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”The Inner Game of Selling” by Ron Willingham

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The Inner Game of Selling by Ron Willingham is a book that takes the idea of selling and looks at it from an entirely different perspective that what most people are used to. In fact the author expresses the idea that most of what is taught in college about how to sell is wrong. Ron alludes to the reader that selling techniques such as selling ploys, overcoming objection techniques, nail-downs, tie-downs, etc. are scaring customers away. Ron discusses that he believes selling is controlled more by an inner state of mind than by popular selling techniques that are usually taught. This idea aligns with Henry Ford’s popular quote, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right. Furthermore, the author explains how the power of optimism and detailed diligence can assist any person in defeating obstacles and achieving his or her goals.

The first half of the book helps the reader to better understand his or her inner state of mind. Moreover, the author gives the reader insight on how to change the inner state of mind so that it’s at an optimal level. Ron Willingham explains that one can improve their selling success by the common, extrinsically learned techniques. However, the salesperson will eventually hit a wall that will not allow him or her to grow further. Ron describes that it is only through mastering ones inner values and beliefs that will allow continually grow.

The last half of the book delves into the specifics of selling to a customer. Ron’s unusual techniques are taught with the help of guides, charts, and numerical rules to go by in order to sell more successfully. Furthermore, the author explains how to be more, creative in selling, customer focused, and energetic. Next, Ron explains how to accept failure and stay more in control of your emotions. He says mastering optimism is the key to staying in control. The author also touches on how to improve social selling skills. In essence he explains that helping people feel understood, giving empathy, and being important to people will give the salesperson all the social skills needed. The last two chapters of The Inner Game of Selling touch on the significance of having purpose in life as well as moral and ethical values. Ron explains that our life’s purpose (which can mean something different to each person) is what allows us to wake up in the morning and continually strive to improve. Lastly, he elucidates that by understanding our values and committing to them is what allows us to live life with no regrets.

Summing up, the author tries to convey to the reader that in order to thrive at selling, a salesperson must master their inner state of mind, follow specific guidelines to stay focused on the customer’s needs, and have purpose in life so that everything has great value and meaning.


The author, Ron Willingham does not take the traditional angle in his idea of the nature of the selling. Ron believes that selling is more so a matter of understanding one’s conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Specifically, he explains that 85% of a person’s ability to sell is influenced by forces deep within the psyche. The author challenges his readers with the idea that selling has very little to do with knowing the product or service, having a support system, a CRM system, experience, the company, or compensation. The inner influences that he talks about that control the majority of our ability to sell, are merely a matter of what we actually believe is possible for us to sell. Ron describes that whatever a salesperson is currently selling is directly correlated with what that person unconsciously believes he or she should be selling.

The author does not directly discuss the buying process. I believe the author didn’t want to focus so much on the psychology of the consumer because his book is primarily on the psychology of the seller. However, Ron does explain that customers merely buy products or services for what they do for them, not for what they actually are. Furthermore, he conveys that it’s crucial that the seller focuses on fulfilling the need of the buyer in a way that the competitors haven’t done yet. If you can fulfill the customers need like no other, than you shouldn’t have to worry about the buyer researching, going through alternatives, etc.


The model that is used for selling in this book is once again contrary to what is normally done. Ron explains that in order to be successful at selling you must decide to sell the way customers want to buy. Furthermore, he explains that there are three types of selling strategies; product-focused, transactional-focused, or customer-needs focused. According to the author, the first two strategies should not be used. A customer-needs focused strategy works best because it puts the person whom you are selling to at ease. The reason for this is because this strategy is not just about trying to sell the potential buyer something but rather to discover if the potential buyer has needs or wants that can be fulfilled by the salesperson. The salesperson is simply there to help a customer solve a problem.

Ron Willingham does indeed describe a full selling process in his book. However once again, he believes that if salespeople follow his process they will be more successful no matter what they’re selling. He explains that his selling process focuses more on how customers want to buy than other selling processes. Ron calls it the, “Integrity Selling System” of which has six steps. The steps are: 1. Approach. 2. Interview. 3. Demonstrate. 4. Validate. 5. Negotiate. 6. Close. Ron Willingham even created an acronym for this system known as, “The AID, Inc. System.” He changed the pronunciation of “validate” to val-I-date” in order for his acronym to work. Ron believes the Approach step should be about enabling the customer to feel all the attention is on him or her and for the customer to do the majority of the talking as well. The Interview step is summed up by the salesperson finding out if a person has needs to be fulfilled or not. If they do have needs then the salesperson should learn as much about what they are as possible.

Third, the Demonstration step is primarily about showing the customer how and why a product or service will provide them with the solutions they previously admitted needing. Once the “AID” part of the selling process is complete the next three of the “Inc.” are to be demonstrated. The Val-I-date step consists of translating products or service features into benefits, justifying price, offering proof and evidence, and reassuring people not to have fear in buying. Second, the Negotiate step is described as a process of working out the issues that keep people from purchasing. Lastly, the Close step is simply about asking for a decision to buy at the right time. Ron explains that the salesperson will know when it is the right time to close if they’ve first successful completed all the previous steps properly. Although, Ron Willingham says that his selling process is completely different than the others out there, I see many similarities. Nonetheless, Ron explained a detailed, quality system to selling.


