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Buying Happens In The Absence Of Selling

by David Brock on May 22nd, 2014

In my post, Principles Of Sales, Part 1, Interactions Between People, Brian MacIver  (@Palayo) made a brilliant observation–frankly something that I hadn’t paid much attention to.

We tend to think Buying and Selling go hand in hand.  But as Brian points out, there’s a huge amount of buying that happens without selling!  It’s easy to understand–think of all the ecommerce sites (both B2C and B2B), think of rich electronic trading networks, or even the simple “re-order/re-stock” transactions that happen every day.

It’s easy to think this is limited to “transactional or commoditized items,”  but increasingly we see it in more complex buying.  Think of many of the cloud based services we buy–without sales involvement.  Look at a lot of the Sales 2.0 tools, anything that is a “freemium.”  Years ago, much of this would have been unimaginable, but now huge amounts of buying happens in the absence of selling.  Likewise, we know the data about how much of customer buying cycles are completed before sales is engaged.

This isn’t just a shift in channels–for example a move from field/face to face, to inside, or channels.  It’s a wholesale change in how people buy.

Does this spell doom and gloom for the profession of sales? Absolutely not, but I think it accentuates the importance of the basic principles of selling.

There is no reason to engage and Interact, if the sales person is a talking brochure, or just a pitch-person.  The customer has far better sources of information about products or solutions.

So to sell, we have to create compelling reasons to Interact–I think these have to do with the other principles of sales–Exchanging Value, Compelling Needs To Change, Continual Learning/Improvement.  Those provide the content and context of the Interaction.

But, there needs to be Interaction Competence, as well.  Interactive Competence is described by Neil Rackham in his 1971 book, Developing Interactive Skills.  I think there are some interesting concepts in this–concepts that fly in the face of much current “wisdom” in sales.  One of the most critical, there is no “right way” to interact–so if you are looking for answers, how to’s, you are barking up the wrong tree.

There is a “situational dependence,” driving the “appropriate interaction.”  Being able to recognize this, having the fluidity/nimbleness/agility to adapt our “interaction” is critical to having an impact.

Interactive success is a skill–we can develop and improve our abilities to effectively engage and manage interactions with our customers/colleagues.  Our interactive success is not predictable based on intelligence, personality, knowledge, or attitude.

I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks, but Brian’s insights are brilliant, and I wanted to bring them into the discussion.

Thank you Brian!

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4 Comments
  1. David,

    Let me see you that brilliant observation, and raise you another (albeit maybe not as brilliant).

    If we make the selling experience a lot more like the buying experience, more buying happens.

    This means detaching from the sale as a goal, objective or outcome. Instead, focus on helping the buyer buy. That way, the sale becomes a collateral effect, a side benefit, a residual outcome.

    It makes all the difference in the world to the buyer; as you note, they’re perfectly comfortable buying on their own, all we have to is replicate the experience when the need to interact with a seller.

    • Actually Charlie, it’s quite brilliant (As anyone would expect coming from you)!

      We tend to focus so much on selling–but the easier way to connect and interact with the customer is focusing on their buying! Whether it’s creating a need to buy (perhaps through Insight), or helping facilitate their buying process, they are much more interested in connecting and interacting if we focus on what concerns them–and, by the way, we get a PO at the end.

      Great clarification Charlie! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for kicking the whole thing off Dave,
    and a welcome contribution from Charlie Green.

    Indeed, there is NO greater compliment from a Buyer than them telling their Salesperson:
    “You were really easy to buy from!”

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