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



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

  1. 1 Donna December 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    What a great story! I had a similar situation many years ago when I was selling Credit (Accounts Receivable) Insurance.
    My prospect told me that I had competition and that they were cheaper. I proceeded to explain that was fine, and that they were a fine company. I went through our proposal highlighting the many differences where we were giving more coverage.
    In the end he wanted my policy for that lower price.
    I told him that I respected his request, however I thought it better for him to go with the competitor’s policy.
    When he asked me why I told him that I do not tend to work with someone because of money – it is about the relationship. And while I understand his need to save money we were obviously looking for something different.
    I left his office with a shake of the hand and did not give him time to talk.
    I did NOT write his policy even though he called me and said I could have it for the lower price (which by the way I could have probably gotten but with reduced coverage).
    This gentleman sent me 4 or 5 leads that year and told people they had to buy from me because I was willing to walk away from a sale if I could not have a relationship.
    He came to me the next year and I offered the same proposal and he took it no questions asked.

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