TALKING SALES 62: “Put the cart before the horse – Don’t Tell – Show”

Man listening attentively to his female colleague during meeting

“Treat them as a client before they are a client”  –  Interview by John Smibert

Dan SymonsWe are always being told to “put the horse before the cart”.  However in this interview Dan Symons tells us that when selling we should “put the cart before the horse”. What can he mean?

Dan explains that we too often tell the customer what to expect we will do – and how we will behave – after they give us an order. He emphasises that telling them is pointless unless you are first showing them – otherwise why should they believe you.

He goes on to say “For me it’s very much about treating them like a client before they become one, and then at some point in time asking them why they’re not one“.

As usual Dan provides some great advice in how to sell more effectively and how to demonstrate that the customer is number one.

Dan Symons is a business development professional, an author, a sales mentor and coach.

                  See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


John: Welcome back! I’m here again with Dan Symons. Dan’s a business development professional, he’s an author and a mentor – welcome back, Dan!

Dan: Thanks for having me again!

John: We’ve been having some great discussions, particularly about prospecting, and the passion in sales, and passion for the customer, and so on. I’ve heard you speak about, and I’ve read things where you talk about don’t tell… What was it? Don’t…

Dan: Don’t tell – show!

John: Don’t tell – show?

Dan: Or, as I put it, put the cart before the horse.

John: Tell me more about what you mean by that? And how does it help in prospecting and progressing a sale?

Dan: Particularly around where you’ve got a consultative sales environment, where you’ve got a customer, where obviously you’ve got a price and some product or service delivery. But often there’s a lot of promises made about the relationship they will get, and all the other bits and pieces associated, that actually make the meaningful difference to the client.  Price is important of course, but how they feel about the relationship is quite important. Often we promise the type of relationship they’re going to get throughout this prospecting process, but we just don’t show them.

John: That makes sense. So, you’re basically saying that don’t go and tell them all about what your product or service is, but your behaviour and the way you go about should be on focusing on their business and their value, and so you’re showing your intent versus trying to tell them that you want them to buy this product.

Dan: For me it’s very much about treating them like a client before they become one, and then at some point in time asking them why they’re not one.

John: [laughs]

Dan: It’s actually being quite involved with them and showing them real value, and adding value to their business. Connecting them with people that can make a meaningful difference to their business, and adding the real qualitative relationship piece as if they were a customer, trusting that that will deliver a situation  at the end where at some point they will actually decide that “Maybe we will give you a go at being your client.”

John: As a salesperson I keep saying we need to be a trusted advisor, so it’s actually behaving as a trusted advisor before you become that trusted advisor.

Dan: Yes! It’s basically about imparting the value you promise before the sale, to show them why they should be a customer.

John: Yes.

Dan: Rather than having all these empty promises, which may be fulfilled after sale, but the customer often always has a doubt that “I’ve been told this before, or they did promise me that and it didn’t happen.” Whereas if you go and do it, they actually get to experience what being a customer of yours is like.

John: Very closely related to our first discussion about passion over process, isn’t it? If you have passion for the customer and you behave in that way, versus trying to sell them a product, they’re going to trust you much more.

Dan: And it’s very easy a) if you’re passionate and care about the results you give them, and b) if you know they are going to be your ideal client, to show them real value ahead of the sale per se, with a mind that that will help lead to the fact that you may end up with a business relationship with them as a result of really showing them value.

John: So, don’t tell – show; don’t put the cart before the horse.

Dan: No, it’s actually put the cart before the horse.

John: [laughs] Good on you, Dan!

Dan: [laughs]

John: Thank you very much! Good value – I liked the discussion.

Dan: Many thanks – thanks for having me again!


More of Dan Symons:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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