The Tyrion Lannister School of Selling

Tyrion Lannister, the savvy star of Game of Thrones, navigates through a harsh world with his wits and intuition. What can salespeople learn from The Imp?

July 13, 2017

  • school-of-selling-GOT

Dwarf. Halfman. Imp. Tyrion Lannister has heard it all. Yet, as HBO’s Game of Thrones gears up to embark on its seventh season this month, he is one of the few original players still plotting and plugging away.

How has the scrappy character managed to elude the virtual certainty of a gruesome demise that invariably accompanies a starring role in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic? We know this much: it’s not because of his dashing good looks or formidable combat skills.

No, Tyrion keeps on keeping on because he plays the game. Through sheer wit and savvy, the underdog squirms his way out of tight spots. In watching him navigate this harsh world of ice and fire, we can derive a few important lessons about selling, and gaining advantages in a tough market environment.

Salespeople don’t have to ward off dragons, but we do contend with stiff competition, wary prospects, and a dwindling attention economy. How to overcome these challenges and outfox rivals in our own realm of conquest?

Let’s take some cues from the master himself:

Let Emotional Intelligence Guide You

While the diminutive Lannister castoff is burdened with a number of innate disadvantages -- deformed figure, psychotic family, problematic alcohol dependency -- he is one of the more keenly perceptive fellows in the Thrones universe. His abilities to read signals and appeal to emotions, even subconscious ones, are unparalleled. He uses humor to lighten tense situations. He wears his heart on his sleeve and earns (sometimes begrudging) respect for doing so. 

  • school-of-selling-GOT-1

Do Your Research

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.”

In his first meeting with Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion recites her backstory – a young girl, born amidst a ferocious storm, who was smuggled across the Narrow Sea where she eventually came to command a powerful army of fire-breathing beasts and Unsullied. He made a strong impression by demonstrating his learned ways, and successfully pitched himself to become her advisor by touting his knowledge of the seven kingdoms and the many different houses therein. Those who make efforts to educate themselves on a great many things, and then let that wisdom show through, will reap the benefits.

Think Outside the Box

One of my favorite Tyrion quotes can be applied so aptly to business in general: “It’s easy to confuse ‘what is’ with ‘what ought to be,’ especially when ‘what is’ has worked out in your favor.”

Too often, we stick with the status quo simply because it is the status quo. But that’s a sure way to become insular and stale. In the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion devises a strategy to combat an overwhelming threat from Stannis Baratheon and his fleet, uncovering a hidden cache of wildfire beneath King’s Landing and using it to ambush the invading army. It worked splendidly, and is just one example of his inventive and imaginative approaches to solving difficult problems.

  • school-of-selling-GOT-2

Make Strategic Connections and Build Strong Relationships

“I try to know as many people as I can. You never know which one you’ll need.”

Having friends in the right places has literally been a life-saver for Tyrion, on more than one occasion. Early in the series, he becomes acquainted with a sellsword named Bronn, whom he enlists as his protector and right-hand man. The two hit it off on a personal level, sharing a sardonic yet pragmatic outlook on life. And although theirs begins as a business relationship, a deeper comradery blossoms and proves mutually beneficial.

As Tyrion puts it: “Just because I pay for your services doesn’t diminish our friendship.”

Be True to Your Word

Every reader or viewer of Thrones is familiar with Tyrion’s favorite catchphrase: “A Lannister always pays his debts.” And he backs it up, whether the obligation is monetary or otherwise. There is no overstating the importance of this quality. Show people that they can trust you to deliver on promises, and you will build powerful bonds that endure over time.   

  • school-of-selling-GOT-3

These attributes, among others, have helped Tyrion become one of the most beloved characters in Game of Thrones, and have also kept him alive up to this point despite being in the crosshairs of his conniving sister.

While the show and books certainly contain their share of enchantment and magical elements, they owe their popularity to being grounded in reality, with themes that ring true in our modern lives. The authentic takeaways from Tyrion Lannister’s journey illustrate this as well as any aspect of the series. 

We are happy to serve as your whetstone. Keep your selling skills sharp by downloading LinkedIn's Guide to Smarter Sales Engagement, and watch out for those White Walkers.