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The Buyer/Seller Dance


If you manage a sales organization or are in sales yourself, you don’t need me to tell you it’s the hardest job in any company. It’s the only job where, if the customer decides not to buy you don’t get paid, you miss your revenue goals or maybe you don’t get to keep that job. Couple that with all the uncertainty that goes along with growing a profitable business. Not knowing who will say yes and who will say no. With that in mind, if you can embrace two concepts, along with implementing a strong selling strategy, sales will get a whole lot easier.

Let’s start with two new beliefs,

  1. You have rights as a sales person and
  2. If you want to succeed, you will need to be the person who controls the process. Not the prospecting.

If you look closely, the sales person/prospect relationship is the craziest relationship. It’s amazing that business happens at all given the dynamic between the two parties. The person who needs something feels compelled at every turn to resist the person who has the thing they need! As salespeople, our history has been a difficult one. We’re sometimes viewed as self-serving and manipulative, only interested in getting our own needs met. It can be especially frustrating when that isn’t how you feel, at all. Yet, prospects seem to remain guarded no matter what we do.

So, what’s the answer? To start with, you may need to re-evaluate the process you’re using to engage new prospects and find a selling system that you can rely on every time, one that will meet your prospects needs and your own. Add to that, a new definition of what it means to sell and, an understanding that it’s not your job to convince someone to buy from you. Remember, Selling is the process that two people go through to determine if it makes sense for the buyer to buy and the seller to sell. Your job as a sales person is to help your prospects discover for themselves whether they have enough pain to fix their problem and then to decide if they want to fix that problem with you.

Once you know what the desired result should be, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the game that exists between you and your prospects. At Sandler Training we call it the “Buyer/Seller Dance”. And the dance goes like this….

Prospects agree to have a conversation. They pick our brains for information, and then take that information and do one of five what we have, compare our information to competitors, use our information to leverage their current relationship, toss it in the garbage or let it sit on their desk until it becomes stale enough to throw out without any guilt.

Of all these possible outcomes, only one of them is “Buying”! Of course, when they buy, it’s easy, but when they do any one of these other things, it starts to get messy. They may string you along, you may find yourself leaving voice mails, sending countless emails, on and on and on. No matter how you slice it, you’re in a Chase and it’s the Chase that drives us nuts as sales people.

Here’s where your rights come in. As a professional, you have a right to know the truth about what your prospect is thinking and where you stand as it relates to doing business, or not doing business. Unless you have a good system, you will be vulnerable to the “Buyer/Seller Dance”.

To begin, rethink the timing of your presentation. Before you talk about what you have and what you can do for your prospects, find out a few things first so you can decide; a) if you should even do a presentation or; b) what type of presentation you should be doing.

Step One The first thing we need to do when selling is find out, in detail, what issues your prospect is having and seek to uncover whether those problems are causing enough Pain to do something about it. In other words, are they committed to fixing their problem with or without you? Deciding whether they want your solution is two steps away. The only thing that matters in this step is if figuring out if they are ready to take action based on the severity of their Pain. All successful sales relationships have this one thing in common; the prospect had a Pain that they were committed to solving. Rule number one in sales is: “If there is no pain, there will be no change”. If they don’t have Pain, find a new prospect or you’ll be spinning your wheels.

Step Two A prospect with Pain is still a prospect. If they don’t have the Money or the willingness to spend the money they will never become a client. All prospects must have a way to pay for what you have. And don’t be fooled, they always know how much they willing to pay for what you have. Avoid happy ears if the prospect who says, “money is no object” (it always is) or “I don’t know how much I’m willing to pay” (not true…. EVER!). Your question should be simple...” Do you have a budget set aside for this project/product?” If yes, ask, “can you share with me in round number about how much that might be?” If they say no, ask, “have you thought about how you will fund this project/purchase?” Again, if there is no money or not enough money or the willingness to spend the money, there is no sale. Plain and simple. When prospects have enough Pain around what you have, they will find the money. If you run into trouble in this step, go back to step one. If you feel that you did a great job in the Pain step, and there is still an issue around the money, you may need to walk away. Remember, Budget is a qualifying step. Pain without Budget = No Sale. You may have to move on. There’s nothing wrong with ending a call because your prospect doesn’t have budget. The key is figuring that out before the presentation or proposal. Remember, you can always find another prospect.

Step Three Let’s assume they have Pain and the Money to fix it. Then you’re ready to move onto the Decision Process. In this step, you want to make sure you have full control of what’s coming next. It’s imperative that you spend some time talking about ‘how’ a decision is made, not just “who” the decision maker is. Keep in mind that even the person with the check book has a “process”. Your job is to uncover what that process is so you can decide what to do next. Clearly the person you are meeting with is part of the process somehow, even if they don’t get to say, yes. Try changing up your questions slightly and ask, “when buying a product like ours, what is the process you go through to make that happen? Who else is involved?”

You’ll need to find out…

  1. Who is part of the decision process?
  2. What do you need to do to satisfy those people and their concerns?
  3. How will the decision take place, i.e. another meeting with the rest of the team?
  4. When does a decision need to be made?

Without a greater understanding of the Process, this is the step that will trip you up every time, because it’s at this point people are vulnerable to saying “Hey, thanks for coming in.” “We’ll be in touch”, or, “Call me next week”, “Great demo” or “Send me a proposal”. “Let me run this by the team”, etc.

If you and your prospect, working together, can determine there is a Pain that must be solved, they’ve shared with you a Budget (even an approximate number) and you have all the stakeholders involved in the Decision Process, you have a green light for a Presentation. At that point, the interested parties can decide if what you have to offer is what they want. Just make sure that when you present your solution it addresses the problems they shared with you, for the amount of money they told you they were comfortable investing. At that point, if they don’t like your solution, that’s okay. It happens. But if you did a good job in uncovering Pain and Budget, you should know exactly what it is they are looking for.

Taking control of your sales calls will stop you from spinning your wheels with prospects who don’t have a real need, the money to spend or the ability to help facilitate a decision. When you sell this way prospects will appreciate the process, because the ironic thing is, while you’re facilitating the process, the prospect is able to make a buying a decision rather than feeling sold.

Good Selling!

Susan Villamena, Senior Vice President

Susan Villamena, Senior Vice President

This article was written by: Susan Villamena, Chartwell Seventeen Advisory Group an authorized Sandler Sales Trainer and Consultant. Susan has been in sales and sales management training for over 20 years, having trained, coached, and consulted with 1000's of executives, managers and sales professional. She believes that selling professionally is equivalent to being an athlete. Having the right, Behaviors, Attitudes, and Techniques is the key to success. She can be reached at or 914-804-7988.