Pushing vs pulling in sales. Should you be pulling instead of pushing? Especially if you are in B2B selling if you are pushing with little success, try pulling.  “Push. Just push”, “You’re not pushing hard enough”, and such other variants of the same are the mantra in Sales. And, yes, pushing may still be getting you sales, but if you changed tack from what everyone else is doing, could you get more sales? I think so. And why? Because, like a student who stands up to the bully, after decades of being pushed, customers have grown a protective shield around them. Avoidance is one such passive shield you can do little about.

The difference between pushing and pulling sales

So, instead of pushing harder to penetrate the shield try pulling gently to coax them out of their shield. Pushing vs pulling in sales. Pushing and pulling have different objectives and response times. Pulling means implementing a plan that naturally draws customer interest to you. Comparatively, pushing tends to take longer to turn around. Digital marketing is an example of a pull strategy. Here’s two other examples, and their effects, to illustrate push and pull sales.

Pushing vs pulling sales: Pharmaceutical sales selling

Only a handful few doctors like med-reps. “They are so many they are like ants. In fact, there was a time I could have sworn there were more than the patients in a hospital I was stationed at. And they keep repeating themselves. They are so irritating.” And, no he was not referring to life insurance agents. No. This doctor was referring to pharmaceutical sales representatives, also known as med-reps. To date, most med-reps still push; though likely they do not see it as such. In fact, their selling is not called selling, it’s called detailing.

Further, they do not sell intending to convince the doctor to buy; in any case, he is not the user nor buyer, the patient is. As a prescriber, the doctor is only an influencer. So, limited by industry and professional ethics, they are required to solely inform and educate. Hence why their selling is called missionary selling.

pulling vs pushing sales strategy

So, when they hang around the hospital carrying their briefcases, together with seven other reps from different companies, waiting to see this one doctor, who they will then each keep following up on, to check on whether he has prescribed their medication, they are pushing.

The chosen few that pull, hang around hospitals for a different reason. They act as the doctor’s unofficial personal assistant. One made the doctor’s PowerPoint slides for hm; another sent him reminders of his children’s birthdays and yet another was actively involved in ensuring that he was there to supply tea and mandazi in their weekly ward rounds. To a med-rep, inevitably all of them got this response in one form or another: “You really come through for us/me. Come see me in my clinic after here we talk more about your company.”

Is pulling or pushing better?

Text book sellers:  When selling text books, you do so at a school. Typically, you engage the headmaster who then, at his discretion, grants you a finite window to pitch to the teachers in the staff room. Then you push and push some more in the name of following up and following through. True. Unlike the med-reps, publishers are only a fraction of the pharmas out there. But just like the med-reps you are not alone. There are other text book sales people, if I may call them that, all pushing for that finite window.

Pulling vs pushing

And then there’s the one that pulls. You’ll never see him jostling for space with the multitude in the staff room. No. Instead, based in the Mount Kenya region, he holds a monthly mbuzi (goat eating event) for the principals of schools in his region. He started with less than ten. Now they are over fifty. They even have a WhatsApp group which makes it easier to invite others.

“I’m aiming for 100 members. They’re many to have a mbuzi for I know, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Who knows we can even become a chama. In any case, the existing ones have made the mbuzi rotational. I only bought for the first three months. Now, I’m their ‘headmaster’. I co-ordinate the mbuzi eating timetable. For now, I am happy that they sell and fend for me. They insist that our books be the ones to recommend to parents and include in the booklist, and they discourage my competitors from pitching at their schools.” 

Instead of only pushing, could pulling also boost your sales?


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