In Sales -- and in Life -- Be a Go-Giver, Not Just a Go-Getter

04/17/2012 06:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2012

I recently met Julie Larson, an Idaho consultant and organizer of a Facebook group called "The Go-Giver Group." I'd never heard the term "Go-Giver" before and it intrigued me, so I asked her about it. She suggested I get in touch with Bob Burg, who coined the term in his book, The Go Giver. So I found Burg on Twitter and asked if I could interview him to find out more:

BJG: I like the sound of your term, "Go-Giver." Can you tell me more about it?

Bob Burg: While my book (coauthored with John David Mann) is a play on the more well-known term "Go-Getter," the two are actually not opposites. We love Go-Getters because Go-Getters take action and get things done. A Go-Giver is simply a person who has learned that shifting their focus from getting to giving (in this case, "giving" means constantly and consistently providing value to others) is not only a nice way to live life, but a very financially profitable way, as well.

A Go-Giver is someone who lives their life and conducts business according the five laws John and I describe in the book: The Laws of Value, Compensation, Influence, Authenticity and Receptivity.

Oh, and by the way; what is the opposite of a Go-Giver? That would be a Go-TAKER -- a person who takes, takes, and takes without adding value to the other person, to the process, or to the situation.

BJG: You and I had a brief exchange on Twitter the other day about the topic of selling. Selling seems to have a negative connotation in many people's minds -- why do you think this is so, and what (if anything) can sales people do about it?

BB: Like most things that have a bad reputation, there is a seed of truth to it. That seed is the people who -- in the name of "selling" - are actually con artists. They are not there to help the other person; they are there only to help themselves.

Let me explain: Selling is simply a way of providing value to another human being and profiting as a result of the value you have provided. The old English root of the word sell -- "Sellan" -- actually meant "to give." So, when you are selling, you are giving. What exactly are you giving? You're giving time, attention, counsel, education, empathy and value.

In a truly free-enterprise economy, a sale occurs only when the seller and the buyer both feel they will each be better off as a result of the transaction. Isn't that beautiful? Therefore, it's the job of the salesperson to provide value to their customer in a way that the customer sees that value. In other words, the seller must please the consumer.

When a transaction takes place between two people who both feel good as a result of the exchange, that's when mutual value has been created... and the economy expands. A country filled with people engaged in mutually profitable exchanges is indeed a prosperous country.

I ask all salespeople to remember this: "Money is simply an echo of value. It's the thunder to value's lightening." In other words, the value comes first. The money you receive is simply a direct and natural result of the value you provide.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was about 30 years ago, from a very successful salesperson who was getting ready to retire. He probably saw me as a young up-and-comer to whom he could impart his wisdom (and I'm glad he did!). He said, "Burg, if you want to make a lot of money in sales, then don't make money your target. Make serving others your target. Now, when you hit the target, you'll get a reward. That reward will be money. But the money is only the reward for hitting your target of serving others -- money's not the target itself." Wise words. Understanding that is the essence of being a "Go-Giver."

BJG: George Foreman has been quoted as saying: "I don't care how many degrees and diplomas you have on your wall. If you can't sell, you'll probably die." Since we're all in the business of selling - ourselves, our ideas, our books, our workshops, our consulting services -- what advice would you give business people and those who might not realize that selling is a part of their work?

BB: I believe what Mr. Foreman said is absolutely correct. Everyone sells something, whether a product, a service, an idea, a concept, a philosophy, etc. Whether it's selling a product or service to a client who needs/wants it, or selling a child on not taking drugs or why they should want to do well in school, we are all selling. Selling is simply communicating your ideas in such a way that the person with whom you are transacting comes to understand how they will benefit from them. Focus on the other person; on providing value to them in a way that they find it to be of value. The best, the most successful salespeople understand that in sales, "it isn't about you; it's about THEM." So, my advice would be to learn selling, study selling. And understand that through selling you can help others, as well as yourself. As the great salesperson and sales teacher, Zig Ziglar famously said: "You can have everything in life you want, if you'll just help enough other people get what they want."

BJG: Any final words of wisdom for my readers?

BB: When it comes to sales, I have a favorite saying: "All things being equal, people will do business with -- and refer business to -- those people they know, like, and trust." The best, most powerful, most effective way to elicit those feelings toward you is to focus on providing extraordinary value to them - not just through your products and services, but by being genuinely interested in them.


For more information about Go-Givers and Bob Burg's books and workshops, visit