My friend Bob told me this story. It happened to him quite a long time ago—about thirty years or so, when he was starting out in the sales business. He was young, eager, and enthusiastic, full of the power of positive selling. It so happened that one of his accounts was with a large company that had recently undergone a shake-up in management. The result was that the buyer was someone nobody in Bob’s firm had heard of before, let alone dealt with.

Bob made an appointment with the buyer and pulled together research on the company. He compiled a stack of photocopies of the firm’s annual reports, sales figures gleaned from various sources, and background information on the company based on scanning newspaper and magazine ...

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