Thinking Like a Buyer

People hate to be sold but they love to buy.

The essence of Stop Acting Like A Seller and Start Thinking Like A Buyer is that to succeed in sales, you need to transform a selling experience into a buying experience.

You do this by asking great questions that uncover whether a fit exists between what your customer needs and what you have to offer.

The Five Rules of Buying

Rule 1: You will sell significantly more if you think like a buyer, rather than if you act like a seller.

Rule 2: The quality of your business is directly linked to the desire of your prospective customer to want to have a conversation with you.

Rule 3: The size of your business is directly linked to your ability to ask customer questions that engender thinking.

Rule 4: High-pressure environments tend to create little exchange, which results in a lack of meaningful dialogue.

Rule 5: Low-pressure environments tend to create a greater exchange and customer receptivity. *Note: not saying "no pressure." There has to be some pressure to move the process forward.

Develop Interest So Customers Will Hear You

1. Research to find interesting things to open the dialogue.

In order to get your prospect interested in having a conversation with you, you need to grab their attention quickly. One way is to begin by saying something interesting and unique that the prospect didn't know about.

For instance, if you were selling a drug for depression, you could say to the doctor you are calling: “I have been doing some research on the Internet and I was fascinated to learn who is considered the father of depression. Is that something they taught you in medical school by chance?”

Now, you'll either give the other person the opportunity to seem smart or to learn something new. Both are pathways into a deeper dialogue.

2. Use openings that create safe environments.

People will only enter into a dialogue with you if you create a safe environment. That means that you need to make them feel like you are not going to give them a high-pressure sales pitch. 

"We do business with a lot of companies and we are proud of our work, but that doesn’t mean we are right for you. At the end of the day, the only way I will know whether our offering is a fit for what you are trying to do is to understand more about your situation. Before I launch into how great we are, can I ask you a few questions?”

Then he'll move into questions about how they landed in their role and what they are trying to accomplish this quarter or year.

3. Bring value to the interaction before you start the sales conversation.

Even before you have your first meeting, share something helpful with your prospect. For instance, you might send them a book you know addresses a key challenge they are facing and include a personalized note inside.

It's about finding something that's inexpensive, unexpected and thoughtful before you know for certain what they treasure, but not before you know what’s important to them.

4. Make connections that can help the customer/prospect.

You've probably got the idea now that people naturally want to associate with people who bring value to their life. Another easy and free way to do that is to connect them with other people you know will help them.

5. Be crystal clear about what you need to know and go about finding that out.

If you want your prospect to be interested during your first interaction, you need to be ready to talk about the things your prospect will want to hear about. Make sure you are ready.

Engage Customers in Meaningful Dialogue

There are six principles to keep in mind during this stage:

1. Prepare for the call, not because it’s important to you, but because it’s important to them.

If the call is worth making, it's worth preparing for. That's because the thing you need to do immediately after getting their attention is to help them understand that you are both credible and trustworthy.

The only way to accomplish this is to prepare. Show them you value their time, and you are much more likely to get more of it.

2. Focus on their issues and concerns, not yours.

If you show up and immediately do a dog and pony show (the fancy name for this is a capabilities presentation), you are not focussing on their issues and concerns.

If you are genuinely curious about other people, ask serious questions. Listen attentively to their answers this way you can have a dialogue. Also, understanding your prospect's challenges - especially the ones that they have been trying to solve, but haven't cracked the code on - is where the golden nuggets are anyways.

3. Establish a safe environment through the words you use; your goal is to understand their situation, not necessarily to make a sale.

At the beginning of the visitor relationship, your goal is to make them feel safe. This means that your job at this point is to learn, not to sell. You want to ask insightful questions so that you open their mind to possibilities they may not have considered.

Just ensure that the ask questions you ask don't burst the bubble of safety. For instance, asking a question that, if answered honestly, would make your prospect feel bad.

4. Encourage a dialogue; don’t sound like the typical seller.

There's an easy way to ensure that you don't talk like a typical seller - by coming in with the mindset that you are there to learn - whether or not your company or service can be of value to them.

5. Remember all conversations are voluntary, and the ideal listen/talk ratio is 50/50.

There's not much more that needs to be said, because you've heard this before.

6. A meaningful dialogue begins with intent and ends with your assessment.

Finally, meaningful dialogue should end with your assessment of whether a successful exchange happened. Did you provoke thinking? Did you create a safe environment so that the customer felt comfortable and willing to talk? Doing this reflection will allow you to learn what needs to be done better or differently next time.

Learn the Situation, Problem or Challenge

The goal in this step to determine what prospective customers want or need. It won't surprise you that the best way to do this is through more sales questions.

