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Summary: The Unsold Mindset: Redefining What It Means to Sell by Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown


When you’re selling, do you act like you think a salesperson is “supposed to” act? Most people erroneously assume that only backslapping, pushy, know-it-all extroverts can sell. Buying into this stereotype, many think they have to act like a typical salesperson to sell effectively. This has a huge downside. Salespeople who try to be someone they aren’t come off like the salesperson they don’t want to be. Instead, authors Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown urge people to become “unsold” on these selling stereotypes. To be better at selling yourself, your ideas, or your products and services, and to feel better about your work, they share how and why the greatest sellers focus less on what they do and more on how they think.


  • Sellers with an Unsold Mindset think differently from everyone else.
  • Treat your prospects as teammates, not sales targets.
  • Introverts have a sales superpower.
  • Remain “intentionally ignorant” about unnecessary details.
  • Rejections and setbacks are learning experiences.
  • “Fall in love” with your product and your customers.
  • Think transformationally.
  • Creativity feeds success.
  • The Unsold Mindset concerns what you think, not what you say or do.

Summary: The Unsold Mindset: Redefining What It Means to Sell by Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown


Sellers with an Unsold Mindset think differently from everyone else.

The best salespeople in the world owe their success to how they think, not to how they sell. These salespeople are “unsold” – independent thinkers who don’t buy into common stereotypes and tired methods. Top sellers are no longer sold on acting the way others expect or thinking the way others suppose they should.

“If everyone approached selling with just a little more of an Unsold Mindset, the sales profession could shed its stereotype and be as respected as every other profession that serves others and contributes to society.”

They don’t buy into the idea that selling is a noncreative pursuit for soulless automatons. They set their minds on becoming the best people – and the best salespeople – possible.

Treat your prospects as teammates, not sales targets.

The Unsold Mindset requires being authentic with your prospects and clients. If you’re in a sales meeting, and you fear that you’re coming across as cheesy, guess what? You probably are. Recognize that buyers respond positively to authenticity. Being genuine is a strong selling point. So, if you have a quick wit, don’t be afraid to show it. If you are great with data, don’t hide your analytical savvy. Be your real self with your prospects and clients.

“Most sales team cultures breed a me-versus-them mindset, often intentionally.”

During the average sales call, the salesperson quickly takes charge with a single-minded goal: close the sale. But a new kind of camaraderie that emerged during the COVID crisis changed sales calls, moving them away from the usual “seller versus customer” dynamic. For example, a salesperson and prospect meeting on Zoom during the pandemic first shared a few minutes of light banter and got to know one another a bit. Then the prospect suggested that he and the salesperson start talking business. From that point on, the two spoke about the salesperson’s offering like friends, not combatants. They treated one another as members of the same team and established a lasting rapport.

Introverts have a sales superpower.

Many people assume that only extroverts can succeed in sales. Even though the majority of salespeople may be extroverts, this stereotype proves untrue. Introverts may steer themselves away from selling because they don’t fit the widely held archetype. They worry that because they are quiet and retiring, they won’t fit into what they assume will be a hyper-aggressive corporate sales culture. However, they have a superpower: using their strengths as introverts, including being great listeners, to be the opposite of what someone might expect from a salesperson.

“[Introverts] prefer meaty and more intimate conversation, one-on-one or in small groups. That’s a real bonus for sales interaction…Listening carefully is vital to good selling. So are understanding complex ideas and relaying them in a digestible format, collecting data and crafting it into meaningful solutions, and putting someone else (the customer) at the center of every conversation. All of these skills are more natural for introverts.”

Extroverts enjoy meeting new people, which is a sales plus. However, introverts’ ability to be good listeners appeals to prospects, as well. Many introverts are also excellent, attentive conversationalists. They often prefer to discuss substantive matters, such as their prospects’ needs, rather than engaging in superficial sales patter.

Remain “intentionally ignorant” about unnecessary details.

Great salespeople don’t have to know everything about everything, such as the details of the competitive arena in which they operate or their rivals’ products.

Danny Jacobs is one of HubSpot’s top salespeople. His company’s main competitors include Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce. Jacobs avoids “competitive matrixes.” Instead, he focuses on the HubSpot products and services he sells, and he doesn’t worry about explaining anything else. This sales philosophy is known as “intentional ignorance.”

“Be proud to sell. For some of you, selling will change your life. For others, selling will change other people’s lives. And for a few of you, selling might just change the world.”

