The Selling Wisdom of Harvey Mackay

Minnesota sales guru offers advice for a new era.

By Maura Keller

There has been a seismic shift taking place in sales. Just ask Harvey Mackay-founder and chairman of the $100 million MackayMitchell Envelope Co. and world-renowned author. This legendary guru of all things sales believes that the classic sales principles still hold true, but they need to be fused with cutting-edge Internet technology. Combining sales know-how with the ever-changing digital world, you can connect with customers in ways you never imagined. 

Mackay's newest book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, is packed with tools for today's competitive landscape. "This is not a book to dream on; it is book to bank on," Mackay says. "It is not a dog-eat-dog or a rat-eat-rat world, it's a shark-eat-shark world." 

Mackay's tome is about having the right attitude, which determines your altitude. "There's no such word as ‘can't' unless it is a physical impossibility," Mackay says. "Some people believe that practice makes perfect, but that is not true. Perfect practice makes perfect. If you practice something that isn't correct time and time again, all you are really doing is perfecting an error. You put a ceiling on what you can become." 

In addition to writing his latest book, Mackay recently started two new companies. The first, Mackay Roundtable, is an endeavor that brings together 25 top executives, CEOs and entrepreneurs whom Mackay will be mentoring for one year. Meeting six times a year, the group engages in various seminars, sharing insights on making it in today's business world. The second company, in progress, will create an application for smartphones. Called the Mackay 66, this business app will include 66 questions that every person needs to know about every customer called on. 

Sales Philosophy

So how does Mackay stay abreast of the most innovative sales trends? With more than 100 competitors to his MackayMitchell Envelope Co., he works closely with his sales team. 

"I believe that there are no jobs, of course, unless you sell something. So our envelope company was built on a sales philosophy." Mackay meets regularly with different organizations to keep him abreast of the marketplace. 

"I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate and lucky that the phone keeps ringing and the emails keep coming. I think it is quite exciting to get constant and immediate unfiltered feedback from my books, syndicated column and my speeches," Mackay says. 

In addition to his most recent book, Mackay has written six New York Times bestselling books, including his blockbuster Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, and he also is a nationally syndicated weekly business columnist. 

"When you are writing books or sharing your insights, you have an increasing opportunity to change people's lives," Mackay says. "When you are helping people get a job, that is extremely satisfying. It is very gratifying to have a source to be able to reach a lot of people and be able to help them."

Best Advice

So what is Mackay's best sales advice? 

In today's world, you have to stay extremely close to your customers, and there is only one way to do that: To humanize your selling strategy. 

"People buy from other people because of likability, chemistry and because of people skills," Mackay says. "You have to have a good product, and you must perform. But you must humanize that selling strategy. Remember, there are no jobs anywhere unless someone brings the business through the front door."

Mackay adds that the core of his business philosophy stems from the question, "What can I do for you?" He calls this reciprocity without keeping score. 

"Everybody who helps anybody at anything expects them to return the favor in the future," Mackay says. "But if you live your life that way, your probability for success goes dramatically down. If you are out there with your antennae up about helping people get what they want, the chance for happiness and success goes way up. If you are helping people all the time, you become a better leader, you feel good about yourself. And you are simply that much more successful." mb