For the first half of my life, I thought the last thing I would ever want to do is be a Salesman. I, along with almost everyone I knew who never sold anything, thought that career was slimy and dishonest.
Besides that, who would want a job where you never knew how much money you would make?
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After surviving a failed business attempt, bankruptcy, and needing cash but also needing to be close to home to help with the high-risk pregnancy my (then) wife had (that was in my previous life), I ended up taking a local sales job selling baby pictures to people in their home. I was able to set my own appointments and work whenever I wanted to, so long as I made a certain quota, and I was paid on commission, only. That means if I don’t sell, I don’t eat.
During the next two years, after having several different sales jobs with different products (all commission only), I was much better trained and experienced, and that’s when I realized selling as a career was much more challenging and fun than I ever expected it to be. And I didn’t have to be a slimeball or liar or cheat.
And more than that, you wanna know something? I was making more money, more regularly, than I ever did as a “suit” working on Wall Street!
So, what does this have to do with God or missionary work? Everything.
Whether you like it or not, or whether you think sales is a bad career choice or not, the truth of the matter is that everyone is selling something at all times. If you are in a meeting, you have to sell your ideas. If you have a business you have to sell yourself to potential clients so they use you and not someone else. If you are a parent, you (sometimes) have to sell your children on why they should do the right thing. If you are interviewing for a job, you have to sell yourself as the product the employer wants to have.
One way or another, we are all in Sales, and the one thing I know from my experience is that Sales is not about talking, it is all about listening.
Those people who major in Marketing should change their major to Psychology because that is what Sales really is. It is knowing how to get people to bond with you, to open up to you, and to be able to get them to decide that what you want them to do is what they want to do, even when they don’t know what they want to do. And as an honest salesperson, you teach them what they need to know to make a proper and qualified decision; qualified meaning based on information, and not on their feelings, alone.
The mega-churches know all about how to sell God, but they don’t sell obedience to God. They know that people are self-centered and selfish, so they tell you all about the wonderful blessings God has for you when you do what they say God wants you to do, which is usually nothing more than to be a “good” person because all those hard things to do are just for Jews.
That is the psychology behind selling: find out what the person wants and explain how your product provides that for them. People want the easy way, and telling them that God will bless them if they are a good person sounds easy enough, right? The problem is that it is not selling the truth because it may be an easy way, but it is the wrong way.
In order to be a successful missionary, you have to know how to sell. The product we have to sell is salvation, eternal joy in God’s presence and peace of mind while alive. We are trying to get people to not sell their souls to the world but to devote their lives to God. It is a hard product to sell correctly because it involves self-discipline, sacrifice, and determination.
The proper way to do this is, just as with any sales job, first and foremost you have to know your product. To tell people about God, you have to know God; and you won’t ever get to really know him listening to other people tell you who he is. God has told us everything we need to know about him in the Torah, and that is where you need to start. Whatever God wants you to know about him, he will lead you to see in his Word as you read it more and more.
Now, when I say you need to know about God I don’t mean passages in the Bible about God, but who God is, what he wants from us, and what he is willing to do for us when we obey. Don’t tell people about hell or damnation because frightening people into something never works in the long run. For someone to truly make a decision they will stick with, they have to believe whatever they do is their idea; so, once you know about God, your next step is to ask questions.
Too many people in missionary work talk and talk and talk. They tell people what they are doing wrong, what they should be doing to be right, and flood them with spiritual statements that a non-spiritual person really cannot grasp.
In other words, they talk them to death…literally, because the more they talk, the less the people want to listen, and the attempt to teach them what they need to know to be saved is wasted.
To be able to help someone find God, you first have to find out what they believe they are missing in their life. Do not assume anything about them, and to get them to open up to you, you need to relate to them. People who are not spiritual will not relate to someone who can’t talk in their language or who spiritualizes everything they say.
The best salesman in the Bible was that Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus, Shaul (Paul) because he was willing to relate to everyone on their level:
1 Corinthians 19: 19-23 (CJB): For although I am a free man, not bound to do anyone’s bidding, I have made myself a slave to all in order to win as many people as possible. That is, with Jews, what I did was put myself in the position of a Jew, in order to win Jews. With people in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah, I put myself in the position of someone under such legalism, in order to win those under this legalism, even though I myself am not in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah. With those who live outside the framework of Torah, I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah — although I myself am not outside the framework of God’s Torah but within the framework of Torah as upheld by the Messiah. With the “weak” I became “weak,” in order to win the “weak.” With all kinds of people I have become all kinds of things, so that in all kinds of circumstances I might save at least some of them.
Shaul knew that in order for people to listen to him, they needed to trust what he says as true, and in order to get them to trust what he says, they need to trust him. And that comes from bonding, one person to another. They can have respect for his knowledge or because he was a Pharisee, or even just because he suffered so much for his belief. All of that is helpful, but it won’t get anyone to change their mind.
If you want to help people find God, you first have to let them find you, trust you, and bond with you, and the best way to do that is to ask them about themselves, shut up and listen.
When I taught people how to sell, I told them two things:
1. People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do; and
2. When you ask the right questions and listen to their answers, they will tell you how to close them.
With regard to missionary work, this means asking them what they feel they are missing in their life, what they want, and how they think they can get it. Then once you know what they think they want, you can begin to show them how, in YOUR life, God has supplied these things for you. And don’t worry if they want something you never did- you can always find a relatable subject because most everyone wants the same basic things: love, appreciation, and security. This is why you need to know psychology because basic wants and needs are part of Maslow’s work about Self-Actualization.
I could give extended teaching on this subject but have done enough for the moment. Maybe too much, since everyone has a limited attention span. You might have noticed that most of my messages run 6-8 minutes, which is because after 10 minutes or so people zone out.
So, if you want to be able to talk about God to anyone, start by asking them questions. You will save more souls with careful listening than you ever will with enthusiastic preaching.
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If anyone would like me to expand on this subject and make it a teaching series, let me know.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!