Make the sale about the buyer, not you. It’s never about you anyway…. Once the buyer feels understood, proceed to show him why what he wants is not feasible

“I’m selling handkerchiefs. Please buy one. I’m selling them to raise money for my child’s fees.“ So the lady hawker said. Would you buy? Hold that thought. Let’s look at the flipside. And this time, not a hawker in the street, but a business to business sale. The prospective buyer asks, “How many trainers will we get for the three day training?. And the reply: “We pay our trainers per day. So if we give two for the three days we will have to pay each of them. So we give one trainer for the three days.” What’s wrong with these scenarios? The buyer doesn’t care! He wonders, “So?” In the latter they might even insist on two trainers, in an attempt to get what they see as value for money.

Pull the skin away from you

If selling were equated to making a drum, many sellers, to make it tight, would pull the skin toward themselves. To succeed, however, they should pull it toward the buyer. “Successful training hinges on a close trainer-participant connection. This usually happens within the first few hours of the session and is engineered by the trainer. Using two trainers for a short three day program will mean recharging the connection, which could mean lost momentum and could impede learning. To energize the synergy already generated from day 1 we prefer to use one trainer throughout. However, in the unlikely event that you are not happy with him, we are happy to offer a replacement midway. Our objective is impactful learning.”

Reasons for being defensive

Pulling toward you is being defensive. And being defensive builds walls, not bridges. “So, you are more concerned by your welfare and not mine,” the buyer thinks, or, though rarely, voices. And the green horn’s pleading response, “No, no, no, no. I’m just telling you what we do. That is the policy.” As if that makes it better! From that point it is downhill all the way to a lost sale. But why do average sellers give such responses? One is echoing the internal training which said precisely that about using more than one trainer. The other is defensiveness and thirdly, indifference (take it or leave it, we aren’t budging). Another reason still, is naivete: the lady hawker hopes to move with sympathy (surely everyone should understand and buy)-they understand, but they don’t buy. And the reason: So?

Win-win negotiations

Framing the response to the advantage of the buyer is also the foundation of win/win negotiations. Here exposing ones nakedness is a plus. But only after demonstrating full understanding of the other party-the buyer. Once the buyer feels fully understood (meaning you have pulled toward him first), proceeding to show him why what he wants is not feasible yields an Oh!, and not a So? For instance, “From your construction plan, the elevator must be in place in week three. The fastest lead time is six weeks and by ship. The challenge is that we don’t want to unnecessarily increase your budget by having to fly in the lift. Could we look at other ways to resolve this dilemma?”

Or, a businessman, to another he is going into a new venture with, will show his costs and challenges that are limiting him. He does this knowing that his counterpart will automatically understand this because he is a businessman too. He does; and honesty and trust are forged.


Pulling toward the buyer is a paradox in human behaviour. When someone points out at the single mother who has struggled to give her child a good education by selling handkerchiefs, like me, you are bound to say, Wow! You’re filled with admiration. You are inspired. You even use her story as an example of triumphing over struggle. Somehow, though, when she meets you at the petrol station and says, “Please buy one. I’m selling them to raise money for my child’s fees, “, nine out of ten times you won’t.” And why? The skin wasn’t pulled toward you first. Like any other, the buyer in you, is selfish

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