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Qualities of a High-Performing Seller #3: Understanding the Buyer-Seller Paradox

by Debra Baker /

Most sellers, particularly lawyers and other professional service providers, sell rationally: by trying to persuade or prove to the buyer why they are the best solution. But the science of sales tells us that buyers make their decision on what to purchase based on emotion or “gut feel” rather than a rational decision making. This problem—the mismatch between sellers’ and buyers’ behaviors—is called the Buyer-Seller Paradox. There is an inherent conflict between the way most buyers buy and the way most sellers sell.

When our approach to sales focuses only on the rational—tying to persuade someone why we are the best—it is not only harder to close a sale, but we also lose out to competitors and, at worst, experience dings to our reputation. At Growth Play, time and again we hear from our clients that quality and technical expertise are table stakes: they get you in the door. But they don’t win you the business. When lawyers rely on quality and technical expertise alone they end up, at best, swimming in a “sea of sameness” with their competition. At worst, they come across as either arrogant or under-confident.

What clients really want is for you to understand not just what they need but why it is important to them and how what you do will help them be better or different in the future. When you can connect in this way, you not only out-behave the competition, you position yourself as a high-value resource (which translates into premium fees).

Next time you are approaching a sales interaction, instead of leading with your typical explanation of what you do and why you are the best, determine the answer to these three questions:

  1. What is the problem the client thinks they need to solve?
  2. How does this problem fit into the client’s broader set of priorities?
  3. What positive results will be gained or what risks will be avoided if your service is done right?

 Now, use this information to tailor your approach to the buyer. How can you frame what you do in terms of the problems the client needs to solve, the broader priorities, and what they hope to gain (or avoid)? When you can do that, you will overcome the buyer-seller paradox, and build sustainable client relationships and your business.

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