Buyers Choose Who They Allow to Understand Them – by David Tovey

One of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard about winning business came from a speaker at a public sector procurement conference.

A senior procurement executive told the audience of over 500 would-be suppliers that she and her fellow procurement professionals knew all the sales tactics that suppliers use on them. “These days,” she said, “it’s all about ‘understanding the customer’. You use various questioning techniques to get insight into our real needs and wants.” What she said next really made me think:

“You need to know that as buyers we choose who we allow to understand us.

Today’s buyers can see through sales ‘techniques’
In conversation following the conference she elaborated on her comments. She explained that she and her fellow professionals know that the better sales people are taught to show interest and get to understand the customer. It is always obvious to them when this isn’t genuine interest and just a technique used to get a sale.

They can see through salespeople who only asked questions to uncover the ‘hot buttons’ which they then pounce on to sell their solution. Just like Tigger pouncing on an unsuspecting Winnie the Pooh in the cartoon to explain what a wonderful Tigger he is, these sellers showed interest in the customer only until they have enough information to do ‘the sales pounce‘.

Going through the motions won’t work

The dynamics of modern business development meetings are complex. It’s not enough anymore to go through the motions and only show interest long enough to find the buying signals.

“We can all tell when someone else isn’t really listening to us; we can tell when someone is on their own agenda, not ours. We feel misled.”

Unless buyers see genuine interest they withhold vital information.If they feel misled they hold back the insights that would make it easier to motivate them to buy and easier to propose exactly the right solution.

You didn’t lose that sale on price

The most frequent reason I hear for a sale being lost is ‘price’. When I ask the same people how they won their best customers I get a long list of reasons which includes things like ‘the chemistry being right’, ‘getting a total understanding’ and ‘arriving at a fantastic solution at a price that both parties were happy with’.

All too often price gets blamed for the loss of a sale when in fact it was poor business development/sales practice that meant the customer was less than motivated to reveal the full picture. They revealed the full picture to someone who genuinely cared. That person won the business.


David Tovey is a motivational speaker, coach, consultant and author of Principled Selling – How to Win More Business Without Selling Your Soul, published by Kogan Page. With over 25 years of sales and marketing experience, David works with individuals and organisations to help them achieve outstanding sales growth with a joined up approach to inbound marketing, social media, sales, major account management and sales leadership. You can contact David at You also can connect with him at Twitter and LinkedIn.


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