You can almost see customers deflate. The enthusiasm drains out of them, leaving them as limp as birthday balloons the morning after the party. They wanted to buy, but a salesperson pricked their balloon.

Why is it so easy for salespeople to let the air — the life — out of sales?

In his book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink offers an insightful answer. He recalls a law school professor who said that it’s possible to understand “just about anything” if we “don’t get lost in the crabgrass of details.” To avoid that from happening, he urged the law students to focus on what he called the “1%” — the essence of the message that gives meaning to the other 99%.

Also see: "2015's top 50 large-group brokers in the U.S., part 1."

All too often salespeople mess around it the crabgrass, running through a laundry list of stuff, hoping something will stick, but only bore customers, while creating confusion, doubts and conflicts — all the things guaranteed to undermine sales.

Messing around in the crabgrass, we never get around to answering the compelling question in every customer’s mind, the one that determines the fate of sale: “Why should I buy this from you?”

Hold back

The temptation, of course, is to throw a few more pieces of chicken into the sales stew, then some carrots and potatoes, and flavor it up with hot sauce and garlic. Salespeople are out of control; they just can’t hold back. They want to be sure they find something that will tickle the customer’s taste buds. Instead, they over do it, so that the customer leaves the table, and heads down the street for dinner someplace else.

Also see: "2015's top 50 large-group brokers in the U.S., part 2."

How we answer the “why should I buy?” question depends on our understanding of the customer. There’s no one right answer. This is where selling expertise comes into play. The answer may be convenience, price, urgency, comfort, excitement, or prestige, but it will always be the 1% that triggers a done deal.

Graham, of GrahamComm, is a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Reach him at, (617) 774-9759 or

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