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Selling by Walking Away

Time for some science revision.

Do you remember Newton’s Laws of Physics?

Here’s a brief refresher.

A Law is something that is always true. No exceptions.

Sir Isaac Newton, clever boy that he was, noted three of them.


Newton’s First Law

The first Law, sometimes referred to as the Law of Inertia states that moving objects keep moving, while those at rest stay there. Both continue in their current state unless something happens to change it; that is, unless the moving object is stopped or the resting object is pushed.

We are rarely in a position to see something move very far without being stopped soon thereafter. A skier-less ski sliding down an icy slope, or a car parked on a hill whose brakes suddenly give way, are both examples of what a nearly unstoppable object looks like here on earth. In space, where there is no friction, we’re told that objects will travel undeterred for millions of light-years unless they are attracted to something else, such as a planet.

More likely, we’ll witness inertia. It’s that feeling that we all get when we’re sitting comfortably and a suggestion is made that we ought to get up. “Up? What for?!”

Managers reinforce the truth of this principle whenever they complain that their employees are unwilling to change. That’s because change is the opposite of activity; and something that is inactive is also inert.


Newton’s Second Law

Newton’s Second Law says that more force will give you more acceleration in the direction of that force and that more mass will mean less acceleration on that trajectory.

You prove it every time you drive on the motorway. When you press down -  more force – on the throttle, the car accelerates. Put the family in the car with all their luggage, and the same amount of force results in less acceleration because now there is more to move than there was when only you were in the car.


Newton’s Third Law

The third Law is probably the best known. It states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

For example, when you use your lawn mower to cut the grass, you generally have to apply some pressure on the handle in order to make it go forward. (The more expensive models are self-propelled. For those, you have to apply pressure to not only keep them going in a straight line, but also so that they don’t mow down your partner’s flowers.)

However, the fact that you have to apply any pressure at all is indicative of the fact that the mower has mass. It won’t do what you want it to do intuitively. It’s in that sense that it reacts against your attempts to make it move.


So, those are the three Laws: Inertia, Force-Mass, and Action-Reaction.

Now what’s particularly important is that all three interact. They are all occurring at the time. One doesn’t stop so that the others can come into play.

This has particular relevance for selling.


How Newton’s Laws of Physics impact selling behaviour

Let’s think about what a typical sales call might look in the context of these Laws.


Before you even arrive, your prospect is either in the mood to buy, or not. (First Law). In order to get him / her to buy, you will need to apply some pressure. (Second Law). It may be a little, if that person already wants to buy, or a lot if that person is resistant to the idea. The resistance is in response to that pressure (Third Law); and the harder you push, the more of a reaction you’re like to get. That’s why high-pressure sales fail so much. There’s an equal and opposite reaction just waiting to happen.



This is illustrates of how the Laws work against you. Now let’s think about how they could work for you. In other words, let’s consider how you could sell by walking away.


Law of Inertia

The Law of Inertia says that an object will do what it has always done unless some force acts upon it to the extent that it does something else.

Some prospects aren’t looking to buy anything. They’re just looking, much as you would in a store. They want to see what’s on offer.

Unless they are neophytes, however, they know already what the structure of your sales call will look like: a few minutes of talking about the appalling British weather or perhaps the unusual sunshine, the “discovery” of a common hobby with the requisite banter about that, a gentle discussion about the prospect’s situation in general coupled perhaps with the waving about of your credentials and client list. Following this, you might get into a more serious discussion of the prospect’s current challenges before trying to turn the conversation into something resembling a close.

Your prospect knows all this. He / she has the script memorized; that is, unless yours is very different from everyone else’s.

What that means is that this person has already taken steps to remain inert.

Although it’s true that he / she may remain so if you walk away, if what you do is unexpected, you may find that that person suddenly chases you. You see, what can happen is that that person can find him- or herself running away from no one. It feels odd, to say the least, to offer resistance against something that isn’t there. It’s a bit like expecting an argument and having your adversary agree with you straightaway.

Walking away doesn’t always work. Timing is critical. If you don’t handle it correctly, then it will be like giving Alan Sugar a reason to fire you. It has to feel natural; not contrived.

It’s more than simply packing your bags if the meeting doesn’t go your way. Instead it’s about articulating – sometimes with words and often with body language – the doubts your prospect is feeling. So what you’re doing is un-selling yourself. That’s so that that person will feel that he / she once again has control of the meeting; that there’s no pressure to buy. A sign that you have done this right is that the prospect will try to lengthen the meeting.

If the meeting ends without a deal, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you fluffed it by walking away. It’s just as likely that it wouldn’t have happened anyway.


Law of Force, Acceleration and Mass

This is a place where sales people can get into trouble; where they can lose the sale. It comes from talking too much.

Here’s what happens. The prospect wants to buy and makes all the noises to that effect; but instead of letting that person lead the sale, the salesperson tries to take back control of the conversation.

Big mistake.

To quote a comedian who was being praised by a member of the audience, “Let the man talk.”

Making the sale is not about who controlled the conversation to get you there, is it? Is that how you measure your success, by whether or not your customer bought because you led him or her to sign? Isn’t success determined to a much greater extent by what your numbers look like?

When prospects are doing the selling, then let them. Let them apply the force. Let them accelerate the process. Don’t increase the mass by getting in the way of what is happening.

Stand back and let them sell themselves.


Law of Action / Reaction

Here is another place where salespeople get themselves into trouble. The more resistance to the sale, the more pressure they apply; and the more pressure they apply, the more resistance they get.

It’s a Law, folks. More pressure isn’t the answer.

This is the answer: Do the opposite. Stop pushing.

Imagine this. You’ve seen in on television.

The person on the inside is trying to keep the door from being opened. He / she is pushing the door closed. The person on the outside is trying to get in. He / she is trying to push the door open. It’s a standoff.

If it’s a comedy, then the person on the inside will suddenly allow the door to open. The other person will come flying through the door and may end up going out a window that has been fortuitously opened.

Why does that happen? Because the person on the outside wasn’t expecting it.

If you’re willing to walk away from the sale, you can wrong foot your prospect. That’s because that person is expecting you to keep pushing back. When you stop, however, suddenly his / her “reaction” is greater than the action.


Why does this work?

Why does walking away from a sale often create one?

There’s something about the human psyche that makes it want what it can’t have. When you walk away, you’re telling your prospects that they can’t have you. If they want you, that will bring them back to the table because, more than anything, that’s what they want. In other words, you are more important than the offer. This, too, is something that salespeople overlook. They’re so busy pushing their product that they miss the importance of the relationship that lies at the root of the sale.

If prospects have the feeling that you’re only interested in that sale, rather than in making a commitment to helping them in the long term, then walking away probably won’t work for you. That’s because your prospects were never interested in you in the first place.

For “selling by walking away” to work, you need to create mutual trust in that first meeting so that your prospects want you.

If you do that, then the rest is easy.



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