Selling Sense and Sensibilities

Storytellers create interest in their tales by showing the opportunities and desires of characters set against the conflicts and challenges that confront them. Throughout the course of the story, a character grows to resolve these challenges.


Storytellers and story-selling

The same can be said of the stories of selling value in complex sales cycles.

Jane Austen famously used the phrase “sense and sensibility” to refer to human motivations and behaviors in her novel of the same name. Senses and sensibilities identify and provide information and discernment to people. They shape and form character and predispositions, which are impossible to fully describe.

However, insightful authors, such as Austen, have managed to show how the various human sense and sensibilities influence one’s life and behaviors in unimaginable ways.

Seller sensibilities don’t sell

To effectively sell value, the seller must understand the buyer’s senses. The seller must understand what it is that each person involved in a buying choice explicitly seeks.

To do this, the seller must view things from the personal perspective of the prospective customer. This means that the focus should be on buying motives and preferences, instead of selling.

And yet, most businesses and many sales reps forget that the customer wants to buy — not be sold.

The buyers’ perspective

These differences in perspectives cause difficulties for marketing and selling and some of the largest frustrations for buyers. To allay some of these frustrations, the seller must remember that buying and selling are one process, separated only by a difference in perspective.

Sellers tend to sell features and benefits, but buyers want to buy value. However, their idea of value does not necessarily mean a return on investment.

Value sells emotionally

It is said that value lies in emotions, not economics. Sellers must objectively determine and communicate the economic value being offered, but the subjective motivating reasons for a choice are often found in the emotional or personal benefits to be gained.

These advantages should be called values instead of value.

Values differ from person to person, time to time and situation to situation. That’s why so much of successful selling involves empathetically oriented personal interactions.

These values can be broken down into a more focused list of three behaviors and motivations: a craving for a sense of personal importance, a fear or dread of loss, or a desire for minimal effort or investment for maximum gain or success.

It is important to note that these three sensibilities are not the most attractive in human interactions. However, the objective is to be realistic without becoming cynical. Those engaged directly in selling processes may agree that these motivations often trigger behaviors that are not pleasant in normal human interactions but are typically prominent in buying and selling situations.

These primary motivational influences are like the three primary colors — red, yellow and blue. Just like red and yellow can be combined to get orange and blue and yellow make green, the influences can be combined in different degrees to create a virtually infinite palette of behaviors and motivations.

The combination of these most often encountered in sales and buying situations might best be summed up by the human behavioral principle taught by author Robert McKee: “With very few exceptions, humans seek to realize the maximum gain, or satisfaction, with a minimum of risk and investments of time, effort and energy.”

This means that on the first try, a person will do the minimum necessary to try to achieve a desired goal. This minimal effort hardly ever achieves a goal to its fullest extent, so the person will choose to give up or invest more time, effort, energy and risk in the project.

This cycle repeats itself until the goal is achieved.

About the Author

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. The longest actively serving CEO in the computer industry, Nies was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as "the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit of American business." In 1992, British Prime Minister Edward Heath honored Nies for Cincom's role in bringing the software industry to England. In 1995, he was profiled by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the "pioneers of the software industry," alongside other industry giants such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Larry Ellison (Oracle). In 2004, Ernst & Young inducted Nies into its Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame. In 2005, along with the CEO of Adobe, Nies won the International Stevie Award for Best Executive in the International Business Awards—"the business world's own Oscars," according to the New York Post. In 2005, Nies also received the University of Cincinnati Lifetime Achievement award and in 2006, was named as one of the Top Ten IT Visionaries by START-IT magazine. In 2008, Tom and Cincom were featured in a Harvard Business School Study. Email Tom Nies:

Comments (4,216)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Comments are closed.