Sales: are your cultivating desire when you should be focussing on dealing with skepticism?


Share on LinkedIn

The situation: buyers are interested in what you have to sell and yet you are failing to sell

Situation 1: You have a website and you get your fair share of visitors to that site. You don’t have to pay much to get them to your website as they come naturally via Google. Your website is not an entertainment destination and you are not in an ‘entertainment type of business’. So you can be confident that the bulk of the folks coming to your website are clearly interested in what you are offering. You have an attractive proposition. So why is it that only a small percentage of interested buyers actually buy from you through your website?

Situation 2: I was with a client this week and some of the folks there shared their frustration. What is their frustration? They they have a set of inter-related jobs that need doing and they need a ‘solution’ that does these jobs. So they invited in a well know brand whose marketing claims to provide just the solution. Several meetings (including demos) have taken place and my client has yet to see the ‘solution’. To date the client has listened to lots of talk and sat through poor demos of products that the sales reps claim can be knitted together to create a solution. My client remains unconvinced and is totally unimpressed – he hasn’t even been told what the total cost of this ‘solution’ is likely to be.

What does Kristin Zhivago (Roadmap to Revenue) have to say on this?

I recently wrote a post praising Kristin Zhivago’s book Roadmap to Revenue. As I was grappling with the question “Why do websites and sales folks fail to sell despite being in front of interested buyers?” Kristin’s wisdom came into my mind. And that is the wisdom that I wish to share with you (and I don’t use the word ‘wisdom’ lightly):

“When someone sets out to buy a product or service, they bring two antithetical emotions to the process: desire and skepticism. Desire compels them forward, skepticism yanks them back.

They desire certain product/service attributes. They desire a smooth buying process, including friendly, helpful sellers, straight forward and reasonable pricing and an easy way to examine the product and compare the product with other choices.

Their skepticism comes from past experiences with sellers who promised good products and exceptional service but who delivered disappointing results. The product or service was substandard. The buying process was uncomfortable, confusing or difficult. Customer service didn’t help.

Reading copy on websites, you’d think that 1) buyers have no desires and 2) buyers are not skeptical. For some reason, marketers and website copywriters completely ignore these two realities. The copy treats the customer as if he had to be encouraged to spend money – when, in fact, most people spend every penny they can. “

Kristin goes and elaborates on this critical theme (p115):

Desire is what starts the person on his buying process. However, as soon as he begins the buying process, his skepticism kicks in. The more expensive and complex the purchase, the greater the scrutiny that the customer will apply to the purchase.

The answers the customer seeks must be easily accessible on the website. And if the buying proceeds to the next stages, the company representative must be available – and able – to answer the customer’s questions.

All companies, small and large, in every industry, don’t get this right. They behave as if they want your business, but when you come to them, eager to buy, they behave as if your business doesn’t matter to them. They don’t help you take the next step.”

Desire brings the customer to your website. Once there, he doesn’t need anyone to stoke the fires of his desire. He needs the website to allay his skepticism. He needs your website (or a salesperson) to answer his questions so he can decide if the product or service is going to solve the problem.”

Then Kristin lays it out on the table for all to see clearly and get present to what is so:

“A sale is what happens at the very end of the customers’ buying process. Marketers typically focus all their efforts on the beginning of the buying process. They think that what happens at the later stages of the buying process and after the sale, is someone else’s responsibility.”

Is this issue only limited to smaller less sophisticated companies? This is what Kristen has to say on the matter:

Big companies also fail to support the latter stages of the buying process. One of the largest companies in the world runs clever commercials showing people getting their business problems solved by the large company. But when the customer actually decides that the large company might be able to meet is need, he goes to the company website – and his buying process is stopped dead in its tracks. He can’t figure out where to start. There is nor relationship between those clever commercials and the products and messages on the company’s website. There is no easy way to figure out whom to contact.”

What does Kristin advise?

“We have all set out to buy something and have soon become discouraged from doing so. Our skepticism – and or our inability to find exactly waht we wanted – forced us to abandon the effort…This is one of the reasons to map out the entire buying process for our product or service, from the initial desire all the way through the purchase, and beyond, including customer support. From the customer’s perspective, all phases of the buying process are important. Customers are just as likely to ditch the process near the end as they were at the beginning…..”

