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To Buy is Human – Approaching Buyers the Way They Buy

People act on emotion and justify with logic. From complex to completely transactional, impulse purchases, emotions drive buying decisions. The examples are legion and science is stacking up one study after another that demonstrate how emotion influences the choices we make.

Daniel Pink says that to sell is human, likewise to buy is human. Though as humans we are certain that we’re making choices based on rational logic, our best interests, or organized facts, science says that we often don’t.

Emotion is why well-educated executives make multi-million dollar decisions with massive implications to their companies because they feel that one sales team cares about them more than another.

At a wine tasting party where researchers placed the price of the wine on the wine bottles, people exclaimed that wine with the higher price tag tasted better, even though every bottle was filled with the same low-cost wine.

In another study, German beer hall music lilted from the liquor store’s speakers on Tuesdays and French music on Wednesdays. Correspondingly German beer sales went up on Tuesdays with French wine sales increasing on Wednesdays.

On the sidewalk outside the store, researchers peered into brown bags and interviewed the patrons to learn why they purchased the beer or wine. Most shoppers gave logical reasons for the purchase: Saw it in a magazine, recommended by a friend, cooking steaks tonight, like the taste premium beer.

As humans, it is important that our self-image correlate with our decisions. So, we fall on logic to justify subconscious, emotional buying behavior – thus avoiding the pain of cognitive dissonance.

Despite all the tools, information, and data at their fingertips in our internet connected world, buyers continue to make irrational decisions. Am I saying that product features, quality, specs, delivery options and speed, service, technology, locations, price, and other tangible attributes of your offering don’t matter? Of course, not. These things absolutely matter – all are tickets to the game.

However, the sales profession inclusive of salespeople, sales trainers, sales leaders, and the marketing teams that support them are and have been, under the collective delusion that buyers make logical decisions that are in their own or their company’s best interest. That they weigh decisions rationally and choose options that make logical sense.

You Don’t Need to Look Far for Proof

Evidence upon evidence and data stacked on data refute this assumption. Frankly, you don’t need to look far for proof. I have no doubt that you’ve been frustrated with a prospect into which you’ve poured heart and soul. You’ve built the case why they should do business with you. You’ve analyzed their current situation and shown them how you can save them money, time, stress, and offer better service.

The case, the proof was irrefutable, and your references impeccable. There is even a compelling trigger event to drive urgency. Yet, instead of signing your agreement, they gave your competitor who’d taken them for granted, provided shoddy service, pissed them off, and overbilled them for the headache, a second chance. I know, I’ve been there and it’s maddening.

If we were to ask your buyer why he chose to remain with a vendor that was not working in his best interest, he would lead off with a number of what he felt like were logical, rational reasons. But refuting and arguing the facts would get you nowhere. The buyer would just dig in, unmovable.

What he would be unable to explain or unwilling to admit is his fear of making a mistake; or that there was just something about you that, at the sub-conscious level, he didn’t trust; or that because he avoids conflict, firing his current vendor would put him in an uncomfortable position. Layers of emotions – conscious and sub-conscious – driving his irrational choice. Yet he explains his decision in completely rational terms.

When All Things are Equal

As a sales professional understanding how emotions dominate and drive buying decisions is critical to supercharging your income and advancing your career.

When all things are equal, and in today’s marketplace there are rarely huge gaps or differences between competitors (at least from the prospect’s viewpoint), your ability to both influence the emotions of your prospects while regulating your own disruptive emotions, as you move deals through the sale pipe, gives you a distinct competitive edge.

Emotions are difficult to wrap our arms around and are sometimes hard to face. It’s so much easier to pitch the features of a widget than turn on empathy and tune into emotions. The brutal, inconvenient truth is you can pitch, challenge, teach, and offer insight to your heart’s content but it will not matter because, People buy for their reasons, not yours.

Approach Buyers the Way They Buy

Sales and buying are woven into the imperfect fabric of human emotions. No matter what you sell, your sales cycle, or the complexity of the sales and buying process, emotions play a crucial role in the outcomes of your sales conversations, interactions, and deals.

Sales EQ - Emotions Drive Buying Decisions

Most salespeople begin the sales process from a position of logic and over the course of the sales process shift towards emotion. On the other hand, buyers tend to begin the buying process at the emotional level and over time shift towards logic.

At the beginning of the sales process the buyer is asking a basic question about the salesperson: Do I like you?

In the same moment, the seller is delivering a pitch on product features they believe will generate interest from the buyer.

Few things make sellers more unlikable than pitching.

At the end of the sales process when the buyer is asking rational questions, putting objections on the table, and negotiating, the seller is reacting emotionally to perceived rejection, desperate not to lose the deal.

And so, it goes throughout the buying journey. At the emotional level, the parties are perpetually out of sync.

Of course, I’m not blind to the oversimplification of this example. Human interaction is complex and quite often non-linear. However, dealing with people in the context of sales conversations doesn’t need to be overly complex or overwhelming.

There are a handful of principles and frameworks that guide most human behavior most of the time. When you learn to master these simple frameworks, you’ll become a master of emotions and thus, influence and persuasion.

I’ve already shared with you one of the most cogent truths in sales. People buy for their reasons, not yours. It follows then that to be effective, you must approach people the way they buy rather than the way you sell.

Sales EQ: The New Psychology of Selling

Sales EQ Book Cover - by Jeb Blount Sales Specific Emotional IntelligenceLegions of salespeople and their leaders are coming face to face with a cold hard truth: what once gave salespeople a competitive edge—controlling the sales process, command of product knowledge, an arsenal of technology, and a great pitch—are no longer guarantees of success. Yet this is where the vast majority of the roughly $20 billion spent each year on sales training goes.  It’s no wonder many companies are seeing 50 percent or more of their salespeople miss quota.

