Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 18, 2011

Guest Article: “The Triangle” by Robert Terson

Filed under: career development — Paul McCord @ 3:34 pm

The Triangle
by Robert Terson

I was taught the Triangle in 1969 by Bob Trudeau while undergoing sales training.  Where Trudeau learned about it I know not, but he believed in it passionately and 42 years later I can say it meant more to my success as a salesman than any other tidbit of information.  We all tell a story in our own imitable style, and if today Trudeau listened to my rendition of the Triangle, no doubt he’d hear an altered version; but I hope he’d be pleased that I’ve passed on the Triangle to hundreds of people, in speeches, sales seminars, and airplanes flew to and from work.  I’d reach for pen and paper, draw a triangle, label each side, and tell my story.  The triangle is a sturdy geometric figure, if all three sides are solidly connected; otherwise all you have is a wobbly structure which eventually will crumble into a pile of naught.

Mental Attitude
The first side is Mental Attitude.  You must possess a positive mental attitude made out of titanium.  Anyone can be up when she’s winning, when everything is running like a well-oiled machine and success is the norm; show me a salesperson who is alert and grinning, enthusiastic, ready to forge ahead and make that next call after she’s gotten her teeth kicked in for a month-and-a-half and I’ll show you a Champion.

Work Habits
The second side is Work Habits.  I don’t care how talented you are, if you possess the selling acumen of Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, and Tom Hopkins combined—no one defiles Mother Law of Averages and gets away with it long term.  You must always do the work.  For a salesperson, that means making the calls, giving presentations.  There is no compromise.  Given the choice of a salesperson who gives six presentations a week and closes 60%, or one who gives ten presentations a week and closes 40%, I’ll take the latter any day ending in “Y.”

Side three is Salesmanship.  If anyone knows your business better than you, best take a hard look in the mirror and ask why.  If anyone knows the intricacies of selling techniques better than you, time to challenge yourself again.  There are no excuses, no alibis.  It’s your business, your choice of making a living; you must know every aspect of your business—backwards, forwards, and sideways.  You must know selling techniques to the subtlest detail.

The Triangle is the lever and fulcrum of successful selling.  Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”  If your Triangle is sturdy enough, you’ll move the world.  Everything you need to know, all the answers, fall under the purview of one of its three sides.

You can count on the Triangle; it’ll never let you down.  You also can count on utter failure unless all three sides are functioning in a robust manner.  It’s sort of like love and marriage: “…you can’t have one without the other[s]…”

Draw a large triangle and label its three sides.  Frame it and place it where you’ll see it every day.

Are you ready to move the world?

Robert Terson spent 40 years fearlessly selling advertising to small businesspeople; his passionate purpose as an author and speaker is to enlighten and inspire you to be a far better salesperson than you are now.  You can learn more about and from him at



  1. With the majority of small businesses usually defined as under 100 employees (not the SBA definition) not having a separate marketing department, I would amend salesmanship to include marketing. From my experience in working with small business owners, yes there is a revenue challenge, but the greater challenge is marketing.

    Additionally, many marketing firms are still advising how they were advising 20 years ago and do not understand how to effectively (meaning securing a positive return on investment) integrate inbound sales leads generating marketing actions (Internet and referrals) with outbound sales marketing actions (networking, speaking, brochures, direct mail, etc.). From my observations beyond having a “Caring Problem” as Dan Waldschmidt has been quoted as saying, these firms truly have a marketing problem first and a selling problem second.

    The triangle is a great foundation. Thanks for sharing.

    P.S. I believe Zig Ziglar defined attitudes as “habits of thought.”

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red Jacket in a sea of gray suits

    Comment by Leanne HoaglandSmith — August 20, 2011 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  2. Yes, the triangle is important. The underlining success of the salesperson is their willingness and emotional ability to self-promotion. This would probably be in your “salesmanship” category.

    Comment by Connie Kadansky — August 24, 2011 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  3. does network falls under salesmanship?

    Comment by businesstelephone — August 26, 2011 @ 4:19 am | Reply

  4. I absolutely agree. These are the 3 reasons why salespeople succeed or fail. Everything else is just an excuse.

    Comment by Bill Murray — August 28, 2011 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

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