Discovering Natural Laws That Change Everything

Natural Laws of SellingAuthor’s Note: This is an article about an important book, “The Natural Laws of Selling,” and its author Daniel W. Jacobs. It’s not a book review, per se, though I recommend the book highly. The article discusses parts of the book, but it is also about the author, who has helped thousands of professionals to become confident and effective. And though Jacobs focuses on sales, his “Natural Laws” are equally invaluable for professions like teaching, clergy, politics, law, personnel recruitment and entertainment—in fact, any environment that requires relating to other people and affecting their beliefs.

SeparatorA marketing executive, a young man who I’ve known since he was a teen, recently asked me for advice on how to improve his career skills. “Is there a great online course or a book you’d recommend?”  he asked.

He was apparently surprised when I answered, “No. Like most people who have held positions in the business world, I receive three or four business book promotions a day. Over the years, I’ve sampled many courses and read a ton of books, but few have been worth my time. There is, however, one new book that is different from the rest. It’s ‘The Natural Laws of Selling,’ by Dan Jacobs.”

“I’m not a sales exec. Why would I read a book on selling?” he asked.

“You don’t sell products,” I responded. “But you do sell ideas. It’s all about human relations, and how you persuade clients or colleagues—even friends—to believe in you. I’ve known the author for many years. I was pleased to see him write a book articulating what he teaches in the workplace.”

With that, I reflected back to the day I first met Dan Jacobs in San Jose. He had called me previously to discuss a VP job with a technology marketing agency in Southern California. To be perfectly honest with him, I revealed that I had already received an offer letter from a good company closer to home, and had therefore completed my job search. Unflappable, Dan suggested that we could just have a chat over a nice lunch. He was interesting and friendly, so I accepted his no-strings-attached invitation.

head-shot-smilingMeeting him in person for the first time, I was surprised. Expecting a typical corporate image, I instead met a man who appeared more like a college professor. And I was even more surprised at how he led me through his thought processes. There was no “pitch,” and no waterfall of information about the client company he represented. He didn’t push me in any specific direction. Though he asked me about my attitude on several subjects, he didn’t turn the luncheon into an interrogation.

Overall, it felt like a casual, though sincere, discussion between two friends; viewing a common goal from different directions. I surprised myself by agreeing to fly to Orange County in Southern California, for an interview with the company’s CEO.

The actual interview was like no other that I have experienced. I met with the CEO, a tough, aggressive woman, and her HR director. Dan Joined us and played the role of advisor, subtlely redirecting the conversation at various precarious points. The CEO’s style was challenging and combative. Feeling free to counter her barbed challenges, I struck back politely, though with equal vigor. Dan somehow kept the verbal scrum on track. The meeting ended with a surprise. The HR Director handed me an offer sheet. Dan reviewed it with me, and I accepted it.

As I began my new job over the next month or so, I noticed that Dan, still working as a consultant, would arrive once or twice a week, and conduct one-on-one sessions with people at all levels and functions. I realized that he usually spent the most time with the weakest functions, especially the sales force. Each person with whom he spent time appeared to become more confident and energized. I saw each person’s performance improving.

What was Dan teaching them? He was a bit like the Mr. Miyagi character of the Karate Kid films; giving instructions that each person trusted, even if they didn’t fully appreciate their power. In Dan’s situation, however, he was giving each person a new tool that they agreed to try. And each tool made each person stronger and more capable.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn that Dan has now packaged many of those tools in his book, “The Natural Laws of Selling.”



Does “Connecting the Dots” Protect Us?


Part of “The Terrorist Who Wasn’t” is a frantic effort to pin down details of an imminent terrorist attack, and to enable law enforcement agencies to prevent it. Set in the 1990s, before the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the main characters in the story frantically collect, combine and analyze information from multiple sources. In other words, they must “connect the dots” to form a full picture.

hijackers-groupHow does the story compare with the real-world history of the 9/11 attacks? While coping with public anger and fear in 2001, politicians and media used the catchphrase “connect the dots” to mean combining intelligence inputs from all agencies to forecast and prevent the terror plot. The implication was that all government agencies needed to share information to predict future terrorist attacks. Some politicians and media outlets proclaimed that connecting the dots would have stopped the deaths and destruction of 9/11.

In research for this book, I learned more about the difficulties of stopping terrorism, and the value of connecting the dots. Borrowing a few details from the real 9/11 investigation, my fictional attack gets through the warnings—connecting the dots—after painstaking efforts. The characters know definitely that an attack is forthcoming. They know names of some of the people, and eventually learn the cities where the attacks will begin.

Connecting the dots, however, doesn’t stop the attack! The challenges for stopping the terrorists remain daunting. In the real-world of the 9/11 attacks, the task would have been just as formidable even with the “dots” connected.