The intentional ignorance approach pays off in and out of the sales arena. US Army General Stanley McChrystal once commanded all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He believes the best military leaders purposely avoid knowing too many details about the life-and-death operations they lead.

Military leaders, he maintains, show respect to the people under their command by bowing to their expertise. McChrystal asks the specialists on his staff what they think is the best course of action. Then he analyzes and largely follows their advice. McChrystal sees taking the action his subordinates advocate as a powerful indicator of his respect for them.

Rejections and setbacks are learning experiences.

Rapper and businessman Jay-Z is a billionaire. But when he began in the entertainment industry, he couldn’t get a record company to back him. Jay-Z faced rejection after rejection.

Most people would quit after being told ”No!” so many times, but Jay-Z kept moving ahead. He founded his own company, Roc-A-Fella Records, and produced his own album, which eventually went platinum. That was his first music industry success. Today, Jay-Z is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honoree and has sold more than 50 million albums.

Jay-Z’s Unsold Mindset enables him to view rejection differently than most people regard it. He sees setbacks as learning and motivational opportunities and finds them energizing, not depressing. Having this mind-set can help salespeople keep going strong in the face of repeated rejection.

When Colin Coggins and his wife Margot were flying out of Los Angeles with their two young sons, one begged to go to the bathroom, even though the family was late for their flight. The other little boy missed his nap, found the metal detectors scary and started to wail. Amid this chaos, Coggins said to Margot that this first flight as a family was an experience they would always remember.

“Maintaining an optimistic perspective even during times of adversity can seem like a form of delusion. But being optimistic is not the opposite of being realistic.”

Thanks to his Unsold Mindset, Coggins recognized his family’s airport episode as the start of an adventure they’d all laugh about later. His family reframed their airport disarray as a growth experience thanks to Coggins’ optimism. His resolute cheeriness in the midst of toddler tumult provides a worthwhile role model for salespeople, who often face chaotic circumstances beyond their control.

“Fall in love” with your product and your customers.

Lindsey Lanier recruits musical talent at Motown Records. She must sell Motown to super hot music artists whom many other labels want to sign. This makes Lanier’s position basically a salesperson’s dream job.

In her previous employment at Universal Music Publishing Group, Lanier signed Donald Glover, known to his fans as Childish Gambino. At the time, almost no one knew his music, though he was a famous comedian. Glover was respectful to Lanier and that impressed her. When they intently discussed the possibility of Glover signing with Universal, Lanier made it clear she knew and loved his music.

“I pretty much fall in love with every entrepreneur I meet.” (Kelly Perdew, Moonshots Capital)

Signing up Glover was a very smart move. His current award tally is five Grammys, two Golden Globes and two Emmys.

Salespeople need to “fall in love” with their prospects, as Lanier fell for Glover. Demonstrate your sincere concern for your potential clients and focus on what they want to accomplish.

Think transformationally.

Food trucks that deliver “niche cuisines” to patrons at festivals and along busy streets are becoming increasingly common worldwide. That wasn’t the case in 2008, when chef Roy Choi’s Kogi food trucks started selling tasty barbecued dishes up and down LA’s streets. Choi played a major role in initiating the food truck dining revolution. His menu featured gourmet Korean and Mexican meals at street food prices.

“Selling isn’t traditionally thought of as a catalyst for major shifts in beliefs, circumstances or culture, but great sellers don’t let that stop them from seeing the potential for those types of changes.”

Choi’s food trucks were an industry first; he was a visionary. He believed that if he could get other food purveyors to consider less expensive, more inclusive strategies, including selling from food trucks and maintaining a social media presence, he could improve their fortunes and offer something the public would embrace.

People don’t normally see selling as an important force driving cultural shifts. Choi, who knew better and was an intrepid street salesperson, radically updated the food service industry with his trucks. He thought big about food service transformation, not just food service transactions. Visionary salespeople such as Choi move beyond the customary norms and biases and shift into new, innovative vistas of sales.

Creativity feeds success.

Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown teach a class on entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. One of their students, Chris, impressed them with his written assignments and intelligent class contributions.

What the authors really liked about Chris was his creativity. He showed them a copy of an email he had sent to Jackson Dahl, the cofounder of 100 Thieves, an e-commerce sports firm, asking for an internship at his company. Chris told Dahl that if the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets in an upcoming game, he would buy Dahl’s company a pizza. But if the Nets won, Chris asked, would Dahl give him 10 minutes of his time.

“We all have the capacity to be wildly creative.”