Final thoughts

Would you buy a car without actually sitting in it, driving it and talking with (even if that is via social media) others who have already bought that car and lived with it or several months? So why do you expect our customers to do what you would not do yourself?

From where I stand and view the world, based on lived experience, it occurs to me that Kristin speaks ‘truth’ – she has identified what is so. Too much focus on cultivating desire and little or no consideration on addressing the skepticism by answering the questions honestly/accurately. Too much focus on messaging, telling and making loft claims and almost none on professionally demonstrating the solution AND showing such a solution in actual operation.

An invitation, an offer – do you want to get a free copy of Roadmap to Revenue?

I think so highly of Kristin’s expertise captured and shared in her book Roadmap to Revenue that I asked her if she would be happy to send me a copy that I can offer you free. She agreed and I have that book in my possession. So here is my invitation, my offer:

I have one FREE copy of Roadmap to Revenue and I will post it to the first person who sends me an email asking for it. I have one request – please only ask it if you are going to read it / make use of it. If you know that you are not going to do that then leave it for one of our fellow human beings who will use it and get value out of it. A useful book should not be left sitting on the shelf!”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Maz: so many great points in this, many of which I agree with. The advice Kristin outlines is derived in part from the common misconception that “buyers don’t want to be sold,” which as I wrote in an earlier blog, isn’t logical.

    In the interest of not being perceived as sellers, marketers and social media experts have taken executives down pathways that focus on SEO, community building, “engagement,” and other related tasks that provide important sales muscle, but fail to “take the ball over the goal line” and close the deal. This of course, is a contributing factor to what for many companies cements the word “prospective” to “customer.” A synchronous and efficient sales process splits the two words apart, quickly. That requires an end-to-end view of buying, selling, and a clear understanding of how they mesh.

    The problem is that many of us in marketing, sales, and business development make assertions about what customers want, but we don’t bring their voices to the discussion. A recent segment on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show provides a great parody of this issue when Jason Jones brings a panel of women to the studio to discuss matters that are important to women, but fails to sincerely solicit their opinions. It’s worth watching, because I think the same disconnectedness plagues buyers and sellers.

    It’s surprising how much is written about what customers want, but how little is directly supported with information from them–even anecdotal.

  2. Hello Andrew

    We first have to come to a decision on whether people want to buy and thus need help in buying or whether people want to be sold to and so we should focus on selling? The question is do we arrive at this decision based on ideaology, vested interests, experience or research. If I look into my experience then I say the following:

    – Some people are open to being sold to and other people are not;

    – The same person may be open to being sold to on some occassions and not on other occassions.

    The bigger issue that I see is that there is a lack of honesty between buyers and sellers. Buyers are not being honest with sellers. Take Buyers, there are some who have no intention of buying from the Seller and just want to suck insight/expertise out of the Seller or the Seller has to be there to make up the numbers and make it look like the decision has not been made. Or the Buyer has a genuine need and is ignorant yet does not want to show this ignorance fearing this vulnerability will be used by the Seller to profit at the Buyers expence.

    On the other hand we have Sellers who will just about say and do anything to make the sale. They will make all kinds of promises – implicit and explicit – which either they are not in a position to make (because they do not understand what is involved in keeping that promise) or because they have absolutely no intention on keeping.

    The other issue that I have noticed is that in the area of B2B sales – complex sales – the sales reps simply do not understand the products well enough to show how those products can be put together to get the job that the Buyer wants done, done. So they stick to generalities, waffle and hot air. Which makes Buyers even more suspicious and skeptical. In part this is because Seller organisations are structured in product silos and each product is complex in its own right. Understanding the product is hard enough, understanding (as in know-how not know-what) is almost impossible when it comes to knitting these products into a ‘solution’.

    Final observation: more and more Buyers are looking for know-how that comes from lived experience. The know-how of flying a plane can only come from flying a plane. The know what can come from classrooms, the internet,instruction manuals. As I see it Buyers are looking for know-how and Sellers are turning up with know-what when it comes to complex B2B sales.



Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here