Did You Sell It … Or Did They Buy It?

In the years I have worked with salespeople, researching them and interviewing them I have come to understand that sadly, too many salespeople are deluded. Having won an order they convince themselves they sold something when actually, the truth is they got the order because the customer bought from them; more of a case of ‘order taking’ than ‘needs identification and fulfilling’.


When I have put the question to them, many have asked me, “What is the difference?” believing the two are the same … but they’re not; they’re very different.

For the salesperson who can’t tell the difference, when I ask them why they are successfulchoices image sometimes yet others not they will tell me that it all comes down to being lucky, that some people will buy and some won’t – and when I question further why that difference exists they will struggle to know why. In such cases they will often accuse the prospect who didn’t buy of being dumb, claim they were misled by the prospect or that the prospect didn’t know what they wanted.  Interestingly though the salesperson has made a full pitch and put in considerable time and effort (even though some of these accusations must have been obvious earlier).  Again when questioned they say those things weren’t apparent (they weren’t looking for the signs … or don’t know what the signs are … and don’t know they should even be qualifying prospects anyway!)


Moving to the question of why the people who bought did so the salesperson who can’t tell the difference whether they are the ‘order taker’ or the ‘needs identifier and fulfiller’ will typically say something like, “The prospect bought because; they were smart”(!), because the salesperson claims to have done a great selling job (but can’t say what it was that clinched the sale), or that they bought simply because “they did!” (then they look at me like I’m dumb and ask “And why do I need to explain it to you anyway?????”) They also tell me the question about why someone bought is a dumb one – they are just pleased they got the order!)


procedure imageThe fact is though that when you look at all industries the most successful salespeople are always those who know how to identify needs and fulfil them. They know success in a sales opportunity has a reason, that the customer follows a process to buy and that they can work through that process with the prospect to give themselves an increased probability of sales success.


To know which type of salesperson you or your sales team are answer the following questions with a YES or NO response:


  1. Have you won an order (or orders) and struggle to identify why the customer bought from you?
  2. Do you struggle to identify the difference between a sales conversation where someone bought from you and one where they didn’t?
  3. Do you often win orders without having to work hard for them – in particular without having to follow up on your quotations?
  4. Do you often win orders without having to ask for commitment from your prospect(s)?
  5. Reviewing your won orders honestly, can you see that you didn’t really prove value for money or that you didn’t even have to make the case for it?
  6. Do you struggle to pinpoint the compelling reason you gave your prospect(s) to act?
  7. Do you find it difficult to recall orders you have won where you had to overcome doubts, worries or concerns your prospects raised?
  8. Do you sometimes find yourself having a sales conversation and reaching a point where you don’t really know what to say or do next – where it can even become uncomfortable?
  9. Do you often send out your quotes, make your pitch (face-to-face or over the telephone), finish your demonstrations and then leave it with your prospects to act / make a decision?
  10. If you asked your salespeople why they won the order, and then asked your customer why they placed it – are you likely to get two different answers?

If you can answer YES to two or more of the above questions there is a very high probability that you really aren’t selling … and that your customers are actually buying from you. This can be the case where a product or service is unique, advanced compared to the competition’s offering, where you work for a leading brand (or at least one which is very well publicised) or where your pricing strategy is very low.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with that and you can have high sales results that way, it is important to recognise that you aren’t making things happen, your customers are.  You need to know this and be aware that the time any of these things change and you no longer have such advantages working for you your results will suffer as a consequence.  In other words if you answer YES to two or more questions then your sales results and earnings can really benefit from understanding and applying a structured selling process.

Learn how the most successful salespeople move from first contact with a prospect through to winning business (from interested to sold) so you can achieve better results now!  Click here for details on my ebook The 7 Stages of a Sale – How to Get From Interested to Sold module.


About trenthamwhitmore

Salesperson, trainer, author, speaker, student and forever curious about what makes top performing salespeople so much more successful than their contempories.
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