Get an MBA in Selling


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MBA of Selling Harvey MackayThe room was filled to capacity. Everyone was eagerly waiting for the conference to start. And I was so excited to finally hear Harvey Mackay speak.

He’s a living legend in the sales field. He wrote Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, a #1 New York Times bestseller. He followed that with five more bestsellers including Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.

But, I wondered, how relevant is he today? It took me just a few minutes to find out. Harvey’s always talked about the importance of really knowing your customer – inside and out. And, that’s exactly where he started.

“David Hanson*,” he said. “Where’s David Hansen? Can you stand up so everyone can see you?”

David stood up sheepishly and the camera panned in on him. Harvey started talking again, “I’ve been doing a little research about you. I know you currently live in Hollyhock Hills, but you were born and raised in Ohio. Your birthday is July 7th and you’re celebrating your 13th anniversary on September 14th.

The camera zoomed in on David again. He was looking a little surprised; maybe even a bit worried.

Harvey continued, “You have two children and they attend Brentwood Elementary. You like tennis. Your favorite movie is The Wedding Crashers. For your most recent vacation, you took the family camping in northern Minnesota. You’re allergic to ragweed and you love dessert, especially coconut cream pie. Am I right?”

David was astounded; so was everyone else. “How’d you know all that?” he asked. Harvey just smiled. And, once again, he reiterated how powerful it is to really understand your customer.

Where did Harvey find out all this info? Online. In social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, communities and more. The “how” may be new, but the why is timeless. We can leverage what we learn to better connect with people as human beings and to become an invaluable business resource.

Harvey’s latest book, also a New York Times bestseller, is called The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World. It’s filled with powerful, inspirational and timeless advice on what it takes to succeed in sales today.

Here are just a few of my favorite Mackay’s Morals which recap the lesson from chapters. Each one is wrapped with a delightful story that makes the point.

  • “Coasting is a breeze. It’s the downhill collisions that are costly.” I’ve coasted. I’ve crashed. I’ve learned my lessons. Have you?
  • “All the world’s a stage, and most of us need more rehearsals.” Salespeople especially. We’re embarrassed by role playing. Except, if we don’t we’re not as effective as we can be.
  • “You can’t direct the wind … but you can sure shift the sails.” So much is beyond our control. But, we always have leverage if we open up to what’s possible.
  • “Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.” I believe this whole-heartedly. Success in sales starts with a decision. Without that, we’ll cave in under the pressure.

That’s just a taste of the wisdom in The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World. And, there’s a whole lot more in there too. Check it out. I highly recommend it. It’s an investment in yourself and your life.

*David Hansen and some of the details are fictionalized to protect the real individual’s privacy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Jill: thanks for sharing this. I think Harvey Mackay remains one of the greatest sales minds today. His book, Swim with the Sharks, is one I frequently reference, and continue to find valuable. I plan to purchase his newest one.

    Mackay’s trademark skill is capturing tacit knowledge and packaging it in a way that’s engaging and durable. And that’s where I take exception to his use of MBA in the book title. MBA is a specific degree, which is awarded to a student by a university for successful completion of a program of coursework. There are accrediting organizations to ensure that graduate business education adheres to standards for quality and curriculum. Using the degree in a book title might be catchy or edgy, but it usurps meaning, just as it would if a health club recruited for personal trainers by using the message, “earn an MD in personal training.” The confusion would be detrimental for trainers and customers alike.

    Mackay has a great book, but he does a disservice by using MBA in the title.


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