Don’t be took quick to take the bait. Await the revelation not the situation. The latching-on-to-bait approach limits the seller and irritates the buyer. The sale is impeded because the connection is broken.

There was a time when sellers were encouraged to listen keenly to a buyer with the sole intention of listening for a problem. Upon the mention of it, the seller would come out guns blazing with how his product could solve the problem. He would then keep harping on this with every follow-up. Like me, in the early days, he found the buyer interest waning with every correspondence. This approach was myopic, transactional and selfish.

And yet, I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. I listened for a problem. I didn’t listen actively. The prospect was busy explaining away her company’s position and instead of listening I foolishly awaited my turn to speak! And so, like a man drowning I latched on to the first mention of a problem. In truth I was clutching at straws. And so I drowned; the buyer disconnected. I should have known better.

Buyers test sincerity

Today, buyers see through this insincerity. They are wiser, busier and more knowledgeable. Like the consummate doctor, the progressive seller actively listens with the intention to explore and genuinely understand. This latching-on-to-bait approach limits the seller and irritates the buyer. The sale is impeded because the connection is broken. “She doesn’t care about me or my problem. She’s just after a kill,” the buyer muses and switches off. Tragically, he won’t tell you why; and being pompous, you will be none the wiser. This approach also gives your competitor an opportunity to close the sale by exercising genuine concern and a desire to help.

Buyers are usually more experienced than the seller because they have been “hit-on” much more than the seller has presented. And therefore, experienced sellers will test your authenticity by baiting you with a “problem”. You are wise not to clamp down on the bait. Prod, probe and provoke. It serves two purposes: it shows a genuine concern, grows your capacity to listen and many times will unearth the root cause of the predicament. Most times buyers express a symptom (the situation) and not the root cause (the revelation). A headache is overt but the viral infection causing it is covert. The situation may see you sell the pen but the revelation could see you stock a library.

B2B selling

Whereas this doctor approach is universal in all selling situations, it is more pronounced in business to business selling than it is business to customer selling. The decision making process in the former is much more complex than the latter. It takes longer to dredge the root cause when dealing with many people, a system and a process than when dealing with one individual.

But why would the seller seek bait? Because of ill preparation (he hopes to wing it), indifference (When’s this ending? I need to get to my next “hit”), or, familiarity, which breeds contempt (‘he’s my boy’). Sometimes the sale happens, like the charlatan who gets paid because he alleges to cure joblessness. But as Bob Marley says, “you can fool some people some time but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Such sales lack staying power. They quickly run out of steam and the seller is always looking over his shoulder. Latching on to the first mention of a problem places you on the same pedestal as the swindler. You are better than this. If it’s happened once don’t beat yourself too much. You may not be able to write about it as I have, but you can learn from it as I did. Please do.


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