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Monday, September 28, 2020

Secrets of Selling...Not so Secret

Did you know that there is a Sales Hall of Fame? Could you name any of the most recent inductees? Do you care? They’re definitely not household names.

I found the website for these honorees. Here’s how you get in: “Here at the Sales Hall of Fame, we honor some of the most distinguished professionals who continually inspire people with their cutting edge insights and intellectual influence. The Sales Hall of Fame is the only award that recognizes these innovators in the field of sales while encouraging future generations to take after them.”

Impressive, eh? Little did you know that when you bought that last used car you might well have been dealing with someone who has “cutting edge insights and intellectual influence.” Or…maybe not.

The best sales person I ever knew personally, who is also known around the world, was Zig Ziglar. Given enough prep time, I’m pretty sure he could even sell me an alligator suit. He definitely mastered his craft.

The weird thing about sales is that it can easily cross the edge into manipulation. But wait! There’s more! Did you know that manipulation is actually—get ready—GOOD?

So says Margo Aaron in her article, “When manipulation becomes deception: Where should salespeople draw the line?” found on the website (Not nuthouse—nutshell.) And apparently, she is SOLD on this idea.

Here’s what Margo believes, “Manipulation entails pulling persuasion levers to encourage someone to act in their own best interest. You can think of it as taking someone from “interested, but maybe later” to “must have this now!!”

As for the techniques, Margo adds, “When you use things like scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity, you hijack the brain’s rational decision making abilities and get people to take action.” Now you understand. These sales intellectuals are hijacking your rational decision making to line their pockets, while providing you with something you may neither really want nor need.

Among the non-intellectual crowd wooing your buying appetites are retired athletes and respected actors. Former football great-turned-pitchman Joe Namath is trying to convince the elderly crowd about how his Social Security plan is so helpful to him. Right, Joe. Let me jump on that deal!

The star of the Bluebloods television series, and another senior, Tom Selleck, is hawking some financial program or service. I find him just a step up from Broadway Joe. A very small step.

Frankly, I’ve never considered manipulation an honorable achievement. No doubt I’ve used it myself. In my earlier life, I held several sales and sales management positions. However, learning how to “close” a sale, or techniques to draw interest in a product or service, generally rises above the line of manipulation.

Steven Covey is known for creating his list of habits for highly successful people. One of them is win-win. I would even add a third “win.” A truly healthy transaction benefits the sales associate, the purchaser, (assuming it’s not the end user) and…the end user. Anyone who loses in the deal will eventually figure it out and not be happy.

The marketplace needs skilled, honest, and hard working sales people. The marketplace is not served well by manipulative tactics however they may be glossed over. The frequently offered “secrets of selling” perhaps should stay as secrets if they abuse the customer relationship.
There is probably no simpler guide on this than what we often refer to as the Golden Rule. In Jesus' words, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” Luke 6:31 (
NLT) Clear as a bell.

Next week, a look at the manipulative ways technology plays with your mind!

Meanwhile, anybody interested in a great deal on Ginsu knives? I’ll throw in a poster of Joe Namath.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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Monday, September 21, 2020

We’ve Fallen & Can’t Get Up

Tomorrow at 8:31 AM CDT, Fall begins. The greens of spring and summer will be steadily disappearing. Temperatures will begin their decline. Pumpkins will arrive at our neighbors' houses. And…we’ll have an election. Ugh.

My wife Rhonda recently purchased a new t-shirt with an Amazon-like one-star rating and the message: “2020: Horrible. Would not recommend.” The general opinion of my men’s 55+ group that met last Saturday left NO positive language on the table in descriptives for this year. Overall, I think Americans, en mass, believe that 2020 has been a loser. And this is before the election!

Restaurants in our area are simply, to use an odd expression, fed up. They’re tired of being told when they can open and when they must limit access. Their customer base has been drying up. Of course it has. And with colder weather coming, they pray that mandatory outdoor-only service will not return.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib in downtown Chicago has been delighting patrons from around the world for 46 years. They’ve just announced they’re closing at the end of the year. And they may never re-open in the city. Their lease is up, but that’s easily fixable. The other reason they gave for their decision isn’t so easily fixed: civil unrest—which has reared its ugly head multiple times over the summer months.

