Modern Selling: Sell Like it’s 1999

Dec. 13, 2022
Seven old-school tactics that will make you stand out in 2023

This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

If you have read any of my articles or talked to me for more than 45 seconds, then you know that I believe that the craft of selling has changed in the last 15-20 years.

Many of the concepts that were effective for decades prove to be futile efforts today. The Internet, mobile phones, and social media have changed business-to-business buying and selling forever; however, there are several practices from the 20th century that would be very effective today but have been lost to technology and decreasing attention spans.

Here are seven ideas that will differentiate you from other salespeople today…but they will also make you feel like it is 1999.

1. Send hand-written notes to customers.

Whether it is a thank you note following a sales call or a generic letter in follow-up to seeing someone, writing a note is a simple act that goes a very long way today. No one does it anymore, which is why you should. If your company doesn’t have stationary, invest in some yourself and start writing!

2. Don’t use PowerPoint, Presi or Keynote unless you must.

If you want to get your audience engaged, then print out hard copies to support your presentations. Your customers are no longer used to flipping through paper, taking notes in the margins, and walking away with something. Electronic presentations are so common that they have become white noise. Be different. Stimulate other senses. Engage them with handouts and watch their reactions.

3. Create an agenda for sales calls.

Technology can assist here. In the old days, we had to bring the agenda to the meeting with us and present it there for the first time. With email, we can send the agenda a day or two ahead of time, getting your customer engaged and illustrating your professionalism.

4. Perform in-person cold calls.

Today, the purpose and delivery might of in-person cold calls might be different, but the act of stopping by an account’s site and introducing yourself to strangers is a practice that will always differentiate great salespeople from average ones. Today, salespeople use various excuse to hide behind technology. Get out there. Knock on a few doors. Make some friends!

5. Practice.

Before mobile phones created a race to delivering below-average solutions, salespeople practiced. They practiced their pitches, their demos, their cold calling abilities, etc. They practiced with their peers until the meetings with real customers became simple. Ask your boss to help you. Ask some peers. Worst case, practice on your own – but practice.

6. Mail prospecting letters.

Yes, I mean letters that you type, print, fold, and mail in an envelope. In the late 1990s, email took the place of letters because everyone’s real mailbox was full of solicitations. Not today. It is rare to receive a letter from a salesperson today, but your customers probably receive a dozen emails a day from various salespeople. Expert tip: On the bottom of the letter, hand-write that you will give them a call at a specific time next week. Then do it – call them at that exact time.

7. Bring your boss in the field with you.

My first sales manager was in the field with a salesperson every day. I brought her on at least one demo per week and more negotiation/closing meetings. She was instrumental to my success, and I learned a ton from her. Unfortunately, not many leaders ride in the field today – another gap that has been filled by technology. Get your boss out there with you.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at To request more info about the company, visit