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Stop Selling and Add Value

Stop Selling & Add Value
I was subjected to one of the worst “sales” presentations I’ve ever witnessed yesterday. In fact, so much so that I decided to author this post as a reminder to those who still don’t understand that generating new business relationships is not about selling – it’s about establishing trust, rapport, and the creation of vaule without selling. What I’m about to espouse will cause many an eyebrow to furrow and jaw to drop…I truly believe that the traditional practice of sales as a business discipline has become at best ineffective, and in many cases flat out obsolete. You see, good business practices are not static. Stale methodologies and disciplines simply die a slow and very painful death, and it is my contention that the overwhelming majority of sales processes I see in today’s marketplace are just that…stale. If you want to create revenue, increase customer satisfaction, and drive brand equity, stop selling and start adding value. In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on how the practice of sales must change in order to survive.

Lest you think I’ve lost my mind, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating taking your eye off the revenue creation ball. Rather what I’m recommending will help you generate more revenue, with greater velocity by simply doing the right thing in putting your customer’s needs first. I hear a lot of noise about the tough economy, and revenue being down for many companies. I hear complaint upon complaint that companies just don’t have money to spend, and that nobody is buying. If you’re experiencing this type of reaction from your customer, it’s not because they don’t have money to spend, it’s because you’re selling and not adding value. It’s because you’re talking and not listening. It’s because you don’t get it…It’s not about you, your company, your products or your services. It’s about meeting customer needs and adding value. When you start paying more attention to your customer needs than your revenue needs, you’ll find you no longer have a revenue problem to complain about.

The problem with many sales organizations is that they still operate with the same principles and techniques they were using in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. While the technology supporting sales process have clearly evolved, the traditional sales strategies proffered by sales gurus 20 or 30 years ago have not kept pace with market needs. They are not nearly as effective as they once were, and as I’ve eluded to, in most cases they are obsolete.

Trust me when I tell you that your prospects and customers have heard it all before. They can see the worn-out, old school closes coming a mile away. They can sniff antiquated selling strategies, and will immediately tune out on presentations not deemed relevant. If your sales force is still FAB-selling, spin-selling, soft-selling or using any number of outdated, one size fits all selling methodologies, your sales are suffering whether you realize it or not.

So, my first suggestion is that you change nomenclature. Clients are people not fish. Don’t “lure” or “hook” them – engage them, listen to them and serve them. Eliminate the words “suspects” and “prospects” from your vocabulary and replace them with potential clients. Think about it – do you establish trust by profiling and targeting prospects, or by attempting to understand the needs of a potential client? This is much more than a semantical argument – it’s a philosophical shift in thinking, and a practical shift in acting. Stop selling and start serving.

The truth is that in most corporations there exists a hierarchy of sales that comes with a very established and entrenched pecking order. The enterprise sales folks and key accounts reps sit atop the food chain, followed by inside sales reps, and at the bottom of the latter you’ll find the customer service reps. The hunters are revered and the farmers are tolerated. Regardless of the titles being used, this entire concept of sales is so antiquated it’s laughable. Frankly, most people I know would rather talk to a knowledgeable customer service person over a sales rep any day of the week. The reason for this should be obvious…The perception is that a customer service professional is providing information and helping them meet their needs. A sales person is trying to sell them something.

Call me crazy, but I don’t want to talk to someone who wants to manage my account, develop my business, or engineer my sale. I want to communicate with someone who wants to service my needs or solve my problems. Any organization that still has “sales” titles on their org charts and business cards is living in another time and place while attempting to do business in a world that’s already passed them by. It’s time for companies to realize that consumers have become very savvy and very demanding. Today’s consumer (B2B or B2C) does their homework, is well informed, and buys…they are not sold.

Engage me, communicate with me, add value to my business, solve my problems, create opportunity for me, educate me, inform me, but don’t try and sell me…it won’t work. An attempt to sell me insults my intelligence and wastes my time. Think about it…do you like to be sold? News flash…nobody does. Now ask yourself this question, do you like to be helped? Most reasonable people do. The difference between the two positions while subtle, are very meaningful and powerful. If customer centricity is a buzzword as opposed to the foundation of your corporate culture then you have some work to do. The reality is that until I know that you care more about meeting my needs than yours, you’ll remain on the outside looking in. By the way, in order to understand my needs you have to actually know something about me…

The first thing to do when assessing your sales model is to take a giant step back, and critically examine the current landscape. You can’t fix a problem that you don’t understand, and implementing change for the sake of change will likely only make matters worse. If what you’ve read thus far even remotely resonates with you, then I would suggest reading “Don’t Negotiate…Facilitate.” Teach your sales force to become true professionals focused on helping their customers for all the right reasons vs. closing the big deal for personal benefit. To do otherwise will lead to missing substantial opportunities without even being aware of it.

