Do You Know What People Buy?

I was being interviewed a while back for a magazine article and the writer asked me a question that I had to think hard about before answering. 

 

She asked in all my years of working with professional salespeople what surprised me the most. 

 

I couldn’t boil it down to one thing. There are two. One is that in all my time in sales and sales training I’m surprised by how many salespeople are unprepared to respond to customer objections. Even objections they hear over and over again like the price objection. Each time it comes up it’s like the first time they have ever heard it. A sales professional should have a thoughtful, well prepared response that speaks to value.  Instead many salespeople stammer and stutter and basically begin the negotiations process. 

 

They will not receive full price in return for the full value they offer. 

 

The other biggest surprise in all my years of working with salespeople is also the reason salespeople hear the price objection so often. The second surprise is that the vast majority of salespeople have no idea what they are selling. 

 

Charles Revson was the founder of the cosmetics giant Revlon. He was once asked what business he was in. He said that “in the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”

 

If you understand his answer then you might be a successful professional salesperson. If you don’t understand his answer then your success in sales will always be limited. You’ll also hear a whole lot of price objections. Your customers will want a reduced price regardless of whether or not your product is the least expensive in the market. 

 

Charles Revson understood that no one buys cosmetics because they want to spend hours a week applying chemicals to their body. They buy what the cosmetics do for them…which is make them more attractive in the HOPE of attracting the attention of other people….maybe even that special someone.

 

No one buys a drill, they buy the hole it makes. No one buys a book, they buy the adventure or information contained within it’s pages. No one buys a picture frame, they buy a place to display their precious memories of events and loved ones who make their life matter. 

 

No one buys your product because they want the product, they buy it because they want what they can get from the product.

 

The vast majority of salespeople do not fully know what their customers want from the products they sell. The professional salespeople who do understand what their customers want discovered that information by asking questions. The type of questions that less successful salespeople didn’t ask. They didn’t ask because they were lazy or they didn’t have the courage to ask or they just didn’t care enough to ask. 


Salespeople who don’t know what their customers are buying have no way of knowing how to present their products to people who want them. That is very surprising to me and it’s most certainly not a recipe for sales success.

 

 

Habits of Sales Professionals

The best salespeople go well beyond creating satisfied customers to build loyal customers. They don’t merely hunt for transactions they look for ways to help their customers achieve their goals. They make a habit out of asking more questions than less successful salespeople. They know that without a complete understanding of their customer’s situation they may miss the opportunity to help. 

 

Time is one of a salesperson’s most valuable assets. But using it to maximum advantage is often a salesperson’s greatest challenge. Salespeople tend to be outgoing, talkative people for whom details are almost a form of torture. 

 

The most effective sales professionals make a detailed plan which includes a flexible work schedule that maximizes their selling time. The plan most often includes office time, planned at the beginning and end of the week, and at the beginning and end of the day. If you don’t have to be in the office then you should be Face-to-Face with a customer. 

 

Sometimes you must be in the office, but it is not the place to spend your prime time hours. Do “office stuff” as bookends to your selling day – either early or late. Make a habit of using your time more effectively and you’ll be making success a habit as well.

 

The top salespeople know that the little things make them stand out from the crowd. Writing personal notes to customers to thank them for their time, or to follow-up an appointment are good examples. They don’t need to be lengthy or complex, in fact they shouldn’t be. Just make them sincere and you will set yourself apart from the throngs of less professional salespeople.  

 

Along the same lines, leave a brief note on the back of your business card when you happen to miss your customer or they are unavailable. It’s so simple, but hardly anyone does it. And it means that your card has a better chance of being noticed among the many left behind by the throng.  It is a great habit to get into and it can make a huge difference in your results.


Sales is a people business, and creativity counts. When you develop the habit of allowing your personality to come through you automatically stand out from the crowd. If you’re truly a professional then that’s a good thing, a very good thing.