Trust-Destroying Selling

I had dinner tonight with Phil. Phil is CEO of a specialty printing company; he learned the business through Xerox, the class act of sales back in the day. Way back.

His company had to buy several pieces of moderately expensive printing equipment. They got pitches from three organizations. The salesmen from Brands A and B, the well-known brands, had known Phil and his company for some time. Brand C, a lesser-known quantity, was represented by a young woman.

Brands A and B offered prices around $140,000. The young lady at Brand C offered Phil re-manufactured equipment at a price of about $80,000.

“How do we know this is going to work and stay working?” asked one of Phil’s manufacturing people.

“Well,” she replied, some of the biggest players in your game are using it and will be happy to tell you how much they like it. Let me give you their phone numbers.”

“We’re going to want this in soon, and have it hit the ground running with no problems,” said Phil.

Replied the saleslady, “Phil, the sooner it’s in and working, the sooner my commission stream starts paying. You and I are on the same side of the table. The sooner you get happy, the better for both of us.”

Phil told me, “I’d pretty much resolved to go with Ms. C, but I wanted to give the other guys a chance to respond gracefully. I called each of them up.”

Brand A, when I told him we were going with Brand C’s remanufactured product line, said, in a huff, “Well—if I’d known we were going to be dealing in used stuff—”

“He didn’t need to say another word,” said Phil. “Not only did he lose this deal, he probably lost the next five I’ll have. I can’t count all the things he did wrong, starting with pissing me off. Let’s see: bad-mouthing the competition, not focusing on me, giving me attitude, implying I’d misled him—any one of those was enough to lose my business.”

Then Phil called salesman B, with the same news. “Aw, gee, Phil, you and I go way back, I thought we had a good relationship, shouldn’t that count for something…our people have spent an inordinate amount of time on this…”

“And by then,” said Phil, “I had blocked him out too. How many penalty flags on that play? Let’s see, we saw the ever popular ‘it’s about the salesman not the customer’ routine; he was telling me the relationship never meant anything but money anyway; he was begging worse than a dog at a picnic with his eyes on a sirloin; and he’s trying to guilt trip me. ‘Inordinate,’ indeed. Nope, he’s outta here.”

Phil explains it this way:”I’ll supply my own guilt, thank you very much. The guy I feel obligated to is the guy who answers all my questions, smiles and asks if I have any more. The minute someone says I owe them, I no longer do.”

That’s the paradox. If you want to sell, stop selling. That’s my little way of saying it.

What are your words for what Phil’s talking about?

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