You Think Selling Is Hard? Try Being A Customer

Donal Daly
Donal Daly



customer-under-pressureYou’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a salesperson. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier ... right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, the risk shifts to them, and the impact on them from a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact a lost sale has on the salesperson.


That’s important enough to say again: The impact on the customer from a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact a lost sale has on the salesperson.

For a customer to be comfortable, they must be sure that the supplier has a deep comprehension of their needs. Sometimes, personal and company motives collide and needs multiply. Customers and suppliers then trip over each other when they meet in the unchoreographed buy-sell dance.

Each customer is different. Some want to lead the dance. Others will follow a trusted supplier. More are comfortable when collaborating in the dance. It is this collaboration that is most common and most productive for both buyers and sellers alike.

So, what’s the best model for interaction? Let’s start with a story.

A Story of a Customer

Carol is SVP Sales with a mid-size technology company (TechCo). The way Carol tells it, she thought her request was fairly straightforward: “I just wanted more leads. The team wasn’t getting up to bat enough. We were missing the number. Marketing wasn’t delivering. So, I just went looking for a partner who could get me more leads.”

Carol ended up with an inbox full of potential suppliers. She got responses from list brokers. Proposals came in from appointment-setters. Email marketing companies, SEO consultants, and social media evangelists came out of the woodwork.

While Carol was at her desk one morning, her phone rang. She was expecting a call from her U.K. sales VP, so she picked up. However, she was surprised to find herself engaged in a challenging conversation about her need for more leads.

On the phone, Mark, the CEO of a boutique marketing company, suggested that perhaps Carol should consider that more leads might not be the answer. He asked her to start with the fact that the team was struggling to achieve its revenue goals, and that “getting up to bat more often" might not be the answer.

During the conversation, Carol realized that if she was to get the best help from any supplier, she first had some work to do. It became clear there were some obstacles to overcome.

Carol needed to understand the difference between the symptom of the problem, its underlying cause, and the consequences of that problem. Her first task was to map out the internal issues, and she needed a way to achieve that.

It was evident to Carol that only a TechCo insider would understand the language they were using. It was specific to the company. She needed a mechanism to explain the business challenges to a supplier.

But even if TechCo succeeded in explaining the internal, Carol struggled with how she might overcome the uncertainty about whether the supplier understands the specific problem she was trying to solve -- now that it wasn’t really just about "getting up to bat more often."

After guidance from Mark, Carol began to understand the importance of clear communication between TechCo and any supplier. She still struggled with how anyone could fully gain alignment between customer and supplier to avoid any current or future misunderstanding.

Understand Customers' Challenges

We can learn from Carol’s experience. While salespeople worry how to win, the customer is struggling with challenges about knowing what or how to buy.

Sometimes, the customer doesn’t know how to fully consider all of the subtleties of their stated needs. Instead of being frustrated by a lack of progress, it’s worth considering whether part of the problem is the customer’s inability to overcome these obstacles. Remember that these are obstacles, not objections.

I have written more extensively about this in my book Account Planning in Salesforce. You can download a free extract from

Donal Daly is CEO and Founder of The TAS Group, which is his fifth global business enterprise. He is the author of four books including his recent #1 Amazon Bestseller, Account Planning in Salesforce.

Image credit: flattop341

Topics: Inbound Sales

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