Why We Should Sell the Way We Buy

As a salesperson, sales books are integral to your growth and better understanding of the process. Today, I break down the sales tactics outlined in the book ‘Sell the Way You Buy’, which has been described as ‘a book you can’t afford to be without’ by Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human.

David Priemer, Founder and Chief Sales Scientist at Cerebral Selling, uses data and science-backed psychology to analyze thousands of selling interactions. He uses these interactions to understand what encourages a buyer to buy, instead of taking the conventional approach of understanding what sells. As easy as it sounds, the difference is profound.

  1. The Abundance Paradox– The internet and the abundance of information online has made it easier for people to find out the best solution, which reduces the reliance of salespeople. However, that has not increased the likelihood of people actually making a decision. If anything, the abundance paradox he mentions is akin to the famous Jam Study conducted by scientists where they found that an offering of jam flavours reduced the likelihood that people bought one. This experiment referenced in the book is important because it shows that people still inherently need salespeople to help guide in the decision making process, because of the high search costs.

  1. The Status Quo Bias– Salespeople often underestimate the inertia most buyers present in their journey to awareness. Most people aren’t looking to solve the problem you solve, unless it’s a B2C solution, and would rather stick to the status quo. Most even do this unknowingly, and while there’s little one can do to change this, David encourages you to think what the buyer truly cares about to move them from that state of inactivity. 

  1. Other Biases– There are other biases unknown to the seller when they make the call. There’s recency bias, which is why salespeople have cadences and follow them. There’s more inconspicuous ones like, the confirmation bias which is any knowledge that confirms previously known or held beliefs/perceptions and is often harder to get through because for most of your customers, ‘believing is seeing’

  1. Most solutions are Suboptimal– Most sellers try to establish the superiority of their solutions while research has shown that most of the solutions that most people buy are not the best one for them- whereas most customers (80% or more) are satisfied with the decisions they make. It could be the trade-offs they make in those moments, the opportunity costs of searching, and the emotional weigh-ins while making the decision. It’s hard to convince people based purely on logic and ROI calculations and while this might work sometimes- it often doesn’t.

How do you get past these obstacles?

Here are some lessons presented in the book, I believe could solve a lot of the problems sellers face.

  1. The Emotional Buy– There has been an overemphasis on the logical buy, a principle normative economics espouses- that the consumer is a rational decision maker- but as shown by the numbers above, most purchases are not the most optimal solutions. Hence, when reps go out and sell ROI, their churn rate is often below average. Instead, there are certain emotional motivators that drive us all. It could be the desire to succeed, to stand out from the crowd, or to find a sense of belonging and these are the signals sellers need to train themselves to listen to. “Find the enemy and craft a narrative,” David says. 

  1. Data Presentation Matters-This goes back to tweaking the messaging script. At a tech start-up David worked at, the difference in tweaking their message from “we help managers make better coaches” to “70% of people leave their company because of a poor relationship with their manager” was phenomenal. As was IBM’s messaging in “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” which appealed to the fear of employees getting fired and presented itself as a safe bet. In both situations, the messaging that spoke to people’s fears or goals resonated better because it gave a human face to the data and what the solution would do for the buyer. 

  1. Peeling Back the Layers– This is a truly profound learning I extrapolated from an incident described in the book. A senior level executive at a top biotech company received a cold call from a sales rep at 7:45 am and as appreciation of the rep’s hustle and knowledge revealed in calling that early in the morning, gave him two minutes to tell the executive what exactly their company did. 

True knowledge of the solution shows, and while you will never know everything about anything, David encourages us to ask ourselves what it really is that we’re selling. 

Peel back the layers of your understanding so when you get the chance to talk to a decision-maker, you know exactly what you’re doing. This could mean asking the questions you have, putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer, and above all thinking about what purpose you’re fulfilling by selling what you sell.

Did you know that 57% of B2B prospects feel their sales teams are not prepared for the first meeting. Beat those odds by preparing with our sales meeting template.

Why We Should Sell the Way We Buy