Don't Sell the Way you Buy

I was concluding a keynote when someone raised their hand.

“Keith that sounds too salesy. I could never do that with a prospect.” He was referring to the qualifying questions that I claimed will bring in more sales.

“Sounds too salesy? To whom?” I asked.

“To me!” the person replied. “There’s no way that would work with my customers.”

“Do they sound salesy to them?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” the person said. “I really don’t know. I’ve never used these questions before.”

The lesson? Do not sell the way you buy.

Now, you may feel that I’m contradicting a universal selling principle. Conventional sales wisdom suggests how important it is to empathize and sympathize with your customers.

However, there’s a very fine line between understanding and respecting someone’s decision making process; and assuming that everyone makes a purchasing decision in the same manner that you do. Moreover, there is also the faulty assumption that your prospects respond in a similar fashion to the type of sales approach and the type of salesperson that you respond to and would buy from.

If you sell the way you make a purchasing decision, you’re instilling your values and beliefs on the customer, assuming they purchase the same or in a similar way that you do. The result? More objections, less sales.

Let’s defuse a costly myth. The old adage of putting yourself in their shoes is really a dangerous assumption that destroys many selling opportunities. When you “look through their eyes” or attempt to see things how you assume your prospects see them, it is still really what you see, not what they see.

You then develop a sales process based on how you think they buy rather than how they actually make a decision because how you think they buy is really how you buy.

To step into a customer’s shoes, you need to know how your customers think and what is important to them. The only way to uncover how someone makes a purchasing decision and the criteria they use to do so is by asking better questions.

If this belief of selling the way you buy is preventing you from taking certain actions or asking certain questions when on a sales call, then what about the other things that you are doing or saying which you think are safe to you but in fact, are not safe or comfortable for the person you are speaking with because you’re still operating off the same tool; costly assumptions!

Don’t believe everything you sell, I mean, tell yourself. People who sell in the same manner in which they buy are sure to have a lower number of satisfied clients. Take a look at some different scenarios where utilizing your own beliefs, assumptions and value system can have a detrimental effect on your performance.

  1.  Since Carol usually shops around before choosing which company to buy from she couldn’t expect people to make a purchase during the initial sales call.
  2.  When Mike makes a purchasing decision, he usually purchases the least expensive item available. Although he represents one of the highest quality products, his sales were always at the lowest profit margin.
  3.  Robert hated hearing sales presentations. His sales calls lasted 30 minutes, while the average time during a sales call should be between two to three hours.
  4.  Dana was indecisive. As such, she offered her customers many different options. The end result was confusion on the customer’s end, on Dana’s end and no sale.
  5.  There was never a “right time” for Bob to purchase a new car. When a prospect explains to Bob that they have other commitments, he understood and tells them that he would call back when the time was right.

If you sell in the same manner as you buy, you are instilling your beliefs onto your prospects. Since every prospect’s needs, priorities, goals and buying habits are different, it’s up to you to uncover and be sensitive to the unique process they follow to arrive at a purchasing decision.

Learn to adapt your selling approach around the expectations, values and personality of each prospect. In the end, people make purchasing decisions based on their style of buying, not yours. 

Keith Rosen, mcc, is a sales and business coach and the author of Innovative Selling and Time Management for Sales Professionals. He provides result-oriented business coaching and training to help clients maximize their personal potential and build their businesses. He can be contacted at (888) 262-2450, at or on the Web at