At first, it seemed just humorous. As I began to ponder it though, I realized it was filled with depths of perspective for the world of selling. Mr. Twain said, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”

Now, what does this mean for us and our sales success? I heard one time that “I don’t know” is the first sign of wisdom. Why is this true? Well, because it starts a searching process. When you don’t know the answer then you have to seek the answer. By so doing, you find the truth, the reality. Former business leader at GE Jack Welch was famous for walking into meetings and asking “What is the reality here?” Sales professionals have to ask the same type of questions. What is the reality with this prospect? What is the reality of my performance? What is the reality of the competition?

I believe that far too often sales professionals, business leaders, and politicians are afraid to say “I don’t know.” What are you afraid of? That you will lose the business? That you will be seen as vulnerable, weak, ignorant, or even worse? But remember, “I don’t know” is the first sign of wisdom. Wisdom on how to solve the prospect’s challenge. And that is the whole point of selling.

The only problem with saying “I don’t know” is if you leave it there. Don’t leave the person in no man’s land. Instead say, “I don’t know, but I will find out and let you know.” This is the mark of the true sales professional. This is the mark of the champion.

That is really what they are looking for. That is the solution they seek. When you do that, you not only solve their challenge, but their respect for you also goes up too. You see, you don’t have to be perfect in order to get the sale. In fact, perfection here on Earth isn’t reality. Prepare the best you can. Present your product or service the best that you can. Answer their questions the best that you can. And, learn from the process.

So, the next time a prospect or customer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, then do what Mark Twain did and tell them so.

So what is next?  

  • Please connect with me on LinkedIn at  I find it very beneficial to network with other sales and business champions. I also can be reached at
  • If I can be of service to you and your team through a training seminar or in any way, then don’t hesitate to ask. 
  • If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your network. Thanks.
  • You might want to check out one of my books on Amazon

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