Image of Joe Barhoum who is profiled for Meet the World's Best Sellers #2

February 14, 2023

The Secrets Behind Joe Barhoum’s $2M Deal: The 4 Rules of Great Sellers

Written by Karli Stone

In our new series Meet the World’s Best Sellers, we’re tracking down the most legendary salespeople in the world.

Unearthing the untold stories. Revealing the unspoken secrets. Showcasing the unsung champions.

I’m Karli Stone and this week my journey to find the World’s Best Seller brought me to Joe Barhoum, a salesman whose mastery of the sales fundamentals has led to a sales career of multi-million dollar deals and a philosophy for repeated success.

Not your Average Joe

A few words with Joe Barhoum and the stereotypical image of the fast-talking, pushy, disingenuous salesperson is instantly debunked.

Joe speaks with calming authority. He’s choosy with his words, thoughtful, eloquent — like he knows the answer to your questions before you ask them. He gives off a sense of familiarity that leaves you hanging on every word.

I just met the guy, but in a strange way, I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend.

The Spirit of a Self-Starter

To get the full scope of Joe’s success, we should start at the beginning.

At 16, he started his own business making computers.

It started as a hobby, helping friends and family build and fix their PCs. But, as he got more clients, it turned into a profitable side hustle that helped put him through college.

He jokes that his little business never went very far, but, only a few minutes into his story, I’m already seeing the makings of a legendary self-starter who would go on to close multi-million dollar deals at every stage of his career.

From Payroll to President’s Club 

Fresh out of college with a shiny Computer Science degree in hand, Joe got a job as an Implementation Specialist at the payroll and benefits giant ADP.

For a few years, it paid the bills, but he had dreams of a lifestyle that this role couldn’t pay for.

“Eventually, I realized I just had to find a way to make more money,” he says.

One day, amid the monotony of his mundane office life, Joe gazed out the window and saw a group of sharply-dressed men, effortlessly tossing a football back and forth, surrounded by a fleet of luxurious vehicles. Chained to his desk, he couldn’t help but feel envious. That could be me…

He had to know who they were and what they did. “I went up to them and said ‘Guys, I gotta ask you, what do you do here?’ And they said ‘We’re the sales team’.”

He was hooked. After a year and a half of pushing and pushing ADP’s sales managers for a role, he finally got one, not in an entry-level role, but in Major Accounts which accounted for 70% of ADP’s revenue.

He was put right in the hot seat.

“There was a giant target on my back, I had nagged for a job for so long.”

He had a 350k quota to hit right out of the gate, an assigned territory he was less than ecstatic about, and seemingly unfavorable demographics with low potential for growth.

“If you look at the demographics of the greater area, it seemed like the worst territory,” said Joe.

He needed a plan.

That’s when he approached Dave, the previous owner of the sales territory to learn the secret behind his success.

His new mentor suggested a hands-on approach, distributing informational packets, writing personalized notes, and delivering gift cards to potential clients. This, he said, would help him establish relationships and get a deeper understanding of the territory.

So, that’s exactly what he did.

“I would spend two or three days just driving…having conversations, opening up opportunities.”

Paired with persistent follow-up via cold calling, he started building a pipeline. 

First, it was one deal. Then another. Then three more.

And before he knew it, he had reached the end of Year 1 with a highly coveted spot in the President’s Club.

His salary doubled. His earning potential quadrupled. And his sights began drifting to the next prize.

Building the Business Development Program of the Future

Eager for a new challenge, Joe became a sales manager at Oracle and eventually ended up with one of their partners, The Hackett Group, an operations and consulting firm.

The company was small, less than 50 people, and Joe was tasked with everything from channel management and scaling a sales strategy to holding his own quota.

“It was bananas, I was all over the place,” he says, “I started to really hone in on my own creative side and think about what’s made me so successful.”

For Joe, it was all about figuring out how to deliver value at scale. So he did what others on the sales team hadn’t taken the initiative on — he looked to marketing to amplify sales efforts.

“I needed pipeline. So I decide to engage with marketing, somewhere no one else on the sales team really worked through.”

The system they built looked something like this…

It was before the days of accessible and affordable automation so, with a mail merge between Excel and Outlook, Joe scaped names and company info off of his team’s target lists to send personalized and automated emails at scale (with a tool like Apollo this part is now a piece of cake). 

Then, he automated and scaled his tried-and-true method at ADP, creating obligation (more on that later) and providing value through a monthly webinar series on all things sales.

“I knew we had to do something different. I didn’t want to make cold calls all day, so I was willing to learn and put in the work to make this happen.”

They invited people at scale and sent registration forms to qualify their leads. With the webinar’s attendance and engagement metrics, he built an algorithm for behavior scoring and was able to hand his reps high-intent, high-value leads.

And this alignment between sales and marketing — it worked like a charm.

They rolled out the program to California.

Then Texas.

Then the Midwest.

“Our top line started to grow. We had suddenly built a multi-million dollar pipeline out of nothing.”

