Make a customer not a sale; make it a marriage, not a fling

Information is no longer a single lane, from seller to buyer. It is now a dual carriage way and the buyer’s side has eight lanes (and growing) while the seller’s is still one.

Make a customer not a sale. I stumbled upon this quote and found that the six words crystallized the essence of selling today. Make a customer not a sale. Today, more than ever, the customer is spoiled for information and choice. We take it for granted, but before the Internet, the only source for information was the seller. If I wanted to travel to the Maldives, I would first look it up the atlas (remember, the atlas?). I would then go to a travel agent who would, after asking me my preferred dates of travel, consult his computer and present me with a print out of flights available complete with routes and respective fares. The only second opinion I had was another travel agent. Today, the first opinion is the Internet (cheap flights) and for accommodation, as a foreigner, nothing beats my Facebook friend in Nairobi who tells me about hostels in South B that don’t show up in my Internet search in New York and my travel agent is clueless about. Information is no longer a single lane, from seller to buyer; it’s now a dual carriage way and the buyer’s side has 8 lanes (and growing) while the seller’s is still one. Purely making a sale is no longer sustainable. Making a customer is.

And making a customer calls for new skills. And the reason why they are new is because they were hitherto considered time wasting. After all, where else will the customer go? Before, the answer to that was “the competition.” And the seller would reason, we are the cheapest, or fastest or most reliable. Let them go, “Watarudi tu”(they’ll return). Now they have more information than you have. By the time you are pitching for the job to install your new software, the buyer has sourced quotes not merely from the competition locally but from India and China too. The skills that will carry you through are not the razzmatazz of information over load. No.

What will work for you is approaching the sale as a marriage not a fling. Go into it for the long term not short. This means patience, education, integrity. Patience because the buyer is defensive- you made him so. How? Over the years, selling has become a fear-based relationship. Several unfortunate experiences later, buyers fear they are being talked into buying something that’s not right for them; they fear they are making foolish decisions because they lack information. It requires patience for the buyer to open up to you; to trust you. That may explain why the huge account you have just landed for your IT firm, has only ordered a cartridge after two months-they are testing you. Impatience will see you fail. Education, is not just about product knowledge; it’s about demonstrating that you genuinely understand the buyer’s pain (patience) and showing (not just telling) him, how “based on your vision for the building, the price of the elevators from China may be a steal, but the cost will be higher because in 18 months you will have to replace them. Here, let me share with you what we have consistently found over the last ten years…” Even after exercising the patience of Job and the education of a Sunday School teacher, having the integrity to let go of a sale because you cannot meet the need is a skill to exercise if we are to make a customer; that, plus the integrity to refer the buyer to the seller who can. To thrive in selling today, strive to make a customer not a sale.


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