‘Selling’ Isn’t A Shady Practice


How do you feel about selling?  I remember buying my first used car and we ended up haggling over $25 and it took over two hours.  It was a miserable experience.  But at least I was being sold to and I could walk away.  Being the seller is worse.  What if they say no and I look stupid?  What if I have to ask my friends and risk losing their friendship?  These risks explain why we avoid selling if we can.

We hate being sold

My role as an executive coach requires me to sell.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have any work.  I needed to learn how to sell and I found a coach, Theophan McKenzie (he is really good by the way).  Amongst many things I have learned, he says ‘people love to buy but hate to be sold’.  I couldn’t agree more.  What Theophan is saying points to a critical part of selling.  Traditional sales, the type we loathe, focuses on what the salesperson needs.  I have to sell you something because I need to make a profit.  If I can persuade enough people to buy, I am happy.  This is why I find sales people pushy and unpleasant.  They don’t care about what I want.

Why do we love to buy?

Let’s flip this around.  Why do we love to buy?  It is because our needs are being met and we anticipate that satisfaction.  It feels good.  We can only do this if we understand what our customers care about and what needs they have.  These might be needs they don’t even know about.  Seth Godin has a wonderful exercise for any person engaged in selling.  It is to learn why your customer doesn’t want what you want.  Why they don’t believe the things you believe.  And why they think differently from you.  If you saw the world through their eyes, what would you see?  What do they need?

If we can do this, we are no longer selling, we are serving.  Serving their needs.  Even anticipating what they need.  When I have a relationship with a customer like this, it is a joy to be a part of.  We end up pulling on the same end of the rope.  This means we focus on generating the most value instead of haggling over the details of contracts or the price.  We build a shared commitment to generate a great outcome.

This has been one of the biggest transformations I’ve had to make running my own business.  Selling will never be easy for me.  I do know it is a lot more fun this way and I have many wonderful client relationships as a result.  I wonder if my next car buying experience will be like this?