Today, I had a great text conversation with an outstanding sales manager. The time zones worked out–it was evening his time, so he had the time to be a little philosophical, it was morning my time, I was desperate to find something to write about.

We were talking about general approaches to engaging customers more effectively. He had read an earlier article of mine about the topic and had questions.

At a certain point in the conversation, he said, “I’m a buyer now, it’s changed everything I think about in how we sell….”

It’s a fascinating point. As I reflect on many of the best sales people I’ve hired, they have been past users/buyers. They bring a different perspective to the sales role.

First, they are deeply knowledgeable about the problems and issues customers face—because they have been customers.

This gives them much greater credibility in engaging their customers, after all, they’ve experienced the same thing and can speak in the same language about similar experiences.

But most importantly, they have a greater level of empathy. They know how the customer thinks, what they go through, what they worry about.

In sales, we talk about putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes. Sales people who have actually been customers before, truly understand this.

We don’t have to have been buyers of what we sell to be able to start doing this. All we have to do is start thinking of our own B2B buying experiences.

  • What do we find interesting and engaging when we are being prospected? Why do we like it?
  • What do we respond to in conversations with sales people who are selling us?
  • What do we find offensive or manipulative, why does it bother us? How do we feel when we recognize the “tricks and techniques” of selling being used on us?
  • Why do we avoid dealing with people selling to us? How do we avoid doing the same thing with our customers?
  • How do we feel when a sales person is trying to “close” us, when we aren’t ready to be closed?
  • What do the sales people we really appreciate do differently from those that we can’t stand?
  • What lessons can we learn through our own buying experience that we should leverage when we sell to our own customers?

We know we are more effective when we can “relate” more genuinely to our customers and their buying experiences. All we have to do to start understanding this is to reflect on our own buying experience.

Perhaps, our best path is to sell to our customers in the same way we would like to be sold to (With apologies to the authors of the Golden Rule.)

Thanks to Hrovje Gabelica for a great conversation!