Several airlines have found 2020 to be the worst year in their existence. United recently threatened to furlough a mass of pilots and workers if the federal government didn’t come to their “rescue.” Many airline seats are vacant on the majority of flights domestically. And, frankly, what fun is it to be zooming around the country in a mask?

And speaking of zooming, should not “Zoom” be the word of the year? Like it used to be said of irresponsible sexual behavior, “everybody’s doin’ it.” School classrooms now meet via Zoom. So do business meetings and church gatherings. But at least you don’t have to wear a mask…usually.

Pity building owners who are saying goodbye to tenants—at least the ones who are paying! The governor of Illinois just offered another reprieve to those renters who simply can’t pay for their living space without jobs. Why didn’t he offer a reprieve to the building owners who have to continue to pay the banks for loans on those places? Of course, he’s a billionaire.

Churches are changing. I just read that a sizable Baptist church in Tennessee is re-thinking their entire program of ministry. They might even hire a full time pastor who serves only Internet-based meetings of the church. And they’re developing small groups and fellowships in states 2000 miles away! Many churches are not making their pre-COVID-19 budgets.

Oh. And then there’s the political season we’re facing. One that just got more complicated with the passing of a Supreme Court justice. What will the process of replacement be like in the future now that we know to bring spirited accusers to destroy the credibility of the candidate—whether truth is told or not. Some honor!

And about that upcoming election. Threats have been made of violence unless a certain candidate wins. Mail in ballots, the hot item of 2020, will no doubt delay final results into 2021. Just in case you thought relief was coming.

We mustn’t forget the west coast fires destroying millions of acres of trees and leaving many people desperate for recovery. The same for victims of hurricanes and flooding. Their challenges abound.

And then there’s that nagging virus—about to get even more complicated by something called "the flu.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d be depressed! But I do know better. I know these aren’t the worst of times. Or the worst of circumstances. I know there’s a better world to come. Jesus promised it. Revelation 21:4 reads, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV) Christ followers have that promise for their future.

Until that day, we must realize we live in a fallen world. And unless the hearts of Americans seriously change, I’m not so confident we’ll get up again.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Equality... Over the Top

Since childhood, I’ve heard the line that “too much of anything is not good.” But there is a parallel version of this idea that hits a bit harder. It goes, “too much of anything is good for nothing.”

I feel we could well be reaching that point with sports and the racial equality and social justice movements. Of course, I would not be allowed to say this if I worked for any major media—be it radio, newspapers, or television. I could not likely say it if I had major sponsors for any of my writings. The pressure companies face is too great.

All sporting events seem to have taken the pledge to make some form of a diversity statement show up in a myriad of ways. It’s more pronounced, of course, in sports where black athletes are highly visible. Hockey and golf pay homage to the issue, but it has not become the dominant conversation point.

In baseball, the NBA, and now football, we find ourselves in their version of re-education camps. In watching a recent Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins contest, a huge banner now sits at the right field wall at Target Stadium. It is there to “honor” George Floyd. Even the Minnesota music legend Prince did not receive such a tribute!

Thursday Night Football on NBC was a steady stream of discussion and commentary from the announcers and in features both in pre-game shows and the actual game itself. (It’s always helpful to hear two white guys paid to make their pitch on the importance of social justice. Yawn.)

The game itself took on a bizarre moment related to pre-game song performances. The Kansas City Chiefs had all their players lined up and locking arms to the tune of “Lift Every Voice.” This was followed several minutes later by a performance of our national anthem in front of the same display of “unity” from Chiefs players and coaches. Minority artists performed both songs. A must.

But what made the showing a bit bizarre (as I noted) was the absence of the Houston Texas team for either song! They chose not to make a “statement,” which they felt would be distracting to the game. And as a result, their team was booed by KC fans in the stadium. Something that apparently bewildered Houston player J.C. Watts!

Saturday now has some college football being played. I switched on Fox for their pre-game show on Saturday. Lo and behold…what should I see? Lots more chatter on the same topic. And watching a few players warm up, t-shirts with messaging related to the issue as well. In other words, it’s everywhere!

