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The Sales Evangelist

Abraham Lincoln, The Best Seller in History episode 2

This is the second episode from the Best Sellers in History series. This series talks about some of the most successful people and sellers in history. We’ll talk about who they are and what made them so successful. 

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America and led the nation during some of the most turbulent times in American history, such as the Civil War. It was the bloodiest war and the greatest constitutional and political crisis faced by the U.S. at that time. President Lincoln persevered and was able to abolish slavery, strengthen the federal government and modernized the U.S. economy. Despite humble beginnings, Abraham Lincoln became one of the greatest statesmen leaders in our nation’s history.

Sales Spotlight – Abraham Lincoln 

A half-hour long episode isn’t enough time to discuss what made Abraham Lincoln persuasive and successful in his career. However, we can highlight The Gettysburg Address to illustrate how President Abraham Lincoln had the power of persuasion. Here are the four points we’ll be looking at in this episode:  

  • He had the ability to tell stories
  • He sought common ground
  • He was empathetic
  • He had the ability to give compelling reasons


In the era of Abraham Lincoln

In the early 1800s, slavery in the United States was a very common thing. At its height, there were 700,000 individuals who were slaves. The first slaves came into the country as early as 1619 and slavery was finally abolished in the year 1865.  For 246 years slavery was entrenched in the U.S. economy and modern society. It was a fact of life and it brought in so much money that by today’s standards, slavery would account for roughly $6 billion. It’s been 154 years since Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery and still, slavery lasted almost a hundred years longer than we’ve known our country without it!  

Abraham Lincoln was raised in Kentucky and eventually, it became a slave state. His father who was a farmer but they eventually had to leave their smaller farm.  Larger farms had slaves and they couldn’t compete with the manpower. In addition, his father was a Christian and didn’t believe in slavery. Thomas Lincoln took his family and would move several more times before eventually settling in Illinois where Abraham Lincoln grew into adulthood. Lincoln married and his wife’s father had his own slaves. Through this exposure, Lincoln came to know how slavery operated and he didn’t like it.

Changing the system

Slavery was big business and everywhere. It was a system where some of the most influential people were involved. It would be a difficult system to change but Lincoln didn’t believe that people should be property. It became his passion to reverse slavery.  When he became a president in 1860, many from the southern states weren’t happy about it. They looked at it as the North trying to impose their rights over their way of life and their economy. This eventually led to the bloodiest war in the U.S., the Civil War. The nation was divided. Family members who fought on different sides killed each other. This went on from 1861 to 1865. It was a difficult time for the nation. Democracy was hanging by a thread and with the war going on, everything was falling apart. 

Through the need to unify, The Gettysburg Address was written. The four lessons highlighted in today’s episode came from this famous speech.

Ability to tell stories 

The Gettysburg Address was delivered in an attempt to pull the nation together. Abraham Lincoln wanted people to recognize they weren’t just the north and south but one nation. 

Tim David wrote an article about this and he pointed out the lessons from the address,  The first was the power of storytelling. He emphasized that the opening line of the Gettysburg Address was a story about our forefathers and their legacy. From the very first line of his speech, people wanted to know where Abraham Lincoln was going with his story. 

Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated man. While kids during this time were working in the field, Lincoln was reading books. There were traveling teachers and when they came around, he’d get a formal education, but still, it wasn’t enough on its own. Most of his education stemmed from his desire to learn. He was dedicated to his education and as he read, he learned the power of a story and how it can make an impact when written well. 

As a sales rep, you need to be able to engage your prospect with a story that is grounded in reality. Talk to your prospects about a successful experience you had with a client. Help your prospects see the positive results that can come from working with you. Instead of just talking about the benefits of your products and services, offering a real scenario can help to illustrate the point better. Talk about how you helped previous clients and their companies. For example, a social media marketer may say, “We helped ____ generate X amount of return with their social media ads. If I could share with you how we did it in just 5 minutes, would you be open to  a conversation with us?”

Like Abraham Lincoln, use a quick story to pique their interest. 

Seeking a common ground 

Abraham Lincoln looked for common ground. 

With the war over, Lincoln wanted to make sure his speech would unify a divided nation. The time was ripe for rebuilding the country. Abraham Lincoln looked for common ground to ensure that his message would speak to the hearts of his people. He knew that regardless of where they came from, both Northerners and Southerners loved their nation. They fought together against the English, against the mother empire, and they won. He implored everyone to bring back that feeling of solidarity when the union was founded. Abraham Lincoln used the word Liberty because it was something that would resonate through the hearts of his listeners. 

