Selling – the act of providing goods or services for money.

Buying – the act of procuring goods or services for money.

They sound similar and ideally are similar. They are interdependent, yet they manifest themselves in different ways, and somehow they usually end up being contentious. The process of selling often creates a back and forth scenario of points and counterpoints, sellers extracting cautious agreements and buyers feeling as if they have to defend themselves from making bad decisions.

This frequent conflict between selling or buying is the tyranny of the word “or”. When selling and buying are contrasted with “or”, it immediately creates a chasm between the two practices. There is the selling process. There is the buying process. Never the twain shall meet.

Sales training programs are predominantly responsible for creating this chasm. For decades the practice of selling, as taught in many sales workshops, defines selling as a process to overcome objections and control the selling conversation. Many salespeople are told to:

• Control the steps from building rapport to closing. Establish up front with the prospect how the sales process should proceed.
• Qualify early on that there is a good fit between what the prospect needs and what the product delivers. Early on, have the prospect share all that they are going through so the salesperson can determine alignment before they invest too much time or effort.
• Ensure the prospect can afford my product and is ready to make a decision. Get commitments early on regarding budget and resources.
• And finally, get signals early on that the prospect will buy. Check that the prospect agrees using the “if, then” scenario – “if I can solve your problem, then will you buy my product”?

This approach is understandable. After all, fielding a sales force is an investment. The return on that investment ultimately determines the success or failure of a company. If sales are not where they need to be, the company closes its doors. Therefore, control the process in order to maximize the return. (Interestingly, the returns on this type of selling approaches are not that great. Sales funnel conversions of prospects to customers are typically less than 10%.)

Buying, on the other hand, involves reaching a value-based decision on something in the context of needs, challenges and/or goals. The buyer’s perspective has nothing to do with the seller’s approach. A buyer is only concerned about their situation, their challenges, their needs. They frankly don’t care what the seller’s time frames are, nor do they care what process the seller wants to use.

No one likes to be sold to, so buyers naturally put up defenses as soon as “selling” starts to take place.

And the ultimate reality – the buyer is in control regardless of what the seller wants or tries to do. Why? Because the buyer has the gold, and he who has the gold writes the rules.

There is a better way. Eliminate the “or.” Approach the exchange of goods and services for money as what it should be – an interdependent collaboration. A collaboration entails openness and honesty in communication. It involves empathy and authenticity. Most importantly, it requires trust.

Trust is the goal. Trust opens up opportunities because both parties are aligned. Trust has nothing to do with selling or buying. Trust is a judgment based on the strength of a relationship with someone else.

When trust exists, one doesn’t have to sell. Instead, there is a conversation, discussion, exploration. Salespeople don’t have to convince prospects. Prospects persuade themselves because they trust what has occurred. Close rates climb well above 10%.

Throw away the outdated concept of selling something to someone. Eliminate the idea of controlling a sales process, closing prospects along the way with artificial “if, then” agreements. Put the focus where it should be – on developing a relationship and trust. When that occurs, both parties collaborate, working together to reach a conclusion that makes sense today and long-term.