October 8, 2017
Sunday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #468: Go-Givers Sell More
Yesterday marked two milestones in my prison journey at this facility. One is that I’ve now been at this Level 2 dorm-style prison for exactly a year-and-a-half. The second milestone? After serving as part of the church leadership nearly the entire time I’ve been here, I was finally asked to speak in one of our church services yesterday.
I enjoy speaking in public, and I’ve done a fair amount of preaching prior to prison, including a regular rotation at a church for over a year in a paid capacity. However, preaching is not my primary passion, nor is it a ministry product of my primary gifting, so I don’t have a built-in “unction” to preach, as my twin brother, Michael, does, for example. I instead prefer an organizational role in which I can help facilitate the needs of the church being met and members assimilated into areas of service that align with their callings.
In this church, I’ve helped develop an organizational roadmap and served as a mentor for those with less leadership experience and church experience. Because I took a controversial stand to not only defend two of the elders, my friends, Art and Don, against an unfair accusatory attack by some in the church, but I also worked to unify the leadership body, I don’t think I’ll be wanted as one of the elders anytime soon. I was told in January that I’d be asked to speak for the first time in February, but I’m pretty certain February is long gone now.
Meanwhile, I’ve watched as every other guy in leadership has spoken in sermons or exhortations (shorter, 5–10-minute time slots) multiple times. Then, just recently, guys who have been at this facility for just six months, two months, and even one month were given opportunities to speak, some twice.
Much as I would have liked to preach or speak an exhortation, I make a habit of not asking for that kind of opportunity. I’m bold enough to ask for other kinds of things, but when it comes to ministry, I don’t like to ask. I believe God leads us to speak up if He wants us to, and other times He wants us to simply trust in His ability to use us as He desires without helpful hints from us.
For my exhortation, I asked the Lord to clearly show me what He’d like me to share. The “exhortation” speaking times are like lightweight sermons, more devotional or motivational in nature than a full-blown sermon, and they can be as varied as the men who give them. Thus, I knew I had a lot of flexibility, so I stayed open to whatever God chose to show me.
In the two weeks prior to yesterday’s service, I finished reading book two in a three-book series on business sent to me by one of my favorite people, herself an accomplished businessperson and strong woman of faith. The book, Go-Givers Sell More is a powerful “new” idea about business packaged into a short read by authors Burg and Mann.
The principles of great salesmanship outlined in this profound book reminded me so much of basic Scriptural principles that I couldn’t help making parallels to what God has been teaching me about recently. Along the way, I recognized the message He wanted me to share.
In the book, the authors outline five keys to initiating a sales opportunity with a potential customer. This first part of the book deals with creating value for the customer, so I re-worked the five keys into the words that would spell out V-A-L-U-E in the form of an acrostic then began by saying, “Welcome, everyone, to our breakout session or this year’s Gospel Sales Conference.” The guys looked stunned.
“Whether you have a job or are self-employed, you will sell. Everyone sells. Jesus commissioned us as salesmen—we are Product Ambassadors of the Gospel. We are ‘Christianity Product Advocates’ to the world around us.” I began to see that some of the guys were tracking with me, understanding the parallels I was drawing, but a few others were in a deep fog. I tried to bring them with me.
“However, great sales isn’t about getting someone to purchase what you have, it’s about creating value and watching the sale come naturally. Today, we’ll look at how we can create VALUE.”
Virtuous – Having excellence of character (Titus 2:6–8)
Attentive – Knowing and meeting the other person’s needs (Titus 2: 9–10)
Long-Suffering – Having consistent character over time (II Corinthians 3:2)
Uplifting – Being grateful and appreciative of others (Ephesians 5:4)
Empathetic – Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes (II Timothy 2:23–26)
I shared examples at each point, staying in character as the speaker at a business conference, challenging the men to recognize their role in spreading the Gospel. We are the only bit of Jesus that some people will ever experience. What do we want them to see and know about Him through contact with us?
The book made clear that this sales thing isn’t about you or your product: it’s about the other person! It isn’t about creating a “win-win scenario” as some sales gurus would have you believe. Instead it’s about not keeping score.
As I kept tying in my main point—that we “sell” people on the Gospel by our well-lived lives, I could see the conviction and excitement build. I ended by challenging the men to believe in the VALUE of the Gospel product. I then asked each one to examine himself to determine by how he lives his life, by what character he exhibits, just what exactly it is he is “selling.”
I hit my 20-minute mark on the dot and was well-received. Several guys thanked me, and I’m now scheduled to speak regularly. Satisfying? Yes, but not nearly as much as when others decide to give God a try because of me.