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The ASLAN Story

The origins and evolution of the ASLAN brand.

"It all started with a book."

As told by Tom Stanfill, CEO

In December of 1995, I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia written by C.S. Lewis to my two young boys. It’s a series of books set in the mystical land of Narnia that appeals to both children and adults. Much like the Lord of the Rings, the story is filled with deep meaning about good and evil, with creatures foreign to this world. The villain is the white witch and the hero is a lion named Aslan.

If you had to characterize Aslan in one word, it would be servant. Yes, he was the most powerful creature in Narnia but instead of leveraging that power and strength to serve himself, he chose to serve others. I instantly knew that this lion called Aslan captured the essence of what we were about. But I’m getting a little ahead of our story ...

Tab & Our Inside Sales Class

Tab Norris and I ran a large inside sales organization and we were good at what we did.

Selling and prospecting over the phone was tough and we needed a training program. As we explored all the traditional sales methodologies, we quickly discovered they failed to address the unique challenges of selling over the phone. Worse, the programs perpetuated the adversarial relationship – the root cause of why selling is so difficult. So we decided to build our own program based on what had worked for us individually for years.

We began training hundreds of bright-eyed sales reps with no previous experience. They immediately recognized they were learning a radical approach to selling.

We taught our people to tell the truth and to represent all of the customer’s options – even the ones we don’t offer.

We taught them that the receptivity of the customer is actually more important than the message. If the soil isn’t fertile, the seed (your message) will never germinate.

We preached that our motive as a sales rep is ultimately transparent and if the customer’s needs are put first then our needs will ultimately be met.


We told them to stop pulling the rope and start dropping the rope – to communicate, when early in the sales process, that their product or service may not be a fit. We taught them to ask permission instead of attempting to force the customer to stay on the phone.

We instilled the belief that the best response to an objection is the truth.

We convinced our class of sales reps that if we can’t articulate the customer’s point of view as well or better than they can, we will never build a foundation to be heard. We also taught them that all assumptions are arrogant.

We taught them to serve more — to care more, to learn more, and to do more.

We simply taught them to be Other-Centered.

Two Guys in a Basement

Tab and I left our previous company around the same time in December 1995 without a clear game plan.

At lunch one day we started asking each other: was this sales training thing a viable opportunity? Did we have something here?

It was at that very lunch that we talked through specifics of what could be and decided right then and there to take a leap of faith.

We are going to do this. We are going to launch this training business together.

So off we went. We were broke and in a makeshift workspace in Tab’s basement. I had four kids and no definitive plan.

We needed to close a client by January 1 to stay afloat. That’s when Tab and I started cold calling and somehow, we landed a client within two weeks. 


We were scared to death but we went in and presented our printouts and transparencies … and fortunately, people loved it!

What happened next surprised us. A large company asked if they could audit our training program. Nervously we agreed. Soon thereafter, we were hired to train their sales team on our radical approach to selling and Other-Centered® Selling was born.

A new passion emerged – a passion to carry this message to the marketplace. 

As I thought about embarking on this new journey, a line from that book I had read to my sons captured it well: “Aslan was on the move.”


ASLAN On the Move

One key way we picked up clients early on was walking trade shows. I’d walk and talk to the people who were selling. We picked shows in value jet cities because they were cheap to fly to.

I had to go there in person because we didn’t have anything: we didn’t have literature or brochures to send.

So they’d say, “I want some information.” I’d say, “The best way to see what we do is for me to show you in person!” So I’d build the program and fly out and meet them.

We knew we needed to validate many of the things we’d built into our program, so we contracted with two PhDs to ensure the principles and practices we were presenting were sound. The program got sharper, although all of the core tenets remained the same.

In 1999, I got a meeting with FedEx to do a free training workshop. That was a turning point that translated into training 150 people and securing one of our first enterprise contracts.

Just the Beginning

Tab and I declared on that day that when we got to $1 million we would go to Hawaii. Around 2000, we had achieved just that and also signed a contract with Getty Images. It was not only a big client but turned into a compelling case study. The power of that case study took us all over the world.

In 2002, we signed Schneider Electric. In 2004, we signed Merck. By 2018, we had signed American Airlines.

Over time, we made our training more robust. We kept listening to clients. They asked questions we hadn’t thought of and we reacted by further customizing or developing additional processes or content to fit their needs.


Two Truths We (Still) Live By


Every company is unique. What worked was not delivering an ASLAN program but making it our client's program. It didn't require more investment, it just required listening and building a process to serve each unique customer.


What we are passionate about is transformation. We didn't want to just train but leverage our experience as sales leaders and help organizations transform.


ASLAN is still about the same principles I was passionate about in 1996:

●    A customer's willingness to listen is far more important than your ability to communicate.
●    Control is just an illusion and, when we apply pressure, it robs us of the opportunity to influence.
●    The customer will not listen to our point of view until we validate their point of view.
●    You are more fulfilled and successful when you make a decision to serve your customers.

Now more than ever, I am passionate about carrying this message to the market.