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The Trivia of “Sell”


“to provide or transfer a product or service to someone in return for money”

– to some people the concept of selling suggests undue influence or persuasion of another person to buy with an imbalanced focus on the seller profiting from the sale.

Early origins of the word tell us that selling should aim to benefit the buyer more than the seller. This strong focus on achieving a positive outcome for the buyer features firmly in good modern selling methodologies, where empathy, integrity, trust, and sustainability are central to the sales process.


The word “sell” is a very old word with even older origins. Before 1200 the word was “sellen,” evolved from “sellan,” which appears in the old English epic poem “Beowulf,” first seen 725 AD. At this time the word “sellan” carried the wider meaning of “giving,” and exchanging for money (i.e., selling). We see this broader meaning in cognates (words with the same root) of the word “sell” as they developed in other languages. In ancient Dutch the word “sella” meant “to give.”

In Old Saxon the word “sellian” meant “to give.” The Old Norse word “salja” meant to “give up” (something to another person). The old Gothic word “saljan” meant to offer a sacrifice. Related to these meanings, the Old Slavic word “sulu” was a word for a messenger, and the Latin suffix “selere” indicates the concept of taking counsel or advice.

This is often what customers and clients buy; our counsel or advice.

The original derivation seems to trace back to ancient Indo-European language, in which “sel” and “sol” meant “to take.” It is only in relatively recent times that selling has focused on the seller’s advantage and profit and not on fulfilling customer wants, needs, and desires.

When sellers fail to focus on the customer’s benefits, the concept is not operating at its best and short-changes our business.

Selling is truly sustainable – as a profession, a career, and a business activity – when it focuses primarily on the customer benefiting from the relationship. A true salesperson is one that enables, facilitates, or directs their client or counterpart on a mutually beneficial path.  This is truly a professional aspiration that merits pride.