Customers Love To Buy, But Hate To Be Sold

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If you want to insult your friends, just ask, “Who sold you that jacket?”

Want to complement them? You can, with a slight change of emphasis: “Where did you buy that jacket?

The implication is clear. If you ended up with something ugly or inappropriate, you couldn’t have been in charge of your faculties; you were under the influence of a salesperson.

As a general rule, customers love to feel they’re buying, but they hate the pressures and connotations associated with being sold. Therefore, as a seller, if you can position yourself as being a resource, a helper, a guide, a consultant, an information sharer, then people will feel they’re voluntarily choosing your wares, and their degree of ownership of the process will be heightened, along with their overall satisfaction.

In practical terms, if they choose it, they’re less likely to return it. If it is foisted on them, it never fully becomes theirs, and you can have it back.

Also, they can take credit for having made a good decision, boast about how well they did to their friends, which will bring them back, and steer referrals your way.

How do we pull off this feat?

We do it by peppering our conversation with questions. There are four, basic types of questions every salesperson should have in his arsenal: open, narrow, closed, and leading.

An open question can be as simple as how are you? It opens the conversation, and while many folks will give a short, perfunctory answer, they can say anything and go anywhere with it.

“How are you holding up in this weather?” narrows the conversation, right away. Again, it can elicit a short answer or an elaborate one.

“Are you looking for a jacket?” is a closed question, and of course, it’s designed to ferret out a yes or no.

“That jacket looks great on you, don’t you think?” is a leading question. It is aimed at achieving a conditioned, knee-jerk reply such as “Yup. ”

Each question type has its place in a sales conversation. The first two, open and narrow, tend to give the customer greater freedom, and they feel less constraining, inducing more of a “buying” feeling. The last two, closed and leading, are directive questions, and they feel more like we’re being sold, when we hear them.

Therefore, we want to avoid using them too early in the chat; otherwise, we can scare away the prospect. When it’s time to close the deal, however, we’ve earned the right to use more direct probes, having already gently guided the person along to that point.

In future articles I’ll explore related devices, such as “perfect questions™”. These are so well thought out that they give a listener a wide berth, yet induce him to close himself!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman © 2005

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. A frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide, Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. Gary is headquartered in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at:


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