The popular viewpoint is that law enforcement could simply capture the terrorists and ship them to Gitmo. That’s an unfortunate fantasy. The 9/11 killers had each entered the US under legal visas. Though they had overstayed their legal status, law enforcement could only arrest them to be tried like citizens in a U.S. court. Following the usual sequence of events under law, each of the men would have had an assigned lawyer.

The arrest of a large group of terrorists planning to execute a major attack presents a very difficult challenge. The future killers would not have faced any major charges until they carried out or supported their murderous crimes. Until then, investigators could have only reported that several Middle Eastern men had overstayed their visas but had not otherwise broken the law. Until they committed a crime, it would have been difficult to prosecute them as members of a conspiracy.

FBI Director James Comey has indicated that the Bureau is is currently investigating hundreds of terrorist groups within the US. In other words, the bad guys are already here. Apparently, new technology and updated methods have connected many of the dots. Can we be sure that there are no others? No. Can FBI and DHS find ways to disrupt them? Maybe…hopefully…yes. Authorities have connected the dots. Nevertheless, it’s a tough job, requiring extraordinary effort, hundreds of agents, and top-flight police work.

Why Choose the 1990s for an Alternate History Novel?

The Terrorist Who Wasn’t” differs from most alternate histories since It doesn’t focus TTWW-Tiny+Buyon a single momentous event, like the Civil War, WWII, or the JFK assassination. Instead, it focuses on events of the final decade of the twentieth century, a transformative period with equal or greater impact on America’s future.

My previous alternate history, “The Victory That Wasn’t,” focuses on the Vietnam War. Reader feedback brought many positive comments from former service members and civilians who were part of that era. They enjoyed the book because they could vividly remember the people, places, and events that support the story. However, many contemporary adults are too young to remember the Vietnam years. I, therefore, wantedBackground-layer my new book to be a story set in a time remembered by anyone over thirty.

The 1990s began as a victorious time for America and ended with great uncertainty. The decade included proud high points and devastating low points. It began with a resounding victory against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army. Supported by a broad coalition of thirty nations, the quick triumph repositioned the US as the undisputed leader of the free world. And after decades of covert Cold War struggles, the USSR dissolved. It’s former satellite countries regained independence. Germany tore down the Berlin Wall and reunified the East and West Germany into a single country.

The decade also included an unusual three-candidate presidential race and a president elected by far less than a majority of voters. Meanwhile, trouble was brewing, quietly at first. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center seems forgotten in the shadow of the horrific attacks of 2,001. Nevertheless, the 1993 attack killed six and injured more than one thousand people.

Though Americans experienced high anxiety regarding terrorism, the 1990s produced a stunning transformation due to technology. In 1990, only a small number of Americans had ever heard of the Internet. By 1999 the Internet was part of the daily life of every individual and business. This dynamic technology explosion empowered the financial world and the stock markets while masking the simmering economic problems that a few years later caused the longest recession and weakest recovery in history.

That’s the enigma that we call the 1990s. It provides a great platform for an alternate history novel.

Who’s the Murderer in My New Book?

In writing “The Terrorist Who Wasn’t” I wanted to produce the kind of book that I would personally love to read. That’s why the final product is a hybrid of three different story types. It’s a murder mystery as well as an alternate history. It also falls into the“thriller” genre, with a race-against-time to stop a lethal terrorist attack.

Like most of us who write stories, I’m an avid reader. I don’t keep count, but I’ve probably read more than 2,000 novels over the years. After the first hundred or so, I began lookingTTWW-Tiny+Buy for authors who write the kinds of books that “I can’t put down.”

For example, when I read the first of many books by the brilliant Harry Turtledove, I was hooked for life on alternate histories. Every Turtledove alternate history begins with a real-world historical context, to which the author adds, at least, one fictional person or event that radically changes everything that follows. For example, “What if George Washington and King George III had negotiated a peaceful agreement in 1776?”

Another story type that I have long admired is the mystery that keeps readers guessing through twists and turns; blind alleys; and forehead-slapping “aha!” moments. For me, the master of this kind of plot is Harlan Coben. His skill in building greater levels of intrigue grabs us from the opening sentence and keeps us guessing. And when he finally reveals the truth behind the plot, we’re relieved and happily satisfied to have shared the ride.

My third favorite is the “thriller” based on interesting characters struggling with life-threatening challenges, in real-world places. Nelson DeMille is the author I most admire for his excellently researched thrillers like Up Country, Plum Island, and The General’s Daughter.

With those three types as generic models, “The Terrorist Who Wasn’t” is an alternate history set in the 1990’s, with real characters and events that most readers will recognize. Their world shifts to a new reality, however, due to the failures of two petty criminals. The investigation of one of the criminals leads to a mysterious murder. The search for the killer uncovers a major terror operation and a desperate effort by law enforcement to identify and arrest the terrorists.

My question for readers: Can you identify the perpetrators before the story exposes them?