Yet, in this new paradigm, an elite group of sales professionals are crushing it. In our age of technology where information is ubiquitous and buyer attention spans are fleeting, these superstars have learned how to leverage a new psychology of selling—Sales EQ—to keep prospects engaged, create true competitive differentiation, as well as shape and influence buying decisions. These top earners are acutely aware that the experience of buying from them is far more important than products, prices, features, and solutions.

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Do You Need to Love or be Passionate About What You Sell to be Good at Selling It?

Do you have to love or be passionate about your product in order to sell it?

This is an oft asked question that usually generates passionate debate. Of course there are those reps who are lucky enough to work for companies that sell products and services they can really fall in love with.

The problem for most of us, though, is we sell stuff like industrial pumps, nuts and bolts, uniforms, and other business services that frankly illicit little passion.

I’ve spent most of my career selling products and services that are mundane and boring. I did not love my product. I was not passionate about it. Yet, I’ve been phenomenally successful in sales.

Now let me be clear. Not loving what I am selling is not the same as not believing in what I am selling. There is a difference. I’ve always believed that what I was selling could help my prospect. If I thought my product would not solve my customer’s problem or that it would not live up to my promises then, yes, it would be very hard to sell it and still retain any integrity.

So, if I did not love my product how was I able to sell it?

What I found that I loved was process of learning about my prospect’s business, understanding their problems, and showing them how I could help them. I enjoy and am passionate about the process of interacting, building relationships, solving prospects’ problems, and of course closing the deal.

To me that is a far more motivating driver than the product or service itself.

How about you?

Sales is Schrödinger’s Cat

Sales is an art …

Sales is a science …

Sales is a numbers game …

Sales is hard . . .

Sales is easy . . .

Sales is complex . . .

Sales is simple . . .

Sales is simple but not easy . . .

Sales is a process . . .

Sales is about relationships . . .

Sales is challenging . . .

Sales is emotional  . . .

Sales is logical . . .

Sales is consultative . . .

Sales is a language of questions . . .

Sales is just a conversation . . .

Sales is human . . .

Sales is life . . .

Sales is changing . . .

Sales has changed . . .

Sales is dead . . .

Sales is everything . . .

Sales is just one person solving another person’s problems . . .

Sales is . . .

If you’ve been in sales or around the sales profession for more than five minutes it’s likely that you’ve heard sales described in one of these or a dozen other ways salespeople, sales leaders, sales trainers, and executives attempt to categorize sales into a neat little one-size-fits-all box.

Yet, as much as we try to stuff it into that box it will not comply. Sales defies a singular, ubiquitous description. It will not comply with cliches and generalities. Sales is a shape shifter that at once seems ordered and easy to understand and simultaneously is baffling and tremendously complex.

More books are written about sales than any other business discipline. Sales experts abound – you’ll find one on every corner. The experts write books, develop training programs, and give speeches in which they tell you that their “Sales is . . .” is the one true way to success. These experts pander for your attention with proclamations that – “everything in sales has changed;” “buyers have changed;” “old school selling doesn’t work;” and on and on and on.

Each publishing season ushers in a new set of everything-as-we-know-it-in-sales-has-changed-books that attempt to package up “Sales is” with a tidy little bow. New sales training programs are marketed to  C-level executives and Sales VPs who continue on their insatiable, quixotic crusade for sales process nirvana.

Yet, sales refuses to comply.

My library is thick with sales books. Most of them are formulaic facsimiles of the hundreds of other sales books that ply you with a dire prognostication that everything in sales has changed, promise that the information in the book will lead you into sales salvation, and then go on to regurgitate the same shit that you’ve read dozens of times before, disguised with different labels and idiotic acronyms.

This is why so many salespeople and executives are left scratching their heads wondering what sales really is. Sadly, it reminds me of the question that Bill Clinton so famously asked under oath:  It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is?”

The real answer is that “Sales is,” all of the above. There is no single word or phrase that can define sales. This is because Sales exists in an ever changing business environment; is impacted by unique products and services; is transactional, short-cycle, long-cycle, simple, and complex; is local, national, global; is never one-size-fits-all.

Most importantly Sales is woven into the imperfect and unpredictable fabric of human behavior and emotions. This is why Sales eludes definition and why each account, prospect, deal, interaction, and conversation within the sales process are unique. As long as humans are involved, what “Sales is . . .” can never be defined because at once, all definitions are both true and false.

Sales is . . . Schrödinger’s cat.

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Always Ask for the Next Step on Sales Calls

Why do so many deals stall? Why do you feel like you are chasing your tail – JUST CHECKING IN – with prospects that won’t return your calls or respond to your emails? Simple – after your last sales call (phone or in-person) you left without a firm commitment to the next step.

Most salespeople fail to ask and gain a commitment to the next step when on the phone or in face to face sales conversations with prospects. Other than poor qualifying, the failure to set the next step is why deals stall in the pipeline. Setting the next step is easy – ask for it.

Lesson: Never, ever, ever leave a sales conversation with a prospect without setting the next step!

5 Top Sales Experts – Dispel Lies and Myths that are Holding You Back

I recently joined four of my best friends on the 2015 Virtual Sales Kickoff. We took aim at some of the lies and myths that are hold you and other salespeople back. Almost 5000 people worldwide attended this live event and now you can too via this replay.

Join Anthony Iannarino, Mike Weinberg, Mark Hunter,  Miles Austin and I for real actionable, advice that will give you a competitive edge in 2015.

This is video is so good you’ll want to show it to your entire sales team.