His business development program doubled the company in size, catapulting them into a major acquisition.

With an insatiable appetite for success, Joe eventually took his program and ran with it, starting his own business venture and eventually accepting a job with his largest client, Jedox.

The 4 Rules of Great Sellers

In his two years at Jedox, Joe (in classic Joe-fashion) is the company’s highest performer, notching the Top Salesperson title in FY’22 and securing the company multiple multi-million dollar deals.


With four core sales principles, formed and perfected throughout his 15-year career.

He believes they are the keys to greatness for any seller.

Here’s how he used them to close one of his biggest deals ever — a 2 million dollar mammoth.

#1. Be prepared

Preparation is key.


Joe broke into this account, one of the biggest of his career, thanks to meticulous preparation.

The buyer was an international government entity and the account was full of red tape. “There were a lot of challenges, a very intense RFP process and evaluation process. It was a huge, abnormal deal,” Joe tells me.

Like most government organizations, they issued a request for proposal (RFP) in their search for performance management software. Right out of the gate, Joe printed everything out on paper, laid it out on the table, and worked through it with a pen.

“Down to the very last letter.”

He took note of everything — what their problem was, how they talked about it, the type of language they used, and the phrases they employed. He did research to understand every piece of technical language. He took it all and compiled it all into a 60-page executive letter. 

A masterpiece.

“What I prepared, in my opinion, was the perfect response to their inquiry.”

In following conversations and demos, he continued to demonstrate expert knowledge of the account by matching their tone, mimicking their language, and showing an understanding of their need.

“It was the perfect union of preparation meets opportunity.”

#2. Be honest

Joe believes that everyone has a BS meter.

“And the easiest way to trip the BS meter is to lie.”

Obviously, great sellers never claim their product can do something it can’t or misrepresent their prices. But Joe adds it goes deeper than that. Being honest is also about being genuine and trustworthy.

Selling to a government organization, there’s no room to play it anything less than by-the-book.

When Joe was told who the stakeholders were, who not to engage with, and what his swim lanes were, he followed it — to a tee.

“We didn’t cheat in any way. We didn’t call them trying to get some inside information. We did exactly what they told us to do and followed it perfectly.”

This wasn’t the time to try to bypass the gatekeepers. Joe knew that would only burn bridges. He put his trust in his champions and focused on working the deal through the genuine relationships he created with his points of contact.

Everything else began to fall into place.

#3. Be inquisitive

Great sellers are inquisitive and curious. They ask the right questions and are eager to provide valuable answers.

Closing a 2M dollar deal required this to the nth degree.

Joe abided by the golden sales rule: never end a phone call without determining next steps. Follow-up next week? Demo the week after next? Golf on Friday? He put it on the books.

But, what do you do when the buyer doesn’t tell you what they need? Maybe they don’t want to tell you or they might not even know what they want themselves.

Joe was acutely aware that behind every request, concern, or question is a world of reasoning.

“They might say, ‘Give me a list of these 10 things’. Now, I could just build the list and hand it over, but there’s a whole world in each one of these 10 things. We’ve gotta figure out why this is important to them, if or when we’re gonna show it to them, if it meets their requirements or not.”

He became relentlessly curious in his follow-up questions, committed to uncovering the buyer’s underlying assumptions and unspoken thoughts.

How do you measure success in XYZ? What are your goals for XYZ? What are you looking for in this area? Do you currently see any roadblocks in our path forward?

From there, moving towards a closed-won deal was simple.

#4. Create obligation

The last rule of Joe’s sales philosophy is to create obligation, asking yourself: What can I do that doesn’t cost my buyer anything but maybe a couple of seconds or minutes of their time? What can I give without getting anything in return?

By giving without conditions, you can create a relationship with your prospective customers, putting them in a position to feel obligated to give something back — whether it’s a few minutes of their time or a signature on the dotted line.

Joe did this by hand-delivering packages back at ADP. He did that with his business development program, providing value to customers in the form of webinars. And he continued to do that here.

He created a direct line of communication with his contacts over their internal Microsoft Teams chat, answering the buyers’ questions in real time over their preferred channel.

“She had a question and that was my #1 priority. I was right there, all of the time.”

With his name in their team account, it couldn’t be helped to consider him as already a part of their team.

Ad hoc questions turned into daily communication turned into video calls. He was easy to work with, respectful, and incredibly accommodating. With his finger on the pulse, he created a relationship primed for close.

“I got them to the point where they thought, ‘We’re going to listen when he talks’.”

And they did.

After 2 months of contract negotiations, almost as if it were scripted, they gave the $2M verbal on his bosses’ birthday.

Despite it all, Joe says, “I still haven’t done as much as I would like.”

I wouldn’t bet on any signs of Joe slowing down.

Nominate A Seller

Do you know a “World’s Best Seller”? Send ‘em my way! Email karli.stone[at] with your nomination.

We’ll see you next week for our next issue of World’s Best Sellers, only from your friends at

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