The bottom line is that the most important factor in creating revenue and building brand equity is the client/customer/end-user. If you don’t engineer everything around the client, your client relationships will vanish before your very eyes. Don’t be just another vendor, become a trusted advisor and advocate. As always I welcome your thoughts below…

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No Comments

    Scott Gould

    October 14, 2009 at 10:31 am


    Great post that inspired me to add to it (http://scottgould.me/solving-not-selling/)

    There are so many examples of products/services that, as you say, have been engineered around the user, and therefore have gained a certain ubiquity and relevant.

    Jeremy Epstein said yesterday that “value = relevance”. Along the same lines methinks.



    October 14, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Scott:

    I appreciate the kind words Scott. Methinks we’re also in agreement on Jeremy’s quote as well. Best wishes Scott…


    Solving Not Selling – scottgould.me

    October 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    […] read this awesome article, Stop Selling and Add Value on Monday from the N2 Growth Blog. Mike Myatt, and his awesome moustache, writes: Call me crazy, […]

    Lee McKnight Jr

    October 23, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Excellent post Mike and what I appreciate the most about it-it can be applied to services as well.



    October 23, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Thanks Lee…I appreciate your comments and agree that it is totally relevant to services as well.

    Social Media Influence | N2Growth Blog

    February 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    […] would strongly suggest reading two previous posts: “Shut-up and Listen” and “Stop Selling and Add Value“ as support for these positions.  Following are a few tips to help you build influence […]

    scott pearson

    March 23, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    As one of the guys trained to sell in the 80’S I totally agree with your assertion that the old methods do not work. Great post.


      March 24, 2010 at 5:26 am

      Hi Scott:

      Thanks for your comment. Looking back on the sales techniques of years past is entertaining to say the least. Isn't it amazing how the "sophistication" of the sales process has so polluted the real goal of serving the customer? Thanks for sharing your perspective Scott.

    Roy Atkinson

    March 25, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Dependence on technique alone fails everywhere. In music, it produces exact but unemotional performances; in sales it produces a transactional existence. Musicians, salespeople, service workers—anyone, really—must engage their clients, customers, end-users, and department mates. You've got it right, Mike. Thank you.


      March 25, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Roy…your observations are astute…it's the experience, the engagement, and the relationship that matter. Thanks for stopping by Roy.

    Bill Boorman

    April 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I think you are cleverly confusing two things here. The issue is not the sale, it is the sale without the integrity. There is nothing wrong with S.P.I.N. selling or F.A.B. sales. Both these techniques are about finding a customers need and offering a solution. Isn't that what you are sugesting we should be doing, finding the REAL need and helping to solve it.

    Bill Boorman

    April 1, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    If I buy from you, however you make your offering, you are selling and I am buying. If you don't sell, I am unlikely to buy. I agree that you need to understand prospects before you offer a solution. The process of finding out and offering the advice on the fix is still selling. If you have a sales model, then you sell. The key is in the delivery. Telling people not to sell is a dangerous game. Telling people to sell better, and to understand needs before offering solutions is a much more realistic reflection of what your saying. Don't confuse clumsy pitch with genuine sales proposition. Sell with integrity and only offer solution where there is need.I'm all for that, but that is real sales anyway, always has been. I like to deal with people who are not "pretending" they are not selling because their business card calls them somthing else.


      April 2, 2010 at 4:18 am


      Thanks for your comments. While I certainly understand your perspective, we're still not singing off the same sheet of music. When I make an investment or purchase decision it doesn't automatically mean I have been sold. Moreover, I don't want you to sell better, I don't want you to sell me at all. Any attempt at selling me, no matter how smooth, will simply fall on deaf ears. I don't mind being informed, educated or advised, but I don't want to be sold. I want to engage in professional discourse on my terms, and rarely will that involve being pitched. It's not what it says on the business card matters, but rather the state of mind of the individual assisting me with my needs. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Thanks for stopping by Bill.

    Roland B. Arrogante

    August 2, 2010 at 3:36 am

    I am a product of the FAB, (features and benefits-selling if that is what you mean) era. It has it's limitations as I have experienced before because if the benefits does not match our clients' needs, then we find ourselves "hard-selling" again or of the client does not buy, then we label that client "not potential".
    The concept you are espousing is also something that I find relevant and falls under the" win-win or no deal concept" of Stephen R. Covey. The clients' needs must be addressed without necessarily giving away the needed profit of the company.
    Clients start to put down their defenses as soon as they feel that you are there to serve and listen to them. Unfortunately, a lot still see things differently.
    Thank you for your article Mike!


      August 2, 2010 at 6:35 am

      Hi Roland:

      Thanks for your comment. It sounds as if you and I see eye-to-eye on this subject. More importantly, I don't know any clients, customers, or prospects that would disagree with us. Those still engaged in defending outdated practices would be better served to listen to the needs of the market than continue in their prideful ways. Thanks Roland…


    August 8, 2010 at 7:35 am

    You are absolutely right. I "sell" day to day B2c and B2B and its about relationship and problem solving. When my bank can't do the thing the client needs i find them someone who can. I get more referrals from working for the clients best interest than anything else. What? I send people to a competitor? YES I DO, but i walk them in with me to meet someone I already know. We all have our strengths and if i know my company and my competitors well then i will do a better job for my client. Obviously i try and do the deal myself with my bank, but if i cannot, being the person who provided the solution is the next best thing.


      August 8, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Hi Ryan:

      Thanks for the comment. You clearly understand the value of putting the client first and are a credit to your profession. Thanks for sharing your experience Ryan.

    Wayne Elsey

    November 30, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    This is great Mike!

    Very applicable in the nonprofit world too!


      November 30, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Wayne:

      Thanks for the comment. I'm in complete agreement with your thoughts about non-profits as their development organizations suffer many of the same woes as traditional sales organizations. Thanks for stopping by Wayne.


    November 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Great truth Mike. We are a very informed buyer and do not have to be sold. I equally look for problem solvers or fresh innovation and not salesmen. Your thoughts are always meaningful and insightful.


      December 1, 2010 at 8:35 am

      Hi Tom:

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I agree with your experience that looking for problem solvers and innovators will yield much greater fruit than entertaining sales people. Thanks again for stopping by Tom.

    David McDaniels

    December 1, 2010 at 8:07 am

    First of all, Mike, I read every blog you post and treat them as gold – so thanks for taking the time to write them. Love this post. The only thing that will ring true from now until forever in business is that everything should REvolve and Evolve around helping your customer base in the best way possible – and the way they want to be helped. It rings true on a daily basis in my business – and also why we’re up 30% I’m sales from this time last year :).


      December 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

      Hi David:

      Thank you for the kind words, and let me offer my congratulations for the huge increase in performance. I have but no doubt that your growth is directly tied to your focus on the right constituency. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts David.


    December 1, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Language is so powerful because there are so many attached emotions and connotations. With respect to selling versus serving, I completely agree. I would even say that it is worth incorporating the real value you offer in the title. E.g. Xx solutions consultant may sound corny but if you solve their Xx problem (not your Xy sales quota) you have found a friend. If exchanging money for product/service is your value, oh boy.


      December 1, 2010 at 8:44 am

      Hi Peter:

      Aligning problem solving, value creation and function with a title is a great idea – I only wish it happened more often. Thanks for sharing your insights Peter.

    Lori Meyer

    February 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks so much for this GREAT perspective on what “selling” really should mean. My father was in sales more than 40 years ago, and even as a kid, I considered him ahead of his time — because he never approached potential clients merely as people to buy things from him. He focused on how his clients could be successful, and how what he was offering could meet their needs. If he were alive today, he would have loved your post.

    Once again, many thanks!


    December 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Very insightful article Mike, thank you.

    What you say makes a lot of sense but I have to say I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. If we use words such as prospects/suspects etc and use selling techniques it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are treating those people with disrespect. Use of such terminology is merely modern business language which makes communication clearer. If I don’t use such terms then how do I have a meaningful business forecast discussion with my M.D. ?

    I would agree that many of the outdated sales techniques which are still used now are an insult to a person’s intelligence but then again they always were ! They are no more dysfunctional now then they were back then. That said,  I don’t think a “sales technique” is necessarily a bad thing – lets not be black & white about this. A sales technique provides structure to an essential business process. Do you think most software developers eg use a development tool or methodology ? Are they insulting the user by doing so ?

    A good workman uses good tools. No matter which tools you use, if you simply do not understand your customer and treat him with respect, you’re on to a loser.

    Wishing you all a happy and peaceful festive season.


    October 1, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Is this a memo or a mission statement! LOL – Just remembering Jerry McGuire. Good stuff. Thank you.

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