Is Your Sales Force Pushing or Pulling Customers?

During sales training, when I ask originators to define selling, many reply that their job is to decide what customers want or need and then persuade them to buy it. This sounds reasonable and most sales people will agree that this is what they experience when making their own purchases.

Certainly, most sales training is based on this approach, commonly defined as the needs analysis. The problem is that the customer has changed and needs-based selling doesn’t work as well as it once did. Why? Because more customers are performing their own needs analysis before reaching out to a salesperson.

What works with today’s customer? Pull selling.

Pull selling is where you find out what the customer wants to buy and you sell it to them. It might sound like splitting hairs, but the difference between push selling and pull selling is dramatic and involves a completely different approach by an originator.

Push selling is when the originator’s focus is on the product or service (me approach). With pull selling, the attention is on the buyer and what he or she wants (them approach).

Let’s look at an example. A consumer contacts a lender and says they want to buy a home and need some help getting pre-approved. The salesperson responds, “Great. There are two products that are really hot. Our pricing is great now. Interest rates will be going up soon so you shouldn’t wait.” This type of discussion happens every day in mortgage origination.

A salesperson using pull selling would handle the conversation differently by asking the customer questions about themselves and identifying what issues are important to them. Other issues might surface that the hot product will not address. The customer is definitely front and center in a pull-selling interaction.

While the push method seems faster and frankly easier than pull selling, it is definitely transactional and there is no way to determine if the customer got the right product at a good price. By not identifying what is motivating the buying behavior, it is hard to form a relationship where the customer will come to you a second time or more importantly, will refer family and friends.

If your sales force isn’t getting sufficient referrals or closing enough business, it is time to try the pull sales approach.