Begin With The End In Mind


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Stephen Covey’s famous 2nd Habit is: “Begin with the end in mind!”

It’s great advice for most things, but stunning advice as we think about our deal/opportunity strategies. Sadly, too few sales people leverage this habit/principle effectively.

The immediate reaction to this will be, “Dave, you’re crazy, sales people always do this, they are focused on getting the order and producing results!”

I get it, but, based on too many behaviors I see in sales people, it’s not clear to me they really understand what this means or that they are effectively executing it. Let me do a deeper dive into this.

The first, most obvious case, is those sales people that only think of the “end”–that is getting a PO. From their very first call, their focus is “buy my product.” Their focus is on the order, but less on the things they have to do to get the order.

As a result, they fail to understand the customer and their “end.” They don’t realize that until the customer reaches their goal, we can’t reach ours. They fail to understand the things they have to learn, who they must engage, and what series of activities they and the customer have to go through for them to reach their end.

The data about these sales people is clear, at least in complex B2B sales. Their exclusive focus on the PO, the end,” inevitably fails. The customer isn’t interested in these sales people, because they recognize the sales person has no interest in them, they are just interested in their money.

The second case is a little less obvious. It’s really the case of the sales person getting distracted from the “end.” This is what I see in most sales people. While they know they want to get an order, they lose their way. They get distracted by their last interaction with the customer, responding and reacting to that. They fail to look at the bigger picture, that is, “what are all the things we and the customer have to do to make a buying decision, and how do we reach that goal most effectively?”

Simply stated, they and the customer don’t have a plan (or at least a common one).

I refer to this as the “bumper car” method of selling. For those unfamiliar with this amusement park ride, read this. Bumper car selling focuses us on what’s has just happened and responding to it, or what’s in front of us and responding to that. As a result, we lose our way. We forget our goal, getting distracted by these other things.

Think about those deals that stall, ask the sales person, “What are the next things you and the customer have to do in their buying process? When are you doing them, with who? What is your plan?”

Typically the responses fall into two categories. The first are reactions to what has happened, but not about what needs to be happening. The second generally involves a lot of hand-waving and generalities, but not a specific plan.

The third category is actually the most important, but we seldom think about. When we think about “Begin with the end in mind,” our focus is on getting the PO. The problem is, it’s not aligned with the customer’s “end in mind.”

We have differing goals, which create conflict in either of us achieving them.

I know there are probably a lot of shoulder shrugs, and thinking about, “so what!” But the problem is, we don’t achieve our goal until the customer achieves their goal—or at least a major milestone in reaching their goal, making a buying decision.

Just like we struggle with the concept of “Begin with the end in mind,” our customers have similar struggles. As a result neither of us reach it.

We and our customers have to do the work. Often, we don’t know what it is. Understanding what we and they are trying to achieve, and developing a collaborative plan is the starting point.

Start with the end in mind—great advice!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Another way of looking at it that the end for the sales person actually marks the beginning for the customer. By stretching the customer journey across the full lifecycle of the relationship (from the moment they realise their need to the point they stop the service) we get a much better understanding of the end to end process. The bit I particularly miss is the post-sale customer (support) experience which has the best potential to deepen and enrich the relationship for both parties.


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