Like many of my caucasian brothers and sisters, I support the idea that black lives matter—but not the organization by that name. Two inspirational black leaders of our day— Tony Dungy and Ryan Bomberger—dare speak up on issues like abortion and homosexuality in ways that put them in media peril. Ryan goes further.

Bomberger, whom I’ve interviewed, wrote a superb article earlier this year titled, “Top Ten Reasons I’ll Never Support the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.” Read it…and weep. Weep, because of all those souls who cannot separate the movement from the evil backside it reveals. (story link below)

If the souls of all these Americans who are suddenly socially conscious were bared for all to see, shame would be on many faces. Racism is a sin of the heart. Preaching to darkened souls the “radical” idea that every person created by God is of great worth is lost on most people. Just look at the way the false gods of Hollywood and sports are idolized for their “worth” compared to you and I.

Jesus followers KNOW the following statement to be true (if they are genuine): “Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” Galatians 3:28 (CEV) We are to believe it and live it.

Attempting to press the message of equality and value of our fellow human beings is a lost cause on lost souls. And in the massive attempt to do this, I fear it’s going over the top. Instead, it’s creating tune-out.

Just don’t tell anyone I said that. Well, except Dungy and Bomberger.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Witness the End

One of my favorite movies is The Three Amigos. In one particular scene, the Amigos are in a Mexican bar when a wild shooting spree takes place. The bartender responds, “This town is getting too rough for me.”

America is turning into such a vitriolic, hateful, and sometimes violent place that I’m now thinking, “This country is getting too rough for me!”

There are many contributing factors and I suppose plenty of blame to be shared. But it’s bigger than that. The very soul of our nation has become sick. We can’t even treat our neighbors well—much less the “enemy.”

Witness the recent story from Park Ridge, Illinois, where a business owner had to close up shop so his workers could have a “mental health day.” What?? This was due to their having to deal with “confrontational customers.” Some didn’t like the mask policy of the restaurant. Another became threatening when the business tried to enforce the “no dogs eat here” health regulation at a restaurant. These are customers in an upscale neighborhood.

Then there were the multiple reports of the highly offensive “protestors” who showed up at the White House on the last night of the Republican National Convention. Having been to Washington a number of times, I’ve witnessed constant protests of one kind or another outside the White House gates. This was different.

The President had a number of guests invited to the event—several giving inspiring and spiritually uplifting messages. Forget about Trump here. These speakers were Americans who love their country and the cause of freedom. Outside the gates, within earshot, protestors organized live bands to disrupt the proceedings.

But it got worse. Guests were harassed as they were leaving the event. One of them, Jim Daly, is president of Focus on the Family. In his words, “Stepping off the White House grounds, I was immediately confronted by angry individuals who hurled profane insults at me. They let loose with a verbal barrage I’ve never personally encountered–which is saying something given my upbringing in a rough section of Southern California.”

Senator Rand Paul encountered the same abuse. He tweeted, “Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob.” A DC police officer was holding a police line around the senator and his wife when a protestor reportedly punched the officer in the face, causing a cut requiring stitches.

What fuels this kind of angry and bitter reaction to those with whom one disagrees? Hard to know for sure. But here’s one idea.

Recently arriving in whatever bookstores remain open (and online) is this gem: In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action. Written by Vicky Osterweil, the publisher offers us “strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class.” What strategies? How about “a fresh argument for rioting and looting as our most powerful tools for dismantling white supremacy.”

One of the arguments raised claims, “Looting represents a material way that riots and protests help the community: by providing a way for people to solve some of the immediate problems of poverty and by creating a space for people to freely reproduce their lives rather than doing so through wage labor.” Add this truly special insight, “Looting is an act of communal cohesion.”

Aside from the content of the book, it is interesting to note that Vicky Osterweil, the author is a self-described agitator” and is transgender-identified. A rebel.

People of faith should—must—stand in sharp contrast to this nonsense. Even in the midst of turbulent times for many who lived under Roman rule in the first century AD, the apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (NIV)

The breakdown of a civilization is a bitter thing to watch. To see a free country, raised in principles found in the Bible, so rapidly giving in to robbers and anarchists is beyond shocking. It is horrifying.

Certainly…the end is near.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information: