‘People buy people first and whatever else second’ is one of the timeless skills of selling. We rarely run a sales training session without including it. However many sellers fail to appreciate just how far reaching the skill can be.

Consider this article written by the director of a Management Consultancy:

‘My company had obtained a contract to provide consulting services to a relatively small bottling concern. The contract was substantial amounting to £150,000. The client had little formal education. His business was in bad shape, and in recent years he had made some very costly mistakes.

Three days after we had got the contract, an associate and I were driving out to his plant. To this day I don’t know how it started, but somehow we began talking about the negative qualities of our client.

Before we realised it, we were talking about how his own stupidity had brought about the mess he was in, instead of discussing how we could best approach solving his problems.

Misplaced emphasis

The whole drive out we talked about nothing else but what a weak idiot we had as a client.

Well the meeting that afternoon was cold. Looking back, I think our client sensed somehow the way we felt towards him. He must have thought ‘These people think I’m stupid and all they are going to do for my money is give me some high-sounding talk’.

Two days later I got a two sentence email from this client. It said, ‘I’ve decided to cancel our contract for your consulting services. If there is a charge for your services to date, please invoice me.’

Priming ourselves with negative thoughts cost us a £150,000 contract. What made it even more painful was learning a month later that he had contracted with another consultancy for the same services.

The learning point

We would never have lost him had we concentrated on his many fine qualities. And he has them. Most people do.

Highly effective consultative-partner sales people do not think ‘What can we sell to them?’ but ‘How can we help them to succeed?’

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