Be Great At Sales, Must Have These 2 Things

The Best Salesman I’ve Ever Met (Ron Brown, 1975)
“To be great at sales, you must have these ✌🏻️ 2 things…(1) Find a need, and (2) be yourself…that’s it.” -Ron Brown (my grandfather).


When you hear this word, how does it make you feel?

  • Good, Bad, Indifferent?
  • Why?

When I look around, everything I see was sold by someone. This Macbook, coffee cup, lights, newspaper, carpet, table, windows, drywall, pavement, paintings…lawyers sell, doctors sell, artists sell, entrepreneurs sell. Everyone is in sales.

Below I’ve tried to compress my background, experiences, lessons learned, and what I see currently happening in B2B enterprise sales (based on empirical findings).

Everyday I’m Hustlin'

Growing up in my Wisconsin neighborhood, if you needed to sell something, I was “that kid” you’d talk with, the one hustlin’, connecting the dots by: finding a need, being myself, making the deal (at fair price), and everyone involved is happy.

Lemonade Stand vs. Candy Bars

During my youth, I‘d see kids in my neighborhood trying to sell watered-down lemonade, sitting in a cardboard stand, waiting for business to find them, I never understood why they were wasting time and money.

  • little traffic, no repeat business, low margin.

On the flip-side, I was that kid always sales ‘hunting’ on the path…selling candy bars, going door-to-door in 8-unit apt. complexes.

  • traffic was created by finding the need, repeat buyers were known, 200% profit margins, no marketing overhead.

The Best Salesman I Ever Met

In 1975, one year before I was born, my grandfather opened up his auto dealership in Wausau, WI ~ Ron Brown AMC-Jeep-Volvo-Benz. Yes AMC, the manufacture of the Gremlin. And, my grandfather, God bless his soul, was by far the best salesman, I (or anyone that knew him) ever met.

“To Be Great in Sales”

In 1987, when I was in 4th grade, my grandfather taught me the most valuable life lesson. Hunched to my level, eye to eye, resting his left hand on my right shoulder, holding up two fingers on his right hand ✌🏻️, my grandfather wanted to make certain I understood, and never forgot, what he was about to clearly tell me…

“[Ryan], In order to be GREAT at sales, you MUST have these TWO things✌ 🏻️(1) find a need, and (2) be yourself — that’s it” 👍🏻

DevOps + Sales

For some in Silicon Valley, “they” don’t understand sales. Maybe they think a commoditized product will sell itself, perhaps there’s a text book way of selling, or they flinch thinking of Glengarry Glen Ross.

For me, in parallel, when developers are coding JavaScript, I see a foreign language, or I balk imagining Tron.

Ask the best developers/architects how and when they started to code. The majority will tell you they taught themselves, in grade/middle school.

Ask the best sales people when they started selling, the majority will reiterate the similarity, in grade/middle school.

And, when there’s a shortage in skill sets, we only hear DevOps talent is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, great sales talent is (allegedly) a dime a dozen.

This is a big-time misconception regarding great sales talent.

B2B Sales

But these days, who gives three shits about cars, lemonade stands, and candy bars, right? We are living in a time where the buyers are in control of complex B2B enterprise deals, right? We are living in a time where spammy auto emails are outsmarting and outselling your competition, right? We are living in a time where DevOps is near impossible to find, but great salespeople are a dime a dozen, right?

Wrong x4.

The Valley

Before launching my BizDev Strategy Consulting Firm, I spent 4 months “interviewing” for sales roles in SV, perhaps overqualified for, but I wanted to know why 90% of the companies in SV are constantly asking the question (without a solution), “how do you find new business”.

Sales in SV

From heavily backed startups to Fortune 500, the way sales is viewed, treated, and operated in the Valley, knocked me off my feet.

  • Account managers are being turned into born-again salespeople, and so-called closers.
  • Marketing (digital, seo, sem, growth hacking, social media, content…insert any new catchy advertising title here) is eating sales budgets.
  • Account managers, and marketing departments are leading and running sales teams.
  • Auto email blasts, and IP growth-stalking-spam, is “awesome” and “does everything”.
  • Marketing (B2B) experts are now including “sales” and “business development” in their skill sets.
  • Forrester’s B2B marketing defines new term: “sales enablement”.
  • SDR (sales development rep) is the first sales rep along the conveyor belt.

In Reality

There’s no B2B proof regarding the above “sales” theories ~ Nada, None, Zero, Zilch, Diddly-Squat, Hill of Beans, Goose Egg. Inbound lead generation, with a low probability of closing, isn’t a true ROI for any metrics. Long-term relationships are not being built. And, how the company produces business, says what the company thinks about their customers.

Things To Ponder?

  • 1/ In the past, how could marketing truly show ROI?
  • 2/ Current day, how is marketing showing ROI?
  • 3/ Current day, why does marketing want to get involved more in the sales process, specifically “lead generation”?
  • 4/ Can former account managers, and new grads turned human cash registers (who never sold lemonade before), close leads (generated with a low probability of closing)?
  • 5/ Burn Rate vs. ROI
  • 6/ Where is the investment into sales teams, individual career development, and successful business relationship building ~ short and long-term?

Backwards Sales

In mid-Feb, I attended a large SaaS conference in SF. When I heard a successful entrepreneur, and notable sales executive claim, “startups can’t hire (B2B) enterprise sales reps until you start generating leads (for them)”.

This mindset of sales is backwards, and doesn’t create long-term growth momentum.

This mindset is not investing in your business, your sales team, your teamwork, your agility, your strategy, your successful business relationships.

This mindset is a one-off short-term approach, that cannot sustain long-term momentum.

This mindset is giving your competitors the advantage.


Technology has changed, but the sales game remains the same.

There’s an old saying in sales,

“If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is”.

This story is dedicated to my dear grandfather, and to all you true sales hunters out there, on the path, trail-blazing, driving revenue for your company, your team success, and your CEO’s vision.

Any feedback, good-bad-indifferent, I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences.

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