How To Go Where the Money Is: Stealing Sales Tips from Bank Robbers

Money, Sales, Sales Tips | Jan 21, 2020

William Francis Sutton Jr. aka “Willie Sutton” was an American bank robber for forty years. Over the course of his ill-reputed career, he stole over $2-million, escaped from prison three times and spent half his adult life incarcerated. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie had a simple answer,

“I’ll tell you why I rob banks: that’s where the money is”

Without a doubt, Willie had focus, knowing who and where to find his target market. Shortly before his death in 1969, he became a consultant for the same banks he would prey on, advising on security.

There is a lot to learn from the tale of Willie Sutton, particularly for sales and management professionals.

Firstly, focus: Willie knew exactly who his mark was before he hit. He would “case the joint” discovering all the variables and deciding if the target bank was appropriate or not. As sales staff, we can ask ourselves if we have done our due diligence. Do we know what we should be selling and to whom? Do we know why people buy our products from us?

The second lesson we can learn is one of motivation. Willie Sutton would walk into a bank, gun in hand and give clear instructions (lie down on the floor, don’t do anything stupid) and people would respond immediately. Granted, he had a very compelling motivating factor and as salespeople, we are not allowed to threaten customers but you get the idea. If we can find a clear, immediate reason for others to follow us, it will yield positive results.

Thirdly, Willie’s life is a testament to the concept of an exit strategy. Having achieved his objectives, Sutton would find his way to get away from the scene of the crime, or in three cases, away from prison. These strategies were employed to varying degrees of success but the principle of a clean getaway is always useful.

Willy’s ultimate downfall was the marketing used by the opposition. Being constantly written about in newspapers and having his name nailed to trees in the vicinity with a complimentary photo meant he was arrested sometime after his crimes had been committed.

If you decide you want to move away from sales and start bank-robbing after reading all this, a few things have changed to make the career prospects less attractive. Working in sales is much easier but being successful in sales is a different kettle of fish.

You must plan and understand your market – both important keys for your continued or future success. You must focus on where you get the best return for your sales effort and also ensure you read the signals to avoid any surprises. Creating a highly qualified pipeline from your prospects and customers will ensure that you have that focus.

Going for “The Big One” should be the biggest risk you take, you don’t need additional surprises while trying to land a whale. Mitigate your risks so you don’t get caught out. Learn as much as you can about your targets and your products and you’ll be the one who goes where the money is.

For more articles by Mike Palman, visit

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