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Stop Wasting Your Time Selling!

by David Brock on January 14th, 2013

A sales person’s job is to sell–so why would I recommend professional sales people stop wasting their time selling?  The real issue is that too many sales people waste time selling to people who have no need to buy.

Sales people make 100’s of calls every day.  Mindlessly calling endless lists of people.  They don’t know anything about those people, their companies, but their name is on the list so they call.  Or marketing has provided a lead.  Perhaps someone requested a white paper or information.  The lead is given to the sales person to call.  The sales person dials.  Inevitably, they go into voicemail.  The sales person may leave a voicemail, “I’d like to talk to you about my products/services.  I think you might be interested.”  Call after call.  Sometimes, they reach a human being.  “Do you buy these products and services…….I’d like to tell you about my products and how they will help you.”

But what they miss is:  Does the customer have a need to buy?

They may be an ideal match for the sales person’s product and services.   They may have, in fact, bought before.  But the issue is, do they have a need to buy now?

No amount of selling, no amount of persuasion will get a person to buy if they have no need to buy.

So rather than selling, perhaps we are better served, and better serve our prospects, by searching buyers–that is people who have a need to buy.

How do we find people with a need to buy?

Well, it may seem obvious, but ask.

“Come on Dave, we always ask!  Stop the double talk!”

Yes, sales people ask, but they are probably posing the wrong question, they ae asking, “Do  you need my product, service?”  That’s the wrong question.

We should be asking about their businesses?  Are you achieving your goals?  What challenges do you have in running your business?  Are you exploring ways to expand your relationships with your customers?  What are you doing to reduce your operational expenses?  What are you doing to improve your quality?  How is your competition changing?  What does that mean to you?

But what about customers who don’t have a need to buy?  How do we create it?

Here’s where we might get customers to consider new possibilities.  The opportunity to teach or challenge them can create an awareness  and a need to buy.  Help them identify opportunities they may be missing.  Help them see ways to better serve their customers or grow their businesses.  Help them understand how they might become more efficient and effective in their operations.  We have to help create a new vision and an urgency to change.

“But Dave,” some say,”That’s just a whole lot of extra work!  Why do we have to change?”

Well, it’s pretty simple.  What you are currently doing isn’t working!  Customers are completing as much as 70% of the buying process without us.  More and more sales people aren’t making their numbers.  Or the volume of mindless activity sky-rockets.  All these impact sales success.

Perhaps the biggest reason is customers simply don’t care about you and your product.  They care about what they care about.  So isn’t it much easier and much more productive if we talked to customers about what they care about.

Stop wasting your time selling, focus on finding people who want to buy and help them buy!


  1. What Dave is talking about is nothing less than a paradigm shift in your entire sales approach/philosophy. I hope you’ll memorize the questions provided in paragraph 11; those questions will make a fortune for you, if you’re smart enough to utilize them!

    • Bob, thanks for the comment. While you are right with the “paradigm shift,” it shouldn’t be. The basic principles that great sales people have always practiced have been focusing on finding buyers, not selling. That you rightfully call it a paradigm shift is an indication of how far we need to go.

  2. Excellent blog post, Dave!
    You hit the nail on the head, as Bob did with his comment as well! It’s about problem solving and value creation. Then, the result is a closed deal. Not the other way around.
    It’s the shift from working inside-out to working outside-in. If we really make our customers our design point, we will simplify a lot, and we will create a lot more value, and we will easily play another role in the customer’s perception.
    In addition to all the excellent questions you already listed, I’d like to add a few questions regarding the customer’s agreement / stakeholder network. Who is the typical executive owner of a certain business problem (the person we need to sell the vision), who are other typical impacted stakeholder roles, for instance the detail oriented technical person, the business case persons or committees, and the security, governance or compliant related persons.
    Also, the question “why is this a problem – right now?” can help to understand the background.

    But, we have two forces that are fighting against this shift:
    The organizational drag (how much is the product push mode implemented in an organization’s processes and sales and sales management culture) and the comfort zone drag (people’s comfort zone to push products rather than communicating what it could MEAN for the customer in terms of business value.
    Also, we shouldn’t underestimate the skill shift we need in our sales forces. Business acumen is not a nice add-on, it’s just a basic prerequisite… and much more is required, business development and business consulting skills,and so forth…

    • Tamara, as always, you cover the stuff I should have covered. One of the points you raised, that I’d like to reinforce is the tremendous inertia the rest of the organization puts on sales people. The whole organization must be outwar in focused, not just sales. They must create programs, strategies, and support for sales people wanting to engage the customers in talk about their businesses. Thanks for the great comments!

  3. Dave,

    Interesting approach but what you are suggesting means that you have to know a good deal about the customer. In order to do that you have to connect with them. What are your views on overcoming the initial barriers where the customer may feel you are trying to sell them but really you want to have a conversation to get to know the customer better so you can identify the more meaningful opportunities.

    • Khuram: Thanks for the questions. We have to do our homework–we have to know as much as we can about the customer as possible. If we can’t find specifics through research, then we should know about their industry, markets, etc. Finally, we have to engage the customer in talking about their company and what they are trying to achieve, learning as much as we can. This provides us the information to position our solutions in a way that is meaningful and creates value.

      Without this, we are just pitching–wasting our time and the customer’s time. Regards, Dave

  4. Good post.

    I like to use a football metaphor: “Until you control the 50-yard line, you can’t sell” In football it is easy since you have markers, but in sales it is very difficult to find this 50-yard marker. Spend more time on this than anything else. Sounds simple but lot of sales is lost and time wasted because you just were not positioned well in the account.

    I agree with you and say stop wasting time selling and find the 50-yard line if you want to help the prospect and win the business in the process.

    • Jay, thanks for the comment. The football metaphor is good. We actually have similar indicators we can leverage in sales: Our sales process-the customer buying process, our pipelines, our account/territory plans, our call plans are all the equivalents of the football field. We establish plans and goals with each, We can measure our progress on each, we know what “yard line” we are at, whether we have to make up yardage. These are the sales person’s football field. We need to use them!

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