The first time I heard this phrase was in 2000, I was watching the movie Boiler Room in Denver, Colorado. Ben Affleck’s character was trying to “motivate”—or better said— “scare the dickens” out of his rookie recruits. I vividly remember him leaning over the conference room table, squarely looking each and every recruit in the eye telling them with force… “sell or be sold… someone is always selling… either you are selling them on why they should buy OR they are selling you on why they won’t/can’t buy... ”
His message was clear; there are really only two scenarios in a sales relationship. And according to Ben Affleck’s character in Boiler Room, the person with the strongest argument wins. Is this really true?
At The Center for Sales Strategy we have a different sales philosophy. We don’t believe the foundation of a sales process is built on an argument. We believe it’s built on an interactive relationship where the buyer and seller work together to define needs and create solutions. So, instead of convincing prospects or clients WHY they should buy, we believe it’s more beneficial to show them and tell them HOW to buy your product/service to fulfill their specific needs. We call this “How Selling.”
The idea is simple; shift the conversation away from why your products/services offer the best price, or the fastest technology, or the most efficient system, or the smartest support team, or the largest audience, etc… to how your products/services offer a real solution to their specific need(s). It could be said that like beauty, “the best” is in the eye of the beholder. And at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how incredible your product/service is IF it doesn’t meet your client’s real need(s).
“Sell or be sold” is definitely one approach, and I’m certain it has worked. However, it will be increasingly difficult to win the why argument if how it delivers solutions is unsatisfactory. And unsatisfactory results will prove to make renewals and referrals a big challenge. The repercussions from that is another blog post!
Looking back at the scene from Boiler Room, I would say Ben’s character more accurately depicted the edict of a trial attorney rather than a solution based seller working with his/her client. A Boiler Room sales philosophy is one dimensional, and it preys on weakness rather than building strength with thoughtful and meaningful collaboration. Remember, at the end of the day, your client is both the judge and the jury of how your product/service is meeting their need(s), and it gives reason to why you should engage in an interactive sales relationship.
Going back to my question, is the “sell or be sold” sales philosophy true? Does the person with the best argument win? As I recall, Boiler Room did not end well… everyone lost
Demrie Henry is a Performance Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy