Tell Your Customers Why They Don’t Need You

You probably want your customers to trust you. And you probably tell them the truth about why they should buy from you.

You might think that’s enough for them to trust you, but of course it’s not. Oddly, what’s missing is telling them something about why they might not need you. Here’s why.

Consider these two sentences:

1. If you’re serious about wealth management, then you should consider whole life insurance as part of your portfolio.

2. If you distinctly need insurance coverage in addition to an investment product, then you should consider whole life insurance as part of your portfolio.

The first paragraph is a form of manipulative selling–like the assumptive close (“OK, shall we start on Monday or on Wednesday?”), or inducing a series of ‘yes’ answers (“Now, I assume you want your children to be taken care of, right?”).

Most people get annoyed when asked a question to which there’s only one reasonable answer. And most of us consider being asked that question a reason not to buy from the asker. So–don’t do that.

Instead, ask a question that allows reasonable people to answer differently.

Ask Questions that Allow Buyers to Self-Select

The second sentence is different. It provides information by distinguishing between people who might find value in the product and those who might not. Phrased that way, it not only educates the customer, it allows the customer to make a decision to opt-in or opt-out.

Most salespeople get nervous about questions that allow customers to opt out. Not, however, salespeople who understand the power of trust.

By giving a customer knowledge that permits opting out, a salesperson is putting him—or herself at risk. But without risk, there can be no trust—only control and the illusion of choice.

The reason trust works in sales is because human beings reciprocate when they are trusted. They appreciate being treated as adults, they appreciate not being manipulated and they appreciate being given choices that help them make intelligent decisions.

And they show their appreciation by buying, disproportionately, from those who treat them that way.

Let your customers know why they might not need you.

4 replies
  1. Ian Brodie
    Ian Brodie says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Last year I interviewed Randy Illig, co-author with Mahan Khalsa of “Let’s Get Real” about selling consulting services. One of the questions I asked him was that if he had a time machine and could go back to the past and give one piece of advice on selling to his younger self, what would it be.

    His answer was “make ‘no’ an OK option”.

    It’s always struck me as tremendous advice. The more we give our clients the option to say no, and the more we’re actually OK with that, the more trust we build, and the more we’re likely to get a yes.


  2. Sally Foley-Lewis
    Sally Foley-Lewis says:

    I’ll start by saying I’m not a salesperson!
    When I was working for a company based in the middle east, I was often in the situation of being the ‘expert’ in the room to help advise and guide a client on choices for services they may want/need. My employer company already had a relationship with the client before I came along and as I got to know the client, and what we were delivering to them, it became quite clear that the client was not really needing one particular service.

    In the renewal discussions/tendering process, etc., I decided to tell the client why they shouldn’t bother with this one particular service and that the money, time and effort, if budgets dictated spending, would be better spent on other more appropriate things (yes, I suggested a few things we offered but I did emphasise a range of things).

    We were successful in securing more work – triple in fact – with client!

    ‘No’ and why you don’t need XYZ is very important! One reason why I’m not a fan of the banks in Australia at the moment – it’s all push, push, push the extra products. If the teller / customer relationship killer, oops, officer, spent 5 minutes looking at my particular situation and listening to what I had said, they’d know I didn’t actually NEED, let alone want, a bunch of their products… phew, rant over 😉

  3. Barbara Garabedian
    Barbara Garabedian says:


    Many years ago as a novice consultant, I was invited to go to a former colleague’s client & propose for a series of training programs.

    As my client meeting progressed, I recognized that the client really didn’t need the training programs to solve their issues(surprise,surprise). I then went through an explanation of what impact the training would or wouldn’t have & why the training programs [that he adamantly wanted] weren’t going to solve his real management problems. I then proposed a series of alternative interventions & steps (not training related) that I thought might be useful to consider and provided my thoughts as to a list of other consultants that could perform the work. As I was completing that explanation, the client received a phone call that they had to take…my former colleague took that opportunity to look at me as if I was an alien from outer space & ask if I was out of my mind, as I was throwing away a perfectly good consulting gig!

    I ended up not working for that client. However, that client did hire me later on when he went on to another institution. He told me that the hiring decision was based on that previous scenario of providing options to solve the problem that didn’t appear to benefit me.


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  1. […] often take more time than we’d like, requiring you to have a calm demeanor and firm determination.Tell Your Customers Why They Don’t Need You by Charles H. Green on Trusted AdvisorQuote: You probably want your customers to trust you. And you probably tell them the truth about why […]

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