Before we begin, I have to give credit to David Skok for the “hint” in the title. Selling to customers WAS an effective strategy for success, but as he elegantly puts it, it no longer converts like it did in the past. To drive this point home, I’m going to paint a picture and then ask you a couple questions.

Imagine you’ve just entered Costco and are en route to the back of the store to restock some necessary items for the refrigerator and pantry. As you know, the first section you’re going to pass along your route is the tv section. Tons of massive televisions displaying beautiful images to grab your attention. As you casually stroll by looking at these images – because, let’s face it, they do pull your eyes to them whether you’re interested in purchasing a tv or not, you’re ambushed by a Directv sales associate. They ask you “how are you doing today?” and after your polite response, attempt to strike up a conversation about your cable.

So, how do you feel being approached in this way?

Does this tactic get you to say “Hey, I know I’ve come to Costco for specific items, but while I’m here, I’m going to take some time to switch my cable”?

For most, the answers to these questions will be:

“This sales approach makes me feel uncomfortable” and “Heck no, I did not come to Costco to change my cable, so please leave me alone so I can head to the back of the store to pick up the 10 gallons of milk and 5 lbs. of almonds I need to buy”.

As an aside, if you are one of these friendly Directv people, I have no negative feelings to you doing your job. I only want to use your company’s terrible sales tactics as an example.

The reason this approach no longer works is threefold:

  • We now live in a world where information is at our fingertips. This has dramatically changed the way we purchase.
  • Sellers are no longer in control of the customer buying process.
  • It fails to recognize that buyers have a journey they take before making a purchase.

This approach can be labeled a seller or company centric model. Using this model, you push to sell at first point of contact. In the past, this might have worked because information was not easily available and so sellers held a position of authority where they had all the knowledge and answers to consumers problems. Buyers mainly learned about products through a salesperson. They were also less sophisticated – partly because they were in the dark.

But today, 90% of consumers research online rather than listen to marketing before they buy. They read customer reviews, have questions and many times engage with your brand on other channels before a purchase.

This is the Buyer’s Journey and it looks like this:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase

On this journey, a company should not make the mistake of handling every customer point of contact as if it’s in the purchase stage. In other words, leads are not all ready to purchase, they need nurturing and you should never try to sell to someone that is in the beginning of this journey. Doing so makes you no better than the Directv person pouncing on potential customers at Costco.

Instead, you need to understand what stands in the way of people who first learn about your product offering and them making the decision to purchase from you. And you need to know how to reach them.


  • What is the friction?
  • What can you provide to motivate them to move along in their journey?
  • Where can you find them?

These questions should shift your perspective so that you can see through the eyes of a customer. Looking at your product from this vantage point should make it clear to you that your product and brand are the new salesperson. Talk is cheap. Traditional marketing is less effective. On the other hand, brand experiences are more valued and lead to stronger relationships. The product and any supporting material that you have needs to send a clear message proving that your offering will solve their problem and add value. You should give value first, build trust and authority and then use triggers to get them to buy.

Circling back to the Directv sales associate. How can this situation be tweaked to better target customers? The first step would be identifying the type of customer that is further along in the buyer’s journey. This person knows about Direct Tv, has considered the service as a replacement to their cable provider and has researched what is being said about the company and product online. Perhaps, the best way to approach this customer is with a trigger? What trigger would move them to the next phase in the journey? Maybe a promotional offer? Maybe a free trial? This can still be done at Costco, but it might work better if the salesperson displayed the trigger and let those interested approach them.

If you can figure out what trigger works, you not only will target your customers correctly and avoid turning off customers that are newer to the journey, but you can work backwards and create a strategy that reduces friction and more efficiently guides buyers through the process.

Want to learn how you can use this method? Get our Buyer Centric Checklist to get some tips and triggers to boost your sales.

Want to learn more about value-added selling? Read our post titled Value-Added Selling: How To Transform Your Sales Process To Achieve Greater Success.

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