The author conveyed quite a few important messages but a few of them stand out to me the most. First, Ron explained that a person needs to have a strong self-understanding in order reach the full potential of his or her selling ability. There are two questions that a salesperson needs to conquer in order to reach their ability. These questions are: What does it take to be successful? Do I have it takes to be successful? Another central message that the author conveyed was to overcome our boundaries. Ron said that two thirds of our self-esteem was creating when we were the age of three. Unfortunately, we cannot change that this happened, Ron explained, but we can dig deep into our unconscious through certain techniques and replace our self-esteem with positive feelings. A third important message that the author described was to breakthrough our outdated perceptions.

He explained that a lot of us are trapped by the notion of Paradigm Paralysis, which is accepting our current level of success as normal. Ron conveyed to the readers that there are five steps to releasing outdated perceptions. These are: 1. Accept the old perception 2. Allow yourself to have held the past perception. 3. Separate your past from your today. 4. Release yourself from the need to hold on to old perceptions. 5. Repeat. Lastly, Ron Willingham really stressed the message of having an abundance mentality. He explained that by having an abundance mentality, a salesperson would see the world as a whole lot of opportunity that he or she deserves to have. Once again, the author really tried to convey that selling is more of an inner game or the state of mind of a person rather than an extrinsic learned system.


I learned so much from this book thus describing the top ten things that I’ve learned is quite difficult. Starting off, the first thing that I’ve learned from this book is that our minds control more than I ever thought was possible in the past. The author Ron Willingham, expressed that there are three functions to the mind that controls selling. These functions are; the “I think”, which describes what you think will happen, the “I feel”, which describes your emotions, and the “I am”, which describes what you actually believe you are. I learned that all these functions are intercorrelated with each other and can be altered by starting with the “I think” first. The second important thing I’ve learned is that we can change habits through a technique called, Self-Suggestion. This technique is about making positive statements over and over again until things change. Third, I learned that in order to be successful I should sell the way the customer wants to buy rather than the opposite. Fourth, I learned that there are four types of behavior style personalities; Talkers, Doers, Controllers, and Supporters. Fifth, I’ve learned that there are two types of people in this world, pessimists and optimists.

Optimists tend to live life better in a variety of ways such as; catching fewer infectious diseases, having better health habits than pessimists, and even evidence suggests that optimists live longer than pessimists. The sixth thing that I’ve learned is that Self-Talk is different from Self-Suggestion because Self-Talk is things we say to ourselves based on what we perceive to be the truth opposed to Self-Suggestion which is the conscious statements or wishes that we choose to be the truth. The seventh thing that I’ve learned is that it is vital for the salesperson to have a strong sense of purpose. Ron Willingham says that, “Thought linked with purpose brings its possessor power, energy, and meaning.” The eighth thing that I’ve learned from this book is that a salesperson that focuses solely on fulfilling the customer’s needs and creating value for them, is a more successful salesperson. The ninth thing that I’ve learned is that a person’s perception of what they believe that are whether it’s true or untrue, their actions, feelings, behavior, and abilities are consistent with it. We must have an optimistic perception of our abilities if we truly want to be successful at selling. The tenth thing that I’ve learned is that if a person wants to actually achieve his or her goals than he or she should have a system to achieve them. The system that Ron Willingham outline is: Goal Achievement System: 1. Setting goals. 2. Planning strategy. 3. Building belief 4. Developing strengths 5. Managing progress.


In my opinion, The Inner Game of Selling had a few strengths and weaknesses throughout the book. However, I believe that the strengths outweighed the book’s weaknesses by a long shot. In the next few paragraphs I will give some examples of each.

I saw the ability to look at selling from an uncommon perspective as one of Ron’s strengths. It was refreshing to here that selling is not just about a bunch of learned techniques and skills but rather even more so about the sellers inner state of mind. Furthermore, the author discussed in detail how to master what he called, the inner game of selling. A second strength of this book was the author’s eloquent way of describing the sales process. He provided graphs showing how much talking either the buyer or selling should be doing during each phase of the selling process. In addition, the author provided easy to understand instructions as to what exactly to do in each phase of the selling process. A third strength of this book I believe was the author’s inclusion of self-assessment activities at the end of each chapter. These activities help to better engage readers as well as enlighten them of different aspects they need to improve on. A fourth strength of this book is the author’s subtitles that he placed above each paragraph that introduced a different topic. This made it easier if I wanted to scan back through the book to re-learn about specific topics. In the next paragraph I will discuss some of the weaknesses I thought the book had.

First and foremost, I believe that the author’s ideas about selling came off as somewhat arrogant. Ron constantly expressed throughout the book that his way of successful selling was new and revolutionary and everyone else’s methods were incorrect. I don’t once remember him praising or even condoning another person’s selling ideas. The second weakness of this book I believe is the lack of information on the buyer’s inner state of mind. I believe that the buyers perception has a great deal to do with selling but maybe the author wanted to save that for another book. A third weakness that I saw in this book was the nonexistence of the technology factor in selling. I don’t want to say that this book is outdated because the ideas taught in this book are about psychological factors that seem to exist in all generations. However, I believe it would be beneficial to somehow incorporate technology into a future updated version of the book.


If a salesperson asked me if he or she should read this book I would definitely say, yes! This book is an outstanding, one of a kind read. I have never read a sales book similar to, The Inner Game of Selling. I believe that this book should not only be owned and read once, but rather read multiple times and used as a manual for successful selling. In my opinion, this book will truly help a salesperson productively achieve his or her goals as well as overcome the barriers that block further success. Lastly, I would recommend this book to anyone whether having sales as a career or not, because I believe that being successful in all aspects of life is directly related to Ron Willingham’s lessons in, The Inner Game of Selling.

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