Dahl loved Chris’s creative email. He immediately contacted Chris to set up an appointment. He also “tweeted a screenshot” of Chris’s email – and people retweeted it many times. By the way, the Nets won 104-102 and Chris received a job offer from 100 Thieves. He proved that in sales, and in life, being creative helps you succeed.

The Unsold Mindset concerns what you think, not what you say or do.

Top salespeople write down their goals and review them regularly. Then they take an important extra step: they define, write and reflect on their professional purpose.

Television hostess, author, actor and producer Oprah Winfrey offers an excellent example of the importance of fully defining your purpose, staying in close touch with it and making it happen. Everything Winfrey does supports a vital purpose – teaching – that inspires her and fuels all her actions.

Winfrey explains that she knew when she was young that her primary purpose in life was to teach. Everything she has accomplished on television, in film and with her book club involves teaching millions of people, telling meaningful stories, introducing interesting people, touting products that meet her standards, and communicating vital messages of personal development, positivity and growth. This defines her universe of teaching.

“Oprah has managed to sell more products, boost the growth of more businesses and help create more millionaires than just about anyone else on the planet.”

What does Winfrey, one of the world’s most popular personalities, have to do with sales? Over the years, she has sold billions of dollars worth of products and services. The “Oprah Effect” refers to the inevitable sales boost that always accompanies any endorsement she makes, such as when she selects books for her book club. Winfrey is the living embodiment of the Unsold Mindset.

To cultivate your Unsold Mindset, focus on how you think. Pay particular attention to your thoughts and attitudes; they matter more than what you say to prospects or how you act with them.

About the Authors

Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown are the founders of the Agency18 consultancy and creators of the “Sales Mindset for Entrepreneurs” course at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.


The book is a practical guide that aims to help readers change their mindset about selling and achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives. It is written by two sales mindset advisors, professors, and keynote speakers who have collaborated with Dale Carnegie & Associates, a global training and consulting company that specializes in human relations and leadership development. The book consists of four parts:

  • Part I: The Unsold Mindset. This part introduces the concept of the unsold mindset, which is a way of thinking that challenges the conventional wisdom and stereotypes about selling. It explains how the unsold mindset can help readers overcome their fears, doubts, and insecurities about selling, and how it can help them create more value, trust, and influence with others.
  • Part II: The Unsold Mindset in Action. This part provides nine core concepts of the unsold mindset, each with a corresponding principle, story, and exercise. The concepts are: intentional ignorance, teammate not coach, pathological optimism, embrace the obstacle, the power of no, the art of asking, the paradox of persuasion, the gift of feedback, and the joy of service.
  • Part III: The Unsold Mindset in Practice. This part helps readers apply the unsold mindset to various scenarios and situations that they may encounter in their personal and professional lives. It covers topics such as networking, pitching, negotiating, closing, referrals, testimonials, and follow-ups.
  • Part IV: The Unsold Mindset in Perspective. This part encourages readers to reflect on their journey with the unsold mindset, and to share their insights and experiences with others who may benefit from them. It also urges readers to keep learning and growing with the unsold mindset, and to embrace their greatness and potential.

The authors’ goal is to help people adopt a new perspective on selling by influencing the way they think about themselves.

The book is a comprehensive and helpful resource for anyone who wants to change their mindset about selling or learn more about it. The authors are both experienced leaders and trainers who have researched extensively on the topic of sales mindset. They write in a clear, concise, and engaging tone that makes the book easy to read and understand. They also use real-life examples, case studies, statistics, and quotes from experts and celebrities to illustrate their points and provide evidence for their claims.

The book is well-structured and organized, with each chapter having a clear objective, key points, action steps, and reflection questions. The book also provides a variety of tools and activities that readers can use to assess their sales mindset level, identify their sales mindset goals, plan their sales mindset actions, monitor their sales mindset progress, and evaluate their sales mindset outcomes. The book is interactive and encourages readers to actively participate in their own learning and improvement.

The book is not only informative but also inspiring and empowering. It helps readers understand the causes and consequences of their sales mindset, and provides them with effective solutions to change it. It also helps readers recognize their strengths, achievements, and potential, and develop a sense of confidence and self-worth. It motivates readers to pursue their aspirations, seek opportunities, and achieve their goals. It also urges readers to share their stories with others who may need them.

The book reveals a counterintuitive approach not just to selling but to life. Overall, I think the book is a valuable addition to the literature on sales mindset and personal development. It is suitable for anyone who wants to change their mindset about selling or learn more about it. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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