Book Review: Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me

I went from not liking Greg Koorhan’s new book,
“Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me,” to being a big fan.
If you’re trying to write your story this book helps.

I did not want to like this book.

In marketing, honesty is the best policy. In Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me, author Greg Koorhan explains why this approach works. An honest story always includes blemishes. When you tell an honest story in your marketing, people feel it, they empathize and they trust you. Telling an honest story helps you stand out from the competition since every honest story is unique.

I don’t like the title of this book and I hate the subtitle, How to use storytelling to connect with the hearts and wallets of a hungry audience. It’s a jumbled mess of anatomy and cliche. Under the covers, the book is thin — maybe 10,000 words — fattened with big type and white space. The tone is conversational, repetitive and full of cliches. I was prepared to slam this thing in my Amazon review. Then I read it.

It turns out the book is good — no, excellent!

The author is a scholar of storytelling and, after a slow start, explains the ways memorable stories are created. There is a science to storytelling and Greg Koorhan lays it out simply and convincingly. Effective stories are honest and always contain flaws which build empathy and trust. How these stories make the prospect feel is remembered long after the brochure is forgotten.

Koorhan provides a methodology for extracting our best stories and grooming them for use as sales pitches. The hardest part is being honest with yourself: “Telling the truth to ourselves requires awareness and practice,” he says. Other memorable sound bites include: “Stories do what data does not” and “Audiences identify with broken heroes.”

Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me is a great book about how to tell stories disguised as a marketing primer. If you are looking to tell a company story, a brand story, or your personal life story, this is the fastest, most accurate guide I have seen. The exercises will help you bring out your story and deliver it in a way that delights readers and listeners.

Photo of Author Greg Koorhan
Author Greg Koorhan (source:

It’s no surprise that Greg Koorhan is a filmmaker. In video trailers and short films, you must to cut down hours of raw material to a few seconds with emotional impact. That kind of editing gives you a strong sense of the elements a story must have when everything extra is stripped away.

I went from not liking this book to being a big fan.

I thought it was too thin, but who wants a ponderous tome these days? You get through it quickly and the supporting workbook helps you apply the advice immediately. I didn’t like the breezy tone, but it pulls you in. It feels like the author is just talking to you when, in fact, there’s an enormous amount of research underneath his words into what makes a memorable story.

I highly recommend this book, and not just for marketers or sales people. If you want to write the story of your life, or your business, or another person’s story, Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me gives you tools for extracting interesting stories and shaping them into books, movies and, yes, even marketing pitches.

©2017 by Steve O’Keefe
Executive Director, Staunton Media Lab
Book Reviewed:
Don’t Sell Me, Tell Me
by Greg Koorhan
Published by Crossbow Studio
146 pages, paperback, ISBN 978-0692748275

Book Review: Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling

Decades of wisdom are cooked down in
“Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling”
a great guide for couples or families in business together.

Decades of Wisdom Cooked Down into Easy Routines

Don & Lois Crawford, authors of Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling
Don & Lois Crawford, authors of Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling

Don and Lois Crawford embody the title of their book, the softer side of selling. They are delightful people who are helpful, honest and nice. That’s how they sold me on this book. Their charming presentation will win you over, too, while providing you with better practices for more successful selling.

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, 2nd Edition, is a friendly, helpful, honest guide to selling. The writing is easy and breezy, with links to a well-chosen list of resources for those who seek greater depth. Most chapters end with a quiz to help you apply the principles to your own situation.

There were two key takeaways for me. First, “all sales are made emotionally” (page 69). Richard Thayer just received the Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, which shows that all decision-making is emotional and data is trumped by feelings at the moment of truth. See my review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow for more on how we make decisions.

“All Sales are Made Emotionally”

The Crawfords know quite a bit about the psychology of sales and cook it down to some very useful techniques. For example, they explain how to tell what kind of arguments will be most persuasive with a prospect by observing how their eyes move when deep in thought: Visual people look up, verbal people look left or right, touchy-feely people look down.

The second takeaway is that there is an answer worse than “No” in the sales profession. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what it is, but I will say the Crawfords have created an effective plan for qualifying prospects and steadily moving toward “Yes.” The book contains well-thought-out forms, checklists and scripts for organizing the sales process along with sample selling dialogues.

I have a couple of issues with the book. It starts very awkwardly with a discussion of gender and selling that is not very helpful, along with chapters such as “Choosing What to Sell” that are unnecessary for most readers. I suggest you skip the qualifying chapters and move quickly to the Six Step Sales Process where you’ll find terrific advice for generating fresh sales leads.

A Book for Couples & Partners

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, by Don & Lois Crawford
Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, by Don & Lois Crawford

While the gender discussion misses the mark, this book is a great guide to selling for couples who are in business together. Like Lois and Don, all couples or partners have strengths that balance each other. Lois is the writer, online connector, home office person. Don is telephoner, visit in person, gregarious road warrior. When you align sales activities around the personalities of the partners, it will be more successful.

Whether you are in business by yourself, in a family enterprise, or in sales for a small or large firm, you’ll benefit from the decades of wisdom cooked down into “Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling.”

Review ©2017 by Steve O’Keefe
Executive Director of the Staunton Media Lab

Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling, 2nd Edition
by Donald S. Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford
Published by Marketing Idea Shop, LLC
6″ x 9″ Paperback, 200 pages, ISBN 978-0-9742511-4-1
Illustrated with Forms; Bibliography; Glossary