Archive for December, 2011

Sometimes It Pays to be Negative -or- “How I sold a Computer to an Amishman”

I know I know……in sales you need to stay positive…the power of positive thinking….Yeah Yeah I know..and I get it, however once in a while it pays to be negative…..Let me tell you a story.

Years ago I was selling minicomputers to small to medium sized businesses. I represented a company known as DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation). I was working in Lancaster, PA which is the home of the Amish (or the Pennsylvania Dutch if you please).

Over lunch one day Bob, an acquaintance of mine, who sold a competitive product told me about a local company that was going to buy a computer from him and he was simply waiting for the order. It was an Amish company (EZ Manufacturing) and since they did not use electricity they were going to house it in their accountant’s office. I thought that was an interesting story, but frankly didn’t give it another thought.

Two weeks later I was demonstrating and selling computers at a business trade show in town and I see these three Amishmen coming down the aisle and Bob’s story of the computer came to mind.

As they approached the booth, I greeted them and they asked what I was selling and I told them the best minicomputer on the market. They asked me to tell them about it.

I said I would, but first I needed to know if they were from EZ Manufacturing… and they asked me why without confirming who they were.

“Well” I said…”I have a friend Bob in the computer business and he told me EZ was looking to buy a computer and he was expecting the order soon, so I would not feel right selling them anything, even though I had the best minicomputer on the market. I hope you will understand”

The leader of the group said they actually were looking for a computer and they had not made up their mind yet. That was why they were at the trade show and my friend certainly did not have an order coming. They wanted to see my machine.

Again, I said “well I can appreciate that, but I hoped they could appreciate that it simply would not be right for me to try and sell them because it would hurt Bob’s feelings”

They said they did not understand at all. “This is just business and we want to see your computer.”

I agreed with the caveat that even if they liked mine better, I probably could not sell it to them. They simply smiled and said “okay”

At that point I gave them one of the best demonstrations I ever gave and I told them about the service and the warranty information. I told them about other companies that had my system installed.

They then asked “how much does this cost?”

I told them that “I only provide pricing to prospects who were interested in buying and since I could not sell to them there was no point; and also, if I told them the price it might make my friend’s computer seem expensive”.

Long story shortened, they bought my computer. And I cannot help but think it may have been because I told them they could not buy it.

The moral of the story is that there is power in the use of negative selling tactics when used at the right time with the right prospect in the right way.

Good Selling



So They’re saying “Selling is Not About Relationships”. I’m saying Bulls..t

 According to their new book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” Matt Dixon and Bret Adamson tell us that “Selling is not about relationships”. The writers attempt to shock us with that headline in their Harvard Business Review synopsis so that we will read it and it works.

When I read the article (after being shocked by the headline) I realized that these two guys were not describing relationship selling in the same way the rest of the sales world does. They took the liberty of redefining sales types into five new categories including a.) Relationship Builders b.) Hard Workers c.) Lone Wolves d.) Reactive Problem Solvers e.) Challengers.  I have never heard of these profile types before and my impression is that they invented them to create a different perspective.

Their analysis shows that the group called “Challengers” is the most effective of the five types. But the sentence that grabs us is “Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers”. They go on to say… “Why is this? It’s certainly not because relationships no longer matter in B2B sales–that would be a naïve conclusion. Rather, what the data tell us is that it is the nature of the relationships that matter”.  They contradict their own headline.

So what is the meat of the matter? They believe that sales people who rely solely on the value of the relationship to drive sales are not effective. I agree that the relationship is not enough to drive the sale and certainly you need additional skills to close business. But all sales begin with and depend on the building of relationships. Without relationships none of the other categories above would be successful.

In my mind relationships are at the heart of all sales strategies and processes. If you are not a relationship builder, you will not be successful in sales. In my own experience over the last forty years I am convinced that strong relationships with my clients has been key in delivering all of the sales I have made. More importantly, the relationships have allowed me to secure additional sales year after year from the same clients rather than delivering one sale and walking away.

I have seen tweets and BLOGs lauding these two writers for their insight and offering up a new present day perspective on selling. I have seen other articles and BLOGs lately questioning the value of relationships in selling. My advice to my clients is to be certain their sales personnel excel at relationship building, because in the end you can’t sell without that skill.

And of course my own view of the thought “Selling is not about relationships” is…..bullshit.

Thoughtfully yours


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