I really like Seth Godin. Every morning his brief pieces hit my inbox and, along with CNN’s 5 Things, The Times Daily Briefing, and SwissMiss’s newsletter, I read them before I get out of bed.

This morning’s post from Mr. Godin, The Cold Open, is brief and worth reading in its entirety. He covers something that most sales people are taught inside and out — the elevator pitch. Seth poses an alternative because “no one ever bought anything on an elevator:” The Elevator Question.

Consultative sales and building authentic relationships are all about understanding the needs of the other party. I really don’t want to sell you something if you’re not interested or if it’s not going to solve a pressing problem for you. Last week I had a call with an investor (hi Jason!), who seemed surprised that I wasn’t trying to sell him anything. We are all accustomed to pushing off sales people. I probably get a dozen cold emails and LinkedIn messages every day from someone trying to sell me something. I hate it. Why would I ever want people in my network to dread receiving a call from me? (Not to name names, but anyone who is taking pushy sales training from well-know “sales leaders” is probably on that list. Honestly, I bought The Sales Bible, read it, and immediately trashed it. And if you know me, you know how hard it is for me to throw away a book. It’s almost sacrilegious).

A better way is laid out in Adam Grant’s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. It’s summed up in the ethos of the ESHIP Community: “give before you get.” Although it’s counter-intuitive, if you focus on giving back to others, serving them, and respectfully listening, you have a much better chance to build long-term, beneficial relationships.

The dozen sales people who blindly find their way to my inbox each day will be outplayed by one thoughtful sales person who takes the time to do their homework and thoughtfully ask questions (hi Christopher!), rather than pushing their products at me. We know this, and still people in sales roles behave otherwise.

True value creation is built on trust. And trust doesn’t happen if the human across the table (or on the receiving end of your cold email) is disregarded from the start. Take more time, be more thoughtful, ask better questions. Give a damn.

Think before you write