The Passing of a Giant: Mack Hanan (October 1, 1925 – November 26, 2010)

I just received the awful news of Mack Hanan’s passing.

Mack Hanan was truly a giant in business-to-business sales, and his book, Consultative Selling, is still the standard against which all salespeople should measure themselves—despite the giant chasm between how we behave and what Mack so thoughtfully laid out and codified.

Consultative Selling: The Hanan Formula for High Margin Sales at High Levels was published in 1970 and then published 6 more times between the original and 2004. In the past few months, I learned from Mack that the 8th Edition was being published.

I was introduced to Mack through my friend and business partner, Dave Brock. Dave writes here about his relationship with Mack, the project that we for a short time worked on with Mack, as well as Mack’s impact on his thinking and on sales more broadly.

In the half a dozen of conversations I was fortunate enough to have with Mack in 2010, I was the student to a very willing teacher. I asked Mack to stay on the line after a couple of conference calls, Mack always agreed, happy to share his thoughts, his ideas, and his passion for consultative selling with someone who was anxious to understand how to better put his ideas into practice. One of those conversations I shared as an interview here.

Mack’s mind at 85 was something to be envied and something for which to strive—it was razor sharp with a laser-like focus that could penetrate deep into any issue we discussed.

Perhaps what struck me most about Mack during these conversations was that even though he was firmly grounded in the structure and framework he laid out in Consultative Selling, he was completely open to exploring new ideas and concepts. It’s only anecdotal evidence, but John Carroll, one of Mack’s longtime business partners, shared with me how much Mack loved YouTube.

Here is an interview Mack did for Ogilvy on, of all things, YouTube.

Mack will be missed. Honor his memory by picking up the book and applying it to your personal sales effort or that of your team. That is what he would want, and that was his life’s work.



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  • Chris Lott

    What a great article on obviously a great man! I had no idea what contributions he had made. Being open to exploring new ideas and concepts is a credit to anyone at any age. Thank again.

    Chris Lott

  • John Greenbury


    Thanks for posting this – otherwise I and other fans of Mack’s work would never have known. Mack was a game changer. His concept is now modeled by countless training organizations around the world.

    I was a sales trainer as well in the 80’s and 90’s, and now thinking about going back into sales management consulting. Mack’s book changed my life and gave me an approach to selling that I could use to sell my services as well as teach others.

    I will also pass this link on to Dirk Beveridge, son of Don Beveridge, both of whom you might know of as amongst the world’s great sales trainers. Both have adapted and adopted Mack Hanan’s concepts over many years.

    Sad to hear of this. Best wishes to his family.

    John Greenbury

  • Juan

    Sad to know about this today! I learned of Mack’s thru your valuable material, I immediately picked up the book, I have been reading it and re-reading it, it is the best at bringing value, being a sales consultant.

  • Alun Newby

    I knew Mack for many years and worked closely with him from about 86 to 98 or so. He was special and I’m a bit ashamed that we lost touch with each other. Just found out about his passing from a good friend and  decided to google the obituary. I must admit it only brings back happy moments and here is one to share: if you think practising Consultative Selling is tough you should try and do what my business partner Phil and I did: we actually lead the seminar as European distributors for Mack. One very tough act to follow! Alun

  • Peter S. Karp

    Mack Hanan was a true visionary, known for Consultative Selling, but so much more.
    He was grounded in bottom line business value, developing marketing proposals based on ROI, profit, cost containment and savings, and competitive opportunity
    reward [if you can't offer it, the customer may go elsewhere]. His dynamic personality
    was extraordinary in presentations and head-to-head meetings. He liked short meetings, he liked to stand rather than sit, but he truly cared about both the truth of his business vision and nearly all the people at clients he worked with.

    I was fortunate to work with Mack Hanan for over twenty years and call him my friend. We started from his breakthrough article on Entrepreneurs in the Harvard
    Business Review, and l worked with him on Venture Development teams for General Foods and others. I worked with him on Concept Testing–in fact, he named my firm’s
    Concept Testing Division, which lead to the firm’s original IBM work on “The Memory
    Typewriter.” [We later applied our New Product/Service model to many new IBM
    products; AT&T's Picturephone and Cellphone and 10-second FAX that they never
    implemented; FedEX price-value, International and Landlines; and many other
    20th Century new technology products and services.]

    We co-authored “Competing on Value” [AMACOM] with Mack Hanan, although most of the writing was Mack’s. This lead to our value work on Relational Databases for
    Metaphor [bought by IBM]–in which we established a new magnitude of hard and soft bottom line values for 6-8 major Consumer uses [P&G, J&J, etc.]. And for other
    Fortune 100 businesses.

    He will be greatly missed. But as Mack said to me when my wife, Mona, died at an
    early age, be thankful for “all the good and wonderful times…” Like Chris Matthews
    said about Jack Kennedy…Mack Hanan was always fun to be with; he lit up a room!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Peter. I think they add a lot to this post for those that stumble upon it–and Mack’s work. 

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  • Dennis Gehler

    I had the privilege to meet Mack while in NYC. I was introduced to his Consultative Selling approach thru a briefing paper entitle Growth Partnering and in the About the Author it states “Mack Hanan is the inventor of Growth Partnering.” The questions of (1) How much (2) How soon (3) How sure are etched in my brain thanks to his teachings and writings. An unassuming man with an enduring legacy.