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You Can’t Sell to Someone Who Can’t Buy

Or, stated more positively, “You can sell only to someone who can buy.”

Many salespeople end up in the free education business. Think about knowledge workers in corporate America—engineers, software developers, scientists, and so on. How do they become educated in new technologies and new ways of doing business? By salespeople who spend their time and effort presenting their offerings. The problem is that the vast majority of knowledge workers embrace learning, yet can’t buy. The length of the sales cycle is often inversely proportional to the level at which it is initiated.

This is most severe with breakthrough products and services. If you are first to market with a new concept or technology, then by definition, no budgets exist to buy what you are selling. This means you have to gain access to the very small minority of people who can spend unbudgeted funds. We were working with a large software company in the mid-1990s. Of the 14,000 people on their payroll, only four could spend unbudgeted funds.

For sellers selling continuous-improvement products and services, they still have to get to the person who can spend budgeted funds. This is where homework pays off. Ideally, your prospect is both the user of your product or service and the head of a department that already has the money budgeted.


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