Mark Harris Outlines How Helping and Teaching Always Beats Sales

Mark Harris went from selling books door-to-door in 1994 to one of the most effective rainmakers at Guardian Life Insurance and he shares the exact framework he used to become great at business development. Learn about the difference between following up on a work level versus an emotional level and why an emotional connection always wins, how to create small wins every single day that snowball into big accomplishments, and why doing business development right leads to happiness and long-term success.


Mo asks Mark Harris: Tell me a story of when you realized that you needed to focus on business development.

  • Mark takes us back to the summer of 1994 when he took on a job selling books door-to-door, a path that some of the most successful rainmakers have followed.
  • It started off as a way to make more money than working at the local McDonald’s but it became a skill that Mark learned he could get better at.
  • All skills are both learned and earned. Mark was initially not good at sales at all and after 12 hours of hearing no, he decided to flip his approach and try to make a connection with the person first.
  • He also learned that he needed to create little wins throughout the day to manage his energy and motivation.
  • The steps to a purchase are the same no matter what you’re selling. Connect with the person first and find out if you can solve their needs.
  • Mark also learned how to deal with his emotions at that time, and when he figured out how to do that he became a lot more relatable and fun to be around.
  • That whole first summer was all about being more relatable to people immediately after meeting them. After a couple sales, Mark figured out what he was really providing people with, and it wasn’t a book. When he took the focus off the money and made it about helping the other person, the sale became much easier.
  • By breaking the process into each individual piece, Mark created a series of small wins that were under his control. Even a rejection can be a learning experience.
  • When you put yourself outside your comfort zone, you become more capable emotionally of handling the experience and more likely to overcome the next hurdle, and every hurdle you jump builds your confidence.
  • Think about what you can do every single day to get you closer to your ultimate win. You don’t know when your next sale is going to happen, but if you can focus on what you can control it will happen.


Mo asks Mark Harris: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Business development means something different to everybody. For Mark, it’s all about helping people understand what their needs are (teaching) and then once you find that out it’s helping them find the solution they need.
  • Mark focuses on one phrase when going into the first meeting with someone, specifically being “humbly curious”. He’s simply looking to understand what motivates someone and where they are coming from, and what’s going to help them.
  • Nobody wants to be sold, but everybody likes to buy, especially from people they like. Focusing on the sale is a short-term strategy.
  • Sometimes the right thing is to not sell something. If things aren’t a good fit now but might be later, being upfront and telling the prospect the truth is how you can build trust and empathy and secure a valuable long-term relationship.
  • Ask as many questions as you can. When you can train your mind to ask questions and be humbly curious, the world is your oyster and you can bring value to that organization at all times.


Mo asks Mark Harris: What is your favorite science, step, or story when it comes to the GrowBIG Training or the Snowball System?

  • Without a doubt, the four brain quadrants are the key to connecting to almost anyone. Mark taught his daughter how to pinpoint the four quadrants within the family and use it immediately to connect with each person.
  • Out in the marketplace, you’re going to encounter all four different colors. When Mark speaks to a broker that’s in the yellow quadrant, it’s easy to tailor the conversation to speak their language. Putting the framework into practice makes getting the next step easy and natural.
  • Asking people how to help them simply elicits a better response. Any decision maker you speak to has goals so get comfortable asking people those questions. Being open-ended and flexible gets people thinking about where they want to be, and that often leads to the other person starting to sell you on helping them.
  • If you can follow up on a personal level, you are creating a friend and a relationship for the long-term. When you win on the emotional side, it pays dividends on the work side for eternity.
  • Once you put yourself out there and see the success of the emotional wins, it makes it much easier to keep doing it in the future.


Mo asks Mark Harris: Tell me of a business development story that you are particularly proud of.

  • Mark typically works with brokers or consultants, and they typically shop the market as part of their offer.
  • One of Mark’s work friends went out on his own to start his own business and reached out to him to talk about what Mark could do to help. When Mark sat down with him, he started off by asking questions about the future of the business and where the other person saw things going. Mark ended the initial conversation by actually recommending he talk to Mark’s competitors!
  • By starting the conversation off from a teaching and helping perspective, Mark helped him create an efficient business that now sells only Guardian insurance.
  • You can always help someone accomplish their goals, and if that’s your framework you will always be able to help someone.
  • If you truly understand how to help someone and approach them from that aspect, you’re not selling them. When you help them, they want to buy.
  • Mark is most proud of having the integrity and courage to recommend the other person look elsewhere. Turning down a possible sale is hard, but being willing to make that decision when it was right for the client showed them that Mark cared and ultimately created the foundation for a genuine relationship.
  • People who make more relationships are also generally happier, and that’s one of the best aspects of business development.


Mo asks Mark Harris: If you could record a message around business development for your younger self, what would it say?

  • The first thing Mark would say is that business development is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • The second thing is that the role is a learned skill. People are not born great sales, it’s something you can learn and master.
  • The third thing is to help others when you can. You’ll be happier helping others with their success than you will ever be with your own success.
  • When people first get into sales they often sprint towards their first sale, but when they do that they forget about the long-term marathon of relationship building. When you build relationships on that level, the tiny sprints toward each sale become easier over time.
  • Sales didn’t come naturally to Mark, but when he realized that he was getting better each day that became a big motivation and opened the door to becoming excellent at it.
  • Helping others when you can helps you be happier, which cycles back to building trust and reinforces the first three lessons.



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