Don’t Sell Ice to the Eskimos

Don’t Sell Ice to the Eskimos, Sell Them Their Dream Igloo

Don’t Sell Ice to the Eskimos, Sell Them Their Dream Igloo
Why Selling is about Fulfilling Someone Else’s Dream

Can you sell ice to Eskimos?”, had always been, to some, the hallmark of a great salesperson. Doing what is seemingly impossible, in this case, convincing Eskimos to buy materials that are readily available around them and on top of that; free for their taking.

Many had also shown excessive adulation for the prodigious few salespersons who are able to pull it off; sell ice to Eskimos. Their argument was that, the fact that he or she was able to close the sale, they had shown great creativity and ingenuity. These are qualities of a salesperson that must be celebrated.

This writer disagrees with that perception, as selling is not about how clever one in answering the “How” question but how sincere one in answering the “Why” question.

However, the “why”, must not be that of the salesperson but of someone else’s’ or in other words that of the prospect.

Selling is answering someone else’s why.

Regrettably, many novices or even experienced salesperson had chosen the path of answering their own “Why’s”, which eventually led to them to asking the “How” question when they are trying to close their sales.

An example would be, a salesperson is trying to win the commission to buy a new iPhone for himself; his own “why”, thus leading him to bring out his creative best to close the sale with no regards to the benefit to his prospect. His actions and words will undeniably lead to the of declaration his intent; that he does not care for the prospect’s “why” or need. He just needs the prospect’s money to fulfill his very own desire.

There is a better way. A win-win method, which will bring trust and long term relationship leading to better payouts. It will make you a better person too.

Start selling to the prospect’s “why”. Put his or her need above yours.

Answering an Eskimo’s Need

Firstly, an igloo literally means a house. The house or apartment that you are dwelling in, is also an igloo. Thus, the need of an Eskimo for a home would be identical to most of us. A place of protection and comfort, a place for love and family and above all a place called home.

That is also a place which you would so desire for yourself. Now, you are empathizing with the Eskimo. You would want him to have the very best house that you would approve of.

If you are a student of psychology, you would probably have heard of Maslow’s 5 Level Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow 1943).

Maslow theorized, once an individual satisfies the lowest level of needs, he would be motivated to satisfy the next level of needs. In the 5 level Hierarchy of Needs, the lowest level comprises of physiological and safety needs also known as basic needs, followed by psychological needs; belonging and self-esteem needs and finally the need for self-actualization whereby one needs to achieve his or her full potential as human beings. (Yong & Lee, 2019).

By helping the Eskimo, build his dream igloo you would have only helped him satisfied his most basic needs, that of physiological and safety needs. If you are more adventurous you would try to satisfy his next level of need, that of belonging by building an igloo which could connect him with his community; for instance, an igloo which is big enough for him to house his guests or even to build a connected network of igloos for him and his community.

The sales possibility is endless and the trust that you can build by putting the Eskimo’s need above yours will reap bountiful relationship with a rewarding paycheck.

Sales had brought this writer an enormous amount of bond with his prospects, which then became clients and later friends; some lasting more than a decade. It is this writer’s hope and desire that you are able to find such joy in a sales role.

Last but not least, whilst this writer was writing this piece of article, he had called out two of his very own unconscious bias about Eskimos. First, Eskimos, preferred to be known as Inuit, as the word Eskimos were given by white explorers which is predominantly seen as pejorative in Canada and Greenland. Secondly, the ice to make the igloo had to be carefully chosen so as to provide warmth inside the igloo even though the temperature outside is of sub-zero condition. Thus, the snow used to build an igloo must have enough structural strength to be cut and stacked appropriately. The best snow to use for this purpose is snow which has been blown by wind, which can serve to compact and interlock the ice crystals. (Wikipedia,2019)


Yong and Lee. 2019. Department of Startup: Why Every Fortune 500 Should Have One. Business Expert Press. New York

Wikipedia.2019. “Igloo.” available at

Ivan Yong is an organizational psychologist, engineer, author and a startup angel investor. He is also the Founding Vice President of Solidarity (Social Projects) for the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, Asia, a member of the Hong Kong Society of Economists and a published author with the book titled, “ Department of Startup : Why Every Fortune 500 Needs One” by BEP New York. Last but not least, he is a big fan of history and a polyglot, fluent in 5 languages.