The Problem with Sales Techniques

The #1 Technique to Becoming a More Effective Seller:  Don’t Focus on Techniques

As I read all the advice and articles posted about the secret, magical words to say to a sales prospect that will always make them say yes and become a customer, I hope that everyone is reading the fine print:

These ‘techniques’ only work if your motive is pure – to help the customer, not make a commission.

It’s the same as health magazine’s promise, “Shredded abs in only 15 minutes per day.” But read the bottom: ‘Only when combined with a balanced 1,800 calories per day diet and 30-minutes of medium-to-high intensity exercise five days per week.’

There is no easy path to fitness. And there surely isn’t a magic pill or technique for sales effectiveness. If there was, we’d all be retired to an island somewhere and not reading (or writing) this blog. If you have the wrong motive, sales techniques aren’t effective. They are wrong if they are shallow, show a disregard for the uniqueness of each customer, and are focused on manipulation instead of helping the customer. Even if your techniques get a few customers to say “yes,” albeit reluctantly, that approach will backfire before they sign the check and not only will you lose a sale, you’ll lose trust. That’s much worse.

The Real Problem

There are many good solutions out there to meet customers’ challenges.  And there are plenty of sales reps with the wrong motive – with commission breath. The real problem today is that customers aren’t receptive to sales reps.

Research shows that customers are engaging sales reps much later in the buying process. When you do engage them, customers aren’t really receptive to you, your questions, or your recommendations. In fact, they become less receptive if you utilize those sophisticated techniques you’ve been reading about on blogs.

There is a Solution

When I interview the most successful sales people who work for our clients, they have one thing in common 100% of the time: a true desire to help serve their customers, and they are willing to give up a sale if it’s not in the customer’s best interest. Most times, that customer comes back again. These reps recognize and embrace two truths and you can do the same if you are willing to.


1. Understand the customer has a choice, and communicate to them that you respect that choice

Pay attention to the words you are using. Does it make the customer feel forced into something? Have you ever said, “Your only option is…,” or “You have to…?”

The Tug of War Principle is that people will resist pressure to do something if they feel forced. If you pull, they’ll pull back. If you are not sure, test it at home. Tell your spouse, kids, or friend they have to do something. See what their initial response is. Now you are in a tug of war. It’s human nature.

In sales, don’t pull. Instead, avoid the tug of war and Drop the Rope®. Let the customer know they are in charge and that they always have options:

  • Buy from you
  • Buy from someone else
  • Don’t buy anything
  • Make or do it themselves
  • Solve the problem another way
  • Ignore the problem

Your job is to help them navigate those options and make an informed decision. Drop the Rope by:

  • Asking permission to ask questions or to share your thoughts and recommendations
  • Telling the customer early in your conversations that you are not sure if your solution would be beneficial until you know more about them
  • Putting several options on the table they can consider, some which do not involve buying from you

Drop the Rope is not walking away from the customer and hoping they buy; it’s an active approach to let customers know you respect their choice and it usually increases their receptivity to working with you to address their needs. Dropping the Rope will help maximize the chances of the customer actually being open and receptive to what you are asking or saying. They will have an open mind about considering your solution.


2. Be Other-Centered®

Do you get nervous before an important sales call or meeting? Why? Is it partly because your objective, or motive, is to close the sale? You don’t want to make a mistake. The same was true when you were growing up. Did you play a sport or perform in some way? And did you get nervous before the game or performance because you didn’t want to lose or make a mistake? But at practice, you’d be fine; in fact, you enjoyed the sport, dance, or instrument.

What would happen to your nervousness if you changed your objective when getting ready to talk to a customer? Your objective should not be to make a sale but to really care about that person, get them to open up, and utilize your knowledge and experience in your market to help them. Teach them. Guide them. Help them make the best decision they can. It’s practice.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t work hard.  You should work hard to qualify to talk to the customers you are most likely to be able to help. Be prepared with questions and answers to the questions they’ll ask. Have next steps you can suggest to best help. But on the call, just focus on the other people.

I know it’s hard. Our first instinct is to think of ourselves. (Take four minutes to see the proof in don’t be a Me Monster.) You’ll need to make a decision to make your motive about helping the customer. If you actually do, the customer will notice. If your motive is transparent, they’ll be more receptive, and your sales techniques will be less important. So, on your next sales call, simply ask yourself: ‘What is your motive?’


What Next?

If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the concepts we covered, you can check out our new book, UnReceptive, at

As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.

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The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.