Selling the Dream

Summary by Brenda Lewis, Scott Wilkinson, and Derrel Fincher

Kawasaki, Guy, Selling The Dream: How To Promote Your Product, Company, Or Ideas—And Make A Difference—Using Everyday Evangelism. Harper: New York, (1991) 337 p.


An Introduction to EvangelismBecoming an EvangelistThe Stages of EvangelismAdvanced Techniques of EvangelistsBetween You and Me

An Introduction to Evangelism

"You can be powerful, and you can be famous, but you won't amount to much of anything until you change the world."

The dictionary defines evangelism as "any zealot effort in propagandizing for a cause" - a definition that has negative undertones and understates the concept of commitment. Guy Kawasaki defines evangelism as the process of selling a dream, transforming a vision into a cause, and getting people to share that cause. Evangelism transcends the traditional sales concept because it involves sharing more than personal gain. It:

  • Yields long-lasting and dramatic changes;
  • Sustains itself during difficult times;
  • Grows as more people adopt the same beliefs.

Selling the Dream focuses on the use of secular evangelism to affect change. Kawasaki notes the acceptance of evangelism reflects significant societal changes, and illustrates its effectiveness across diverse issues to positively transform people, products, and companies. "The key to everyday evangelism is believing that your cause is important."

Evangelism begins with a cause. Causes

  • Embody a vision, seeking to change the world in ways that are important to people;
  • Make people better, creative, or more productive;
  • Generate big effects that impact people's lives;
  • Polarize people, generating strong emotions, actions, and reactions in the process.

The four building blocks of evangelism are leaders, angels, evangelist, and enemies.

Leaders provide vision for a cause and motivate members. They believe in and understand the vision, believe in people, set an example, and share the cause by motivating others to shape and sustain it.

Angels share the vision, providing advice and emotional and financial support. They are difficult to locate, but have a strong desire to help. Angels are experienced, realistic, outspoken, influential, and motivated by the personal satisfaction they gain from helping.

Evangelists "are the people who come, see, believe, and conquer." They are called to the cause; are committed to it; are willing to listen and learn; and are the people that many others will follow. They believe in the cause and are willing to do what is necessary to further it.

Enemies are optional, but desirable in furthering causes. Conceptual enemies (such as ignorance, inertia, and conservatism) are important because they give a cause its meaning. Tactical enemies are organizations or people. They can be an asset to a cause by (1) adding legitimacy, (2) focusing and rallying members, (3) providing quantifiable milestones; and (4) helping to defeat conceptual enemies. Enemies can be further categorized into good and bad types. Good ones are big, rich, and arrogant. They react badly to evangelism and endear your cause to the public. Bad ones are small, hungry, and zealous. They bring you into a conflict that isn't worth winning. Acknowledging them reinforces their legitimacy. One must "feed" a good enemy and "starve" a bad one.

An Introduction to EvangelismBecoming an EvangelistThe Stages of EvangelismAdvanced Techniques of EvangelistsBetween You and Me

Becoming an Evangelist

Finding Your Cause

An evangelist needs a cause. Kawasaki provides examples of determining your cause.

Anticipate a need

When building your future scenarios you may have identified a cause. It could be making changes in your workplace, community or even in yourself. It is the ability to foresee what people need before they see it themselves.

Fill an existing need

Many of us found voids in our areas of employment that we tried to affect change with our ARP process. It means solving a problem that is already apparent to other people. Find something you are passionate about and create your cause.

Piggyback on other causes

People join specific causes because they believe in the dream the cause promotes.

Kawasaki believes in the concept of Kairos - that the right time will come along, and you will dedicate yourself to a cause.

Planning your Evangelism

You found you cause and now it is time to create a plan to evangelize it. A good plan for evangelism contains three parts: The Mission, Objectives, and Strategies.

The mission

It appears that Dr. Sparks had this in mind when he assigned us to create personal and professional mission statements. The mission is the driving force of you cause - it explains the "why" of the cause and resembles the metaphor used throughout this course: The mission is your Lighthouse! A mission statement is short, flexible, and distinctive.

