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Telling Ain't Selling

by Abhay Padgaonkar  |  
August 15, 2006
  |  16,285 views

A fundamental question in selling is not why people sell, but why people buy.

People buy for their own reasons—not for the seller's. In fact, their motivation to buy may have very little to do with the reasons sellers think they should buy. When it comes down to it, people buy something to meet their needs or resolve the problems they are facing. According to Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling, people decide to buy when "the pain of the problem and desire for a solution have been built to the point where they are greater than the cost of the solution."

A good sales professional can help customers come to that realization. But it doesn't happen as easily as you might think. Despite the fact that most people learn the basics of conducting needs analysis, customizing solutions, and linking benefits to pain in their Sales 101 class, when they are out in the real world they forget to bring these classroom lessons to life, and somehow their competence, composure, and confidence evaporates. Faced with self-induced, pressure-filled selling situations, they confuse telling with selling.

Equal and Opposite Reaction

As dairy farmers are apt to say, "Cows don't give milk. You have to take it from them." The same is true with selling. Nobody just gives you a sale. You have to take it. But how you "take it" is very counterintuitive. A natural tendency of most sellers is to rush in. And as the Newtonian principle outlines, the equal and opposite reaction on part of the buyers is to shut them out.


Like milking a cow, selling can be a delicate operation. While a customer probably won't threaten you with a hoof, you're still faced with the fact that the harder you push, the more pushback you get. Why? As President Truman once said: "The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it." Nobody likes to be told what to do—not even children.

Imagine going to a doctor who gives you the same prescription he gave the previous patient because it worked. By not listening, by not being inquisitive, by not clarifying assumptions, sellers come across as not caring—or caring more about themselves—and perpetuate the stereotypes of an arrogant, pushy salesman we all love to hate.

Breathing Your Own Exhaust


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Abhay Padgaonkar is a management consultant, author, and speaker, and the founder and president of Innovative Solutions Consulting, LLC (www.innovativesolutions.org). Contact him via abhay@pobox.com.

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