How to protect yourself from untrustworthy buyers

cheersPay-off: a simple way to set up a solid win:win relationship when selling
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Yep, some buyers are as dodgy as hell. What you’ve never lied to a sales person? Are you sure?

Buyers lie

Buyers sometimes lie. Because they were taught to lie. To protect themselves from self-serving manipulative sales people. (Although I won’t mess around here, some of them lie because they already had it in them. Yes, I hate to break it to you, but they’re not all innocent sweet hearts. More on that in a minute).

But not all sales people are self-serving. Many I have met (and I regularly work with rooms full of them) are generous, helpful value-creating and value-connecting people. Unfortunately though, since buyers don’t tend to believe what they see, but see what they believe, many over-cautious buyers go in with a ‘you’re guilty until proven innocent’ mindset.

So sellers must work much harder to help buyers buy

Psychological biases, beliefs and first impressions are initially stacked against good, honest, trustworthy sellers, so they have to work harder than ever to earn the trust of buyers and influence them to become clear, honest, frank and transparent. That’s what sales people want. Their living depends on it. And unfortunately sometimes…it’s the sales people who get totally screwed over. Sometimes, some buyers just can’t be trusted.

Givers vs takers

Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take” is excellent. Amongst the pearls of wisdom he observes that self-serving ‘takers’ tend to be more ‘successful’ (at least short term) than generous ‘givers’ who work hard to add value to others. But that there is a group of people who tend to be more successful longer term than the ‘takers’. These are a certain type of ‘giver’ who are able to tactically ‘give’ by creating and forging mutually trusted win:win relationships. These ‘givers’ don’t just give value – they know how to ‘give’ the other person (the buyer) the conditions and will to reciprocate appropriately for a win:win that sustains and grows the relationship. Now we’re talking.

Without that, the giver gets smashed and the wheels fall off.

Buyers who just take

What’s interesting is that there are many more ‘takers’ out there than ‘givers’. Not just amongst sales people. Amongst everyone out there – buyers too! You have significantly more chances of selling to a ‘taker’ than a ‘giver’. You’re going to have to ensure you act accordingly. And I’ve certainly learned this the hard way having come across many ‘takers’ over the years.

Seller beware!

Dan Pink in his excellent book ‘To Sell is Human’ says that perhaps it’s time we dropped ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware) for ‘caveat venditor’ (seller beware). You have been warned.

What sellers must do

Well, it depends on who you are, and who you’re selling to. Here’s some scenarios for you to consider:

If you’re a ‘taker’: you’re going to chomp through your network faster than you realise. You probably have been all along. Tired? Frustrated? Noticed you’ve upset a few people over the years? Meet your new label that tells you how most people probably see you – you’re probably a ‘taker’.

You may land yourself wins from new relationships but you’re going to burn people, and have to work harder and harder to create new relationships since you burned your old ones (which you’ll probably also burn later). In short, don’t be a ‘taker’, it’s ugly. The world doesn’t owe you. You probably owe the world.

If you’re a giver: be careful. Keep giving, but be aware of who you’re giving to because ‘blind giving’ can also burn you out and sink you. Remember, there are more ‘takers’ out there who’ll just keep taking. No, here’s what you should do…

If you’re selling to a buyer who is also a ‘giver’, you should find it easier and enjoyable to create a mutually trusted win:win relationship. Do all you can to look after them, cover their back, and keep adding value. This is a great place to be. I have some clients who go out of their way to give to me, because they’re more than ‘clients’ – we have a mutual win:win giving relationship and look out for each other. Naturally, I do my best to continuously stay in the loop and give them what they need.

If you’re selling to a buyer who is a ‘taker’ (and remember, statistically, you’re more likely to be) you’re going to need to stick to your ‘giving’ self-identity but give them something useful AND give them the conditions and will to give you something valuable too, in order to be able to give them even more.

And you want to work hard to do this earlier rather than later. Otherwise you’ll find yourself getting excited and hopeful when the ‘taker’ shows apparent interest, and they’ll take you somewhere nasty.

The best way is to tune in quickly to realise they’re a ‘taker’ (they’ll simply be taking what you offered and showing no signs of supporting or even respecting your own interests. They may even argue that it’s not their job to, since you’re ‘selling’ to them. And they’d kind of be right. Your first job is to sell the idea of them co-operating with you.)

Once you’ve identified at ‘taker’ buyer, here’s what you could do:

You must give first (they’re a ‘taker’ – it’s the only way it’s going to happen!) but you must give something valuable enough and designed to make them want more. Because the next thing you give them must be exchanged for something valuable back (you can get ideas from the list below).

You can explain by pre-framing up front to them that “if you think there’s something worth exploring further where I might be able to add some value, we can look at me providing you with xyz if you are happy to [add what you need/want here].”

Tell them the rules up front about how they can get more. And tell them that you’ll put that in place as soon as they have upheld their end of the bargain. Don’t give again! Their word might not be enough. Buyers can’t always be trusted! If what you have provided them first is a good fit and compelling, they should be able to meet your reasonable request.

If you’re short on ideas of value they could give to you:

  • introductions to key people/colleagues
  • attention of decision makers
  • more of their attention (confirmed as a further meeting)
  • useful information or insights
  • internal promotion (getting your name or brand into their organisation)
  • a testimonial or reference
  • having initial expenses covered if you provide a taster of your work
  • and you could always just charge them accordingly!

When you’re selling, be 100% conscious of creating the win:win early, and helping your buyer understand how to do this and why they should. This is how it has to work and how you can maximise your value to them longer term.

And finally remember, to build this win:win, you have to remove their risk, and go first.

If you want more help with this or other ideas to help your sales people improve their approach with customers, contact me.

And if you want to ‘give’ and help me share this content, please share using the social media buttons. I’d certainly appreciate the support and if this info can reach any ‘takers’ out there, it may help them change their approach, and hopefully we can all create higher value win:win relationships.

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