Sales Success is a Two-Way Street


By Todd Duncan

In basic terms, the mistake of arguing is talking too much and listening too little. It’s staking your sales success on your ability to state your case in a convincing fashion. It’s mastering a monologue and then expecting the jury of your prospects to be convinced to take your side. But arguing only makes certain your sales get a death sentence. And the reason is simple: you can’t build trust with a prospect if you’re the only one talking.

Establishing an initial level of trust takes more than flowery monologue. It takes dialogue. It takes actual conversation. There is no other way for you to know that your product or service will meet a prospect’s needs.

The bottom line is that it’s time for salespeople to stop assuming that consumers are idiots.

It’s time for salespeople to start showing their prospects respect from the get-go. And a good thing to remem­ber is that a stigma is always attached to the salesperson. Yes, un­fortunately, most people still think salespeople are slick, sleazy, or underhanded. And we can no longer rely on the “a few bad apples have spoiled the bunch” excuse. You and I both know that there are more than a “few” bad apples. And your prospects know it too.

What that indicates is that the onus is on you to break the negative stereotype right away, every time you sell. And that starts when you throw out your opening arguments and start listening immediately to your prospects.


By taking the time to listen (and showing prospects that is your intention), you avoid monopolizing the conversation with empty sales talk. But it really shouldn’t take a prospect’s prompting for you to get to that place.

You must understand that you cannot chatter your way to last­ing sales success, no matter how convincing you sound. You cannot learn a thing from your prospects by running your mouth instead of listening. You cannot determine their needs. You cannot understand their values. You cannot determine their desires. In fact, if you don’t take enough time to listen, you can’t even know whether your products and prospects are a good fit.


When it comes to closing sales, ascertaining needs is the absolute key to offering solutions that compel prospects to accept your offer­ing. And arguing skips this crucial step. Essentially it is presuming you know what your prospects need and then guessing that your solution will fit. But last time I checked, presumption plus guessing wasn’t an equation that equaled sales success.

All long-term sales success is based on your ability to initiate and nurture real relationships— and sound relationships are not based on manipulation. They’re based on trust.


Sales relationships work no differently from everyday relation­ships. There are not special allowances in sales relationships that permit a seller to snub a buyer and somehow still gain his support. Establishing a successful sales relationship takes trust. And building trust takes more than presumption on your part. Just as in a healthy marriage, building and sustaining trust takes more than monologue; it takes open dialogue.


I understand that many salespeople make the mistake of arguing without thinking about or understanding the ramifications. Maybe it’s what they’ve been taught to do. Maybe it’s what they’ve seen others do. Maybe it’s just the only way to sell that they know. But regardless of why salespeople try to monologue their way to a sale, the results generally stay the same.

On the other hand, when you take the time to converse with your prospects, you begin to establish a foundation for a lasting sales relationship that is based on authentic needs and genuine solu­tions. When it comes down to it, conversation is simply the catalyst that opens the door for you to begin relating to your prospects and earning their trust.


There is power in conversation. To avoid the mistake of arguing in your sales career, you must tap into that power on a regular basis. You must adopt a new approach to selling that seeks as its primary aim to relate, not to persuade.

To truly enter into a dialogue in which you begin to relate to your prospects on a level that will build trust (and subsequently close sales), you have to be willing to put your agenda aside. You have to enter into conversation with prospects for the primary purpose of learning—knowing that the only way you can be certain to meet their needs is to stop arguing your case and start relating to their cares.


The bottom line is that selling is a shared activity that involves more than an exchange of products and money. It involves an exchange of consideration and respect, needs and values, expectations and ideas. And these things are exchanged only when you take the time to relate, to converse, and to connect.

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