Sometimes, prospects are not even sure they have a problem that needs fixing. Sometimes the questions you ask will help them identify a gap in their operations that your product or service can help fix.

Good questions also give you the opportunity to learn how your customers and prospects think, which is invaluable when you move to the next stage of telling your story. 

Here are three key concepts to keep in mind while you are developing your questions:

Intent: Why am I asking this question? The answer should almost always be to learn something or uncover something that will help you see whether or not a fit exists. The goal should be to deepen understanding of the issue on both sides.

Content: What exactly do I need to know? Most of the time you need a deeper understanding of the importance and urgency of the need. Sometimes uncovering facts is the best way to do it. Probing questions that uncover facts and motivations will do just that.

Condition: As you are developing your questions, always consider how you can ask them in a non-threatening and safe way.

Ultimately, "the easiest people to sell," are the people who understand what they are trying to do, and who know what it will look like when they have success.

The more needs and wants you can uncover with questions and then address, the easier it is for the customer to buy.

That's why it's important to spend time before you meet with your prospect to ensure your questions probe hot topics that are driving individual and company behaviour. Time spent here will repay itself multiple times over as you move to the next step, which is telling your story.

Tell Your Story

When you find there's a fit between what your prospect needs and wants, and what you deliver, it's time to move into telling your story.

Here are 6 principles to keep in mind as you transition from questioning to explaining how your product/service solves their problems:

  1. Your story should be based on your competitive advantages. Your story should be about positioning, not competing.
  2. Your story should be a combination of features, benefits, questions and anecdotes. It needs to be clear, repeatable (so they can tell your story internally if needed) and powerfully told.
  3. Your story needs to contain both logic and emotion.
  4. Your story needs to be based on solving a customer want and need.
  5. Your story must help customers see there is minimal risk in doing business with you.
  6. Your story needs to be true.

Ask For a Commitment

Finally, we come to the last stage - asking for a commitment.

Asking for a commitment is different than "going in for the close." This is because closing techniques force a salesperson to adopt a behaviour that isn't natural for them, and it only serves to make your prospects uncomfortable.

A commitment, in this model, means the appropriate end to the current conversation.

With that in mind, there are six principles to consider when asking for a commitment to be made:

1. People are far more likely to change behaviour if you ask for a commitment than if you do not.

Most people will live up to commitments that they make to other people. It's a powerful psychological force that you can use to your advantage to keep the process heading towards the prospect of becoming a customer (or a customer buying more).

2. Commitment questions need to be comfortable for you and the prospect/customer.

Like every other step in the process (except telling your story), questions will be the cornerstone of your success. The key here is to make sure you ask commitment questions that are both comfortable for you to ask, and comfortable for the prospect to answer.

3. Great commitments start with pre-call planning.

Although every part of the dialogue is important, the commitment question is critical. That's why you should spend time specifically crafting the questions you'll ask.

4. Sensory trial closes make commitment questions easy to ask.

Before you ask your commitment question, it's a good idea to ask a "sensory" agreement question to make sure you are ready to move to the next step. 

Here are some examples:

  • How does that sound?
  • If it makes any sense, over the next couple of weeks, when you have an opportunity to use something like this, will you consider giving us a try?
  • Does this seem like a reasonable way to look at it?

If you get a yes, move on to the commitment question. If you get a no, it's time to probe deeper. Sometimes you'll get a "yes, but." These "buts" often reveal the real reasons somebody is not ready to buy from you. When you hear this from the prospect, follow this three-step process to get things back on track:

  1. Acknowledge: Make sure you acknowledge the concern and show that you understand it.
  2. Clarify: If you are not clear on the objection, ask clarifying questions to gain deeper understanding. Don't make the mistake of assuming what your prospect is saying if there's any doubt.
  3. Respond: Finally, reframe the issue or deal with any misperceptions they may have. For instance, when somebody says "we don't have the money right now," you might respond by asking them what the cost of doing nothing would be. Or how implementing your solution would pay for itself quickly.

5. Commitments are the natural, appropriate end to a conversation.

This is a mindset. Commitments are always appropriate to end a conversation, and you should never let a conversation end without one.

6. Asking for the seriousness of the commitment after someone makes a commitment is perfectly acceptable and will increase your sales if you do it well.

If you don't test the seriousness of a commitment, you'll never know exactly where you stand.


You should now see that asking great questions is the cornerstone of any great sales process. Follow this model from beginning to end, and you'll find yourself starting to understand your prospects, and customers at a deeper level than you ever thought possible.

This is when you can turn selling into buying.

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