He capitalized on the American ideal and it made his speech compelling. His writings are persuasive because he knows exactly what topics people are passionate about.

Connect with your prospects

Sales reps can utilize this skill, especially when meeting with prospects. It is your job to make them feel connected and have common ground. Donald Miller’s book uses Joseph Campbell’s idea of The Hero’s Journey. It is the story of a hero who is transformed after the difficulties he faced in war. As the salesperson, your role is the guide.. As the guide, you’re not trying to take over or compete with your client, you’re trying to move your prospect to action. 

Before the meeting, do the research to find common ground.  It may be the school attended or other notable experience or hobby. Bring up topics that both you and your prospects love to talk about. Always follow the basics: Build rapport and help them realize you’re coming from common ground.

Showing empathy 

Tim David pointed out how Abraham Lincoln used words that made people feel connected to him. He used a lot of personal pronouns like ours to help develop rapport and to create a sense of togetherness. The use of personal pronouns increased Lincoln’s status in the minds of his audience.

 Tim continued to emphasize this point with James Pennebaker’s studies about how people use functional words such as pronouns. In his book, The Secret Life of Pronouns, he wrote that in any interaction between people, the person with a higher status uses fewer “I” words and instead, uses first-person plural pronouns such as we, us, and ours.

Using personal pronouns

Abraham Lincoln’s use of personal pronouns early on in his speech allowed the audience to recognize his authority and role as a guide. They were able to classify him as someone they could listen to. Because he established his authority, people were willing to listen.

From a sales perspective, we can do the same thing when talking to prospects. Use inclusive personal pronouns in your conversations as you talk about common ground.

This will make your prospect feel involved in the process and let them know you’re there to help them. Assure them you are committed to their problem and you are there to work with them to come up with a solution. 

Speak as if you are part of their organization.

Creating a compelling reason

Abraham Lincoln was particularly skilled at offering compelling reasons for people to do something different.

Salespeople want to have influence as well.  We want to give prospects reasons to change and take action. Tim shared a 1970 Harvard Psychology research led by Helen Langer.  In her study, she discovered that saying the word because increases your persuasive power from 60% to 92% even when you don’t actually have a compelling reason. 

Tim has a concept called ABT or the Advanced Because Techniques. Abraham Lincoln may not have literally said because in his speech but even without using the word, he made the entire Gettysburg Address a speech that answers the question why.

Lincoln was giving compelling reasons to many Whys

  • Why we need to come together
  • Why we need to to work together
  • Why we need to be one nation

People responded to his speech because he gave compelling reasons. They saw the bigger purpose

Giving prospects compelling reasons

Salespeople can’t just state facts about products and services. You need to give them the reasons why your products and services will work out to their advantage. Examples are as follows: 


  • “When you implement the software, we’re going to make it possible for you to actually get home and have dinner with your kids every night.”
  • “When you implement this solution, we’re going to make sure you never have to pay a late fee to the government again.”


When you give them compelling reasons, people will take action.

Best Sellers In History Series 2 – “Abraham Lincoln” episode resources

We are no Abraham Lincoln and we are not facing a divided nation, however, we have daily battles and regardless of the severity, we can still use these principles in overcoming sales difficulties. 

Do you have any stories worth sharing? Sellers in the history that made an impact on your life? Tell Donald about it via LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for any sales concerns. 

This episode is brought to you in part by TSE Certified Sales Training Program. It’s a course designed to help new and struggling sellers to master the fundamentals of sales and close more deals. Sign up now and get the first two modules for free! You can also call us at (561) 570-5077. 

We have a new semester beginning in January and we would love to have you and your team join us. Follow this link to apply to the program. 

We’d love for you to join us for our next episodes so tune in on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, and Spotify. You can also leave comments, suggestions, and ratings to every episode you listen to. 

You can also read more about sales or listen to audiobooks on Audible and explore this huge online library. Register now to get a free book and a 30-day free trial. 

Audio provided by Free SFX and Bensound. Other songs used in the episodes are as follows: The Organ Grinder written by Bradley Jay Hill, performed by Bright Seed, and Produced by Brightseed and Hill.

About the Author The Sales Evangelist

Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.

Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.

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