Objectives: are the stepping stones used to achieve the mission of your cause. There are two types of objectives: qualitative and quantitative. Both types of objectives have four main parts:

  • Challenging: You need to work hard and believe solidly that your hard work will pay off
  • Few in number: Kawasaki suggests your mission statement contain no more than five objectives. Any more could cause confusion and detract from other objectives.
  • Inspiring: Objectives should motivate and reach people in a personal way.
  • Stable: Objectives should stay the same for a minimum of two years. Stable objectives keep personnel focused on completing the objective.
  • Strategies: Are the ways and means of reaching each objective. The four qualities your strategy should include are:
  • Connected: They are connected to the objective and provide clear guidance how to reach the objective.
  • Active: They lead to action and provide methods to get things accomplished
  • Pragmatic: The are practical and attainable by your team
  • Flexible: Strategies will change as your organization progresses. Strategies might change but the driving objective remains the same.

Implementing your Evangelism

You have found your cause, created the mission statement, and now it is time to put it into action.

Forming groups and departments is necessary in order to manage people, accomplish the tasks of evangelism, and spread the cause. These groups need to realize five goals:

  • Foster fellowship: Make everything fun. Get people who enjoy each other and complement the skills they have to offer.
  • Start pure: Start with zealots to establish momentum.
  • Create good karma: Focus on the positive and avoid negativism.
  • Maintain openness: Stay open to people with diverse backgrounds.
  • Formalize: Select your management team and begin writing bylaws and procedures.

Raising funds

Zealots may contribute their time and energy for free but you still need dollars. If you are a non-profit organization a priority is exploring tax-exempt status. The priority in a corporate setting is designing a prototype of your product or service. Kawasaki borrows from the National Audubon Society’s handbook for seven principles of fund raising:

  • Think big: Your cause is important, ask for what you need. It is often easier to get more than less.
  • Ask for it: The money won’t come by itself!
  • Ask for specific amounts: Set specific target amounts so people know how much to give.
  • Target specific programs: Let the people know exactly what their money is spent on.
  • Give before you ask others: Set an example for others to follow.
  • Ask in person: It is harder for people to say no in person.
  • Say Thank you: A sincere thank you paves the way for future contributions.

Finding a Lawyer

Find a lawyer to assist with your cause. If you are a non-profit organization there are legalities to follow. Find one that supports your cause and will work pro bono – for free!

Hiring staff

Find competent people to work with you. They need to do the work right on a day-to-day basis. The ideal member is competent and committed to your cause.

Creating Printed Material

You need something to communicate and explanation of your cause and vision. Pamphlets, brochures, and a Web site are good sources. Other methods of getting your name in the public eye are producing conferences or giving out trinkets with your logo on them.

Presenting Your Cause

In this chapter, Kawasaki provides guidance in presenting you cause to the public. He states you shouldn’t be afraid of speaking in public, in a sense you aren’t, you are sharing and selling your dream. For preparation you need to know the following: your audience, your cause, the layout of the facility you are speaking at, and, especially, focus on your cause. Practice is vital to a good presentation. You should script it, rehearse it, present it to your cohorts, and revise it if any changes are necessary.

The presentation has three distinct areas: take off, in flight, and the landing.

Take off is the beginning of the presentation. It sets the stage of the presentation and gets the attention of the audience. Kawasaki says that many people lose their audience in the first 30 seconds of the presentation. He suggests starting with quotations, letters, definitions, or an oxymoron.

Flight is the body of the presentation. Incorporate effective pictures into your presentation by using metaphors, analogies, similes, or stories. These provide your audience an effective way to remember your material.

The landing is the final stage of your presentation. Your landing should be appropriate, clear, flexible and expedient.

An Introduction to EvangelismBecoming an EvangelistThe Stages of EvangelismAdvanced Techniques of EvangelistsBetween You and Me

The Stages of Evangelism


“Sowing is covering as much fertile ground as you can with as many seeds as you can so that you get as many flowers as you can” (pg 111).

Evangelize the right people by finding people who have something to gain by supporting your cause. The person to evangelize is the one who is open to helping or furthering the cause. In an organizational setting, this may well be the staff workers instead of upper management personnel.


You’ve sown your seeds and now you need to cultivate them by nurturing them as they grow. But not all of the seedlings will mature into productive members. You should cut your losses by “weeding” out the people who just “don’t get it”. Don’t berate yourself; not all things are meant to be.

Measure the performance of growth against the objectives you established. This shows if you are progressing in the direction of your mission. Follow through with what you are doing. There will be times that you are completely overwhelmed. You can avoid this by working smart, being happy, and by driving on by using sheer determination.

