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The Upside Down Pyramid

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I write ... a lot. I take it seriously and have learned what most serious writers (notice, I didn’t say “great” or even “good”) have learned over the years, and that is to write well and be taken seriously, you must read more than you write.

Reading fuels your thoughts and ideas, and the writing that flows out of that process—the process of combining what you already know with the discomfort you are willing to tolerate when exploring new ideas—will only be as powerful as the results of that journey are likely to be. The more challenging the ideas are, the more combustible the mixture, and the more powerful the insights and epiphanies will be.
I challenge myself with a number of blogs and bloggers, books and authors. Their focus is consistent with my passion for all things business, management and leadership related. One of these “blogs” isn’t really a blog at all—at least, not a traditional blog. There are few, if any words associated with it. The site is GapingVoid, its creator is Hugh McLeod, and it would probably be safe to describe it as a visual blog since most if not all of the posts are hand-drawn moves between buyer and seller. That’s what the “information” level of the pyramid is all about.

Simple, direct, obvious need fulfillment doesn’t require much oversight or interaction. I know what I want. I know where to find it. I know the cost and recognize the value. I give you the money. You give me the product. Game over.


Introduce a complicated product with a long sales cycle, however—high cost, high stakes, high value—and you have a whole new game. You need a knowledge professional or a team of professionals to help provide the information needed for intelligent decision making.

The information available and the way in which it is shared demonstrates the knowledge of the professional(s) representing the product, and reflects on the entire organization. It helps educate the buyer and/or those tied to the buyer. Financially, emotionally and operationally, it can actually result in wisdom, which is defined as the ability to discern or judge what is right, true or lasting—in other words, insight.

Providing information, demonstrating knowledge and achieving wisdom or insight are the kinds of strong and powerful building blocks upon which relationships are built and transactions of any kind become meaningful. The interesting thing here is that I can almost guarantee that no sale will ever take place unless or until a relationship exists, real or imagined. And, the notion that an interaction in and of itself will result in something meaningful (or relevant), so critical to any ongoing relationship, must appear as a pre-existing condition or the pyramid collapses in on itself.

So, I contend that the pyramid is upside down. You must demonstrate the relevance of an interchange, its meaning to the purchaser, before you will ever be able to create a relationship. And, you must have a relationship before you listen long enough to recognize whether the person you’re dealing with is worth listening to, whether they are wise, whether they possess wisdom and/or the information you want or need. Fulfill all these requirements and you have facilitated a transaction, you have made a sale.

However, if you’ve done all of the above, you’ve done more than just facilitate a transaction. You’ve forged a relationship, made a customer and possibly a loyal and lifetime client.

So, what’s at the base of your pyramid? What’s at its pinnacle? Where do you fit in as a buyer, as a seller? Is the operation of your business an endless series of transactions or are you helping customers, sharing knowledge, demonstrating wisdom (and value), building relationships, and solving problems, all day every day? And, how do your vendors treat you when you are the customer?

Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at Contact him at

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