By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

peer vs. subordinate relationship with buyersWhen buyers and sellers talk for the first time, historical baggage and preconceived notions are in play. Many undermine a seller’s status: 

  • Buyers are always right.
  • Buyers let you have a slice of their time.
  • Seller’s must convince or persuade the buyer.
  • Sellers are more focused on commissions than addressing buyer needs.

If early in relationships sellers become subservient, they will be at a disadvantage throughout buying cycles. This may culminate (if the buying cycle goes that far) with buyers that have never heard a “no” from sellers pressuring, asking for better pricing.

Some sellers consciously or subconsciously try to get buyers to like them. In my mind this is a slippery slope and starts setting the stage for subordinate relationships. My objective in talking with buyers for the first time is to earn their respect by having them conclude I’m a subject matter expert (SME) as it relates to sales and sales process. I’m embarrassed to confess that early in my selling career, my objective on initial calls was to earn a second meeting. I had no concept that if a buyer wasn’t qualified, I shouldn’t be wasting my time.

Sellers with complex offerings are well served to call at executive levels. During these calls buyers will not be asking detailed questions about products. Sellers are SME’s in that they have forgotten more about their offerings than executives know. This makes it necessary to minimize product discussions and have high level discussions of desired business outcomes, help uncover reasons they can’t be achieved and give executives a conceptual idea of how offerings can be used to improve business results.

If sellers can facilitate discussions that executives can participate in, there is a good chance of earning the conclusion that they are SME’s. Being respected and liked are not mutually exclusive. My belief is that outcomes can be improved if sellers focus on being respected first. It allows peer vs. subordinate relationships with executive buyers. One advantage of calling high is that buyers will not waste their time, a concern that competent sellers share with them.

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