Don’t Sell. Help Buy.

What’s the most recent thing you bought? Was it a coffee? A TV? A song from iTunes?

How about the most recent thing you were sold? Or at least that someone tried to sell you…

Due to the fact that the result often looks similar, in that money changes hands in exchange for a product or service, we often fail to distinguish between the two – buying and being sold. However, as you answered each of the original questions, you could probably feel your mind searching for different examples when thinking of your most recent buying experience versus your most experience of being sold. If you are like most people, you enjoy “buying” and hate “being sold”.

Not surprisingly, higher ticket items such as houses and cars are often the purchases we make where we encounter the feeling of “being sold”. Here the stakes are higher. There is more money to be made – and the person you are dealing with likely faces a positive financial incentive if you buy from them right now (a commission or bonus) and punishment if you don’t (being the bottom salesperson for the month – and if sustained, perhaps even losing their job). They are motivated by both the carrot and the stick. In some situations, there is a lot of pressure placed on salespeople to “sell” and they often pass this pressure on to you.

We’re all familiar with the high pressure sales tactics that leave us feeling gross. We rush home and have a shower, hoping that the icky feeling will be washed away. In these situations, we know the intent of the salesperson is focused on their own self interest – not helping us make a wise purchasing decision for ourselves. What’s a sleazy sales experience that still sticks in your memory?

Have you ever visited an Apple store? Did you notice what the employees did? They definitely didn’t use high pressure sales tactics, such as asking, “If we find the right computer for you that meets all the criteria you have just told me are important to you, is there any reason you will not be able to buy this computer from me today?” Depending on what you were looking for you may have found the employees busied themselves by asking you questions, listening to what you said, and sharing relevant information with you.  I’ll admit, I’m often in an Apple store just to caress the latest sleek device they have on display and I’ve never felt as though I was “being sold” – but I sure felt like I wanted to buy!

Which approach works better for you, as a customer? Where would you rather shop? Where would you prefer to come back to again and again? So why would you do anything differently when you’re on the other side of the counter?

A lesson in this for all of us, whether we are preparing for a job interview, pitching an idea at work, or “selling” a used Toyota, is to avoid selling to people, and instead to remember to help people make good buying decisions.

The path to doing this? In my opinion: ask great questions, sincerely listen for what matters most, and provide relevant information.

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