Be a cheerleader of your victories, no matter how small. This helps provide a sense of forward growth, provides feedback and gives your followers a feeling of accomplishment.


Harvesting is where you finally see the results of your work. In this stage your cause has gone through the entire life cycle and is where you move your cause forward to achieve long lasting success.

You need to avoid superficiality. This can occur when joining your cause becomes “the cool thing to do”. People who join this way often are not true believers in the cause and may recruit others that believe even less in the cause. Remember that your goal is to raise a few good flowers; quality is more important than quantity.

Lose yourself in the cause. Fill the needs of your members and remember that you receive empowerment from them. Don’t forget the people who believe in your cause. They are your foundation and without them you have nothing to support the cause.

Finally, keep your cause fun! Hire people who are fun, empower others to make decisions, and find interesting, ambitious, and challenging projects.

An Introduction to EvangelismBecoming an EvangelistThe Stages of EvangelismAdvanced Techniques of EvangelistsBetween You and Me

Advanced Techniques of Evangelists

Recruiting and Training Evangelists

Passion and fire—those who have it are your evangelists. When recruiting an evangelist, look for somebody who believes in your cause and is ready to evangelize it for you. Kawasaki gives a list of questions to ask, each intended to probe for meaning and understanding of your organization and cause. The last two, “how would you attack our cause if you were the enemy” and “what is our organization doing wrong” will reveal if the potential evangelist is committed enough to the cause to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

Training an evangelist is necessary because you must teach the evangelist the content of the cause as well as how to communicate it. He believes that good evangelism training is demanding, informal, realistic, and constant, with essential topics being the cause, the market, and the skills to evangelize. He suggests looking everywhere for training opportunities and seeking unusual venues. Kawasaki himself attended a Billy Graham Evangelism school to learn about evangelism.

Leveraging your Efforts

You can’t do it all yourself. You have to leverage your efforts. He discusses public relations, buddies, multipliers, and alliances.

Public relations can communicate the benefits of a cause, create positive attention for your cause, and help build a relationship with others who can communicate the truth of your cause.

Buddies are ones who like what they see and give without being asked. It can be a person in a PR firm making sure that information is sent out promptly because they believe in the message they are sending, or it can a skilled friend or who looks what they see and offers advice and counsel.

Multipliers are those who believe in your cause and are willing to promote it for you, such as the Apple User Groups do for Apple. These will donate their time and good will generously, but a little extra care can go a long way:

  • Assign an evangelist to help them,
  • Give them information to hand out,
  • Make them feel special.

Alliances are relationships that parties form because they share objectives, ideologies, or enemies. However, each part of the alliance must get some benefit from it and all parts of the organization must buy into an alliance as long term success is dictated by the communication and cooperation of people within each part.

Felling a Dream

You may be up against other evangelists who have a dream and they are competing with your dream. Fell theirs! He suggests five tactics (and implies that business is war!):

Ally with Popular People. Your strength will make the others nervous.

Ignore It (Publicly). Focus on your own cause and make them take the battle to you.

Use Aikido (If You Can’t Ignore It). Use the enemies force against them by acknowledging their strengths, then use that as an opportunity to push your strengths.

Let People Experience Your Cause. In other words, a test drive. And he uses Porsche test drives as a way to illustrate this method.

Do What’s Right for the Customer. Often overlooked, frequently not done, this is one of the best ways to attract people to your cause because the other evangelist will probably not be doing it as well as you can do it.

In short, don’t try to push people away from your enemies; pull them away by creating a more compelling reason for them to come to you.

An Introduction to EvangelismBecoming an EvangelistThe Stages of EvangelismAdvanced Techniques of EvangelistsBetween You and Me

Between You and Me

Kawasaki wraps up with two points: evangelizing the opposite sex and ethics. He suggests evangelizing the opposite sex because it gives you a chance to see yourself as a cause and put to use your passion and energy in evangelizing yourself. The one rule you don’t follow when evangelizing yourself to the opposite sex is to beat your chest as it tends to have opposite effects on others. But it is good practice. He closes the books with the ethics of evangelizing—belief in a cause is never a reason to compromise ethics.

You believe you can change the world. You believe there is a better way. Go sell a dream.


Created 07/06/02

Last maintained 08/23/2003


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