If It’s Common Sense, Why Isn’t It Common Practice?


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I was having coffee with a close friend, @francineallaire, this morning. She’s an outstanding sales professional. As we often do, our conversation drifted to the challenges of professional selling.

We talked about how sales people have a tendency to make things overly complicated. So much time is spent on techniques to catch the customer’s attention. In the worst case, some resort to trickery and manipulation. More often, we fail to connect with customers because we talk about what we want to talk about, not what they want to talk about. Other times, we simply are wasting our customer’s time.

As we spoke, I made the comment, “At it’s core, all of what we need to do is just applied common sense.” Francine immediately agreed, but posed the very insightful question, “If it’s common sense, why can’t we make it common practice?”

It’s really one of the best questions I’ve heard in a long time.

Selling is really about common sense.

  • We know how customers want to be engaged.
  • We know customers don’t want a pitch, but want to be engaged in a conversation.
  • We know that customers want insight and ideas about how to improve and grow their businesses.
  • We know that customers hate to have their time wasted.
  • We know we have to create differentiated value to win.
  • We know we have to be focused and disciplined in executing our sales process.
  • We know we have to create and maintain healthy funnels.
  • We know that we have to keep feeding our funnels with new qualified opportunities.

The secret to sales success isn’t that secret–it’s just common sense. Not long ago, I interviewed my friend, Chris Locke. Chris is a Senior Buyer with a large company in the Automotive Industry. I asked Chris, “What do you expect of sales people, how can we connect more effectively?”

Chris responded, with simple and obvious advice. Some of it was:

  • “Before a meeting, send me an agenda. Let’s make sure we are both prepared to use our time well.”
  • “When you meet with me, talk about what I want to talk about. What I need as a buyer is different from what our engineers need, but sales people constantly pull out their standard presentation. It doesn’t cover the things that are important to me.”
  • “I want to get the greatest value for my company. But if you can’t differentiate your products from the alternatives, then the only point of differentiation becomes price. Make sure you differentiate what you have to sell and present things that we value. Give me an excuse to buy on something other than price.”
  • “I don’t want to be a gatekeeper, I want you to work with our engineers and manufacturing people. You can understand what they need better than I can–at least at a technical level. But if you waste my time in your sales calls, why should I introduce you to others? You’re likely to waste their time as well.”

Chris’s comments should not come as a surprise. This is how we are trained, this is what we expect of people selling to us. It is nothing but common sense. In my conversation with Chris, I asked, “Well isn’t that what sales people do anyway?” Chris sighed, “I wish they would. I tell them this all the time. It really helps me if they would do these things, but of the hundreds of sales people I meet every year, fewer than a handful actually do this. They usually end up getting a lot of business.”

Professional selling is not that complicated. We hear what our customers want, how they want us to engage them. We are trained about what we should do. It’s not complicated, it’s simply applied common sense. But why isn’t it common practice?

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. Hi Dave,

    Excellent blog…you really hit at the underlying question to a lot of business behavior. Why do we not do the things that we have been trained to do (and really do believe in our heads are the right things to do) in the moment of truth…when we really need to do them? It’s a valid question in the sales world, as you suggest, but it also runs into the service environment, in our relationships with employees and peers, in the way we handle vendors…virtually everywhere we go in business. I think the fundamental answer is that we allow ourselves (sometimes unconsciously) to mix our common sense with our personal agendas and emotions. We think it’s okay…just this once…to pepper a conversation with what we want, instead of doing an objective analysis of what our customer needs, or our employee needs, in that moment. We allow the momentum of the conversation to be about us, not about them…just this once. The trouble is “just this once” turns into common behaviors that belie common sense that we all know to be true. I think that every time we enter into a critical interaction with a customer, or an employee or a peer, we should get into the habit of taking a deep breath, and doing a quick scan of what we really want to accomplish in that meeting or conversation…and cleanse ourselves of conflicting agendas and emotions. What does the customer really need? What are they looking for? How does the world look from their side of the desk? What are their practical and emotional concerns? We call it “The Discovery Process” and it is meant to make the call or the conversation all about them…and very little about us. Without that proactive exercise, I think we as humans are destined to be more creatures of common behaviors than of common sense.

    Thanks again!

    Dr. John R. Miller

  2. John: Thanks for the great insight. As you mention, this phenomena is not just a set of sales behaviors, but impacts all parts of business (and perhaps our personal lives).

    One of the reasons I have become so interested in applying lean concepts to sales and marketing is these principles focus everything we do on understanding the essence or what is value–and eliminates everything else. In some sense, it is the disciplined application of common sense.

    Like you, we have often focused on transforming the Discovery Process to be more about the customer. While this has a great impact, there are a lot of things that we do outside of the deals we manage and outside the discovery process that also impact our effectiveness. The lean concepts force us to examine everything that we do.

    Great insights, thanks for taking the time to comment!


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