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Buying and selling is complex. There is no magic formula to it. Each and every one of us needs to figure out what works best for us and our product and service offerings. Sometimes, we can learn some basic ideas to guide our approach and fine tune our strategies. Whilst this is a a good start, it is not the final destination for selling strategies. We need to adapt to the situation at hand and leverage a variety of tools and techniques to win the order. Selling is a dynamic process and it can not be boiled down into simple rules or steps. However, these frameworks can be helpful in forming our strategies and aligning our thinking.

Many years ago, a senior sales professional, long since retired from the business world, took it upon himself to share his secrets with me. His core strategy for success was based upon what he referred to as the buy / sell matrix. I do not know who created this framework as it has been passed along over the years. I suspect that someone much smarter than me dreamed it up, and for that I thank them. So, please allow me to share it and push it forward to the community with the hope that it may be of value to you. I have used this framework many times to shape and form my sales strategy. It works.

Buy Sell

The strategy is fairly simplistic on the surface but is underpinned with many important professional sales traits and characteristics, so there is more to it than just a basic methodology. Think of it as sales governance.

See Sales Professionals: Traits and Characteristics

It is critical to understand the overarching selling psychology embedded within each transaction in order to be successful in sales. So this framework is what I have used for years to help bracket my thinking and it has proven to be worthy.

Why Customers Buy

Trust – Customers must trust the people they deal with and without trust, no sale can transact naturally. Sure, a manager may direct a transaction to happen when trust is absent, but these are typically one-time aberrations that can not survive long term relationships. People buy from people they trust. Buyers need to have confidence in the seller, and vice versa. There is an expectation and both sides need to respect this relationship. The buyer is relying on the seller to deliver what is offered, and more. There is an obligation or responsibility imposed. There are both written and unwritten obligations, so it goes far beyond the words in a contract. Trust is essential.

Gain – The customer must perceive that they are gaining something special or unique that is optimized to fit their needs. It is not enough to have a good product or solution, offered at a fair price, you need a good “fit” and this can be had if the customers understand that they are getting something worthy of their needs. The seller must understand the buyers needs. Too often, I see sale people who can not describe what the customer does or do not understand what is important to them. This is grounds for failure in sales. Think as if you work for the customer and that you are on their side helping them to buy what is best for them and their needs. It is smarter to help customers to buy then to think that you can sell them something. Think of a pull approach instead of a push approach. In this way, you can better understand what gains they will earn with your solution.

How Top Sales Professionals Sell

Difference – If you offer a product or service that is just like every other product or service being considered, then it will be impossible to stand out from the crowd of sellers. Therefore, it is vital to differentiate your offering from everyone else’s offering. Sell based upon difference. Of course, you need to meet the core requirements that the buyer seeks, but what makes your offering stand out, what makes it unique? Many sales people fear selling something that is different, but this is a powerful strategy that can win the day if presented correctly.

Value – In sales, we often talk about the value proposition. We, and our colleagues in marketing, work hard to craft the perfect value scenario, but in practice, sales people do not use of value proposition effectively to make the sale. They can be equipped with this ideal value proposition prepared and ready for discussion, then when in front of the customer, they just “wing” it and randomly discuss their offering. This is wrong. You need to know and present the value proposition to the client and be prepared to accentuate and bring clarity to any value point within it. It needs to be stated from the customers perspective too, not from your company’s point of view or for the joy of your technology. You must be customer centric and not seller centric. The customers will buy the value they understand being offered to them. Selling is all about offering value.

If you use this buy / sell matrix will you win every order and ultimately become the most successful sales professional ever? Of course not. But, if it helps to tip the sales scales towards more wins than losses. If a baseball player bats 0.300 he is a star member of the team, but that is just hitting 3 out of 10. So, as a sales professional, if you can win better than 50% of your opportunities, you will be in the winners column. It is just another positive tool for you to leverage and should be one of the many tools that you use to be successful in sales.


Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM’s Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and earlier was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation. He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.