Communication is Your Responsibility – Not Theirs

Both the look of annoyance on my face as well as the pounding, steady rain outside on that dark and dreary afternoon perfectly represented how I felt. It was nearly 30 years ago, after an appointment with a prospect, in one of my first sales jobs…yet, I remember it almost to a tee. Why the foul mood?

I had just returned to the office, disgusted that my prospect just didn’t “get it.” He said “no” despite the fact that the product I represented – a terrific product, a wonderful product! – would have helped him and his family immeasurably.

I was disgusted at my prospect for not understanding. An executive at the company took me aside and said, “Burg, always remember…

‘When the shooter misses the target, it ain’t the target’s fault.'”
Wow! Talk about a wake up call!

I immediately understood this to mean that it was MY responsibility to communicate (both through speaking and, more importantly, via asking questions and listening) the benefits correctly, not the prospect’s responsibility to hear it correctly. That piece of unsolicited — but very appreciated — advice made a huge difference in my sales career, as well as in my personal life.
Have you had a similar experience where one suggestion had such a profound effect?

He went on further to say, “Burg (he was definitely a ‘last name kind of guy’), if you want to make a lot of money in sales, then don’t have ‘making money as your target.’ Instead, have providing value to your prospect as the target. If you hit the target, you’ll get a reward. That reward will be money. And, you can do with that money whatever you want. But, the money is only the reward for hitting the target; it should never be the target itself.”

That wisdom above is the foundation of “The Law of Value” in John David Mann’s and my book, “The Go-Giver”. It’s why we talk about money being the “echo of value.” And, why the focus must be on providing value to your prospect, not on the money itself. After all, the money is simply the result of the value you’ve provided. In other words, when you’ve “hit your target.”

Of course, the more people whose lives we as sales professionals provide this kind of exceptional value to, the more money with which we’ll be rewarded. (This is the basis of “The Law of Compensation.”)

Remember though: in order to provide this value to others, we must be able to effectively communicate it. And, not only the value and benefits of the product or service itself, but how it ties into their specific wants, needs and desires.

In other words, when it comes right down to it, successful selling is not about us, and it’s not even about our product or service, it’s about the other person, and how our product or service will affect their lives in a way that THEY see it as being of value – not as we see it as being of value.

It’s sort of like the old sales lesson that every year, millions and millions of ¼-inch drill bits are bought and yet, not one person buying one of these millions and millions of ¼-inch drill bits actually wants a ¼-inch drill bit. What they want is a ¼-inch…hole! (And for THEIR reasons; not the salesperson’s.)

So, not only does the product or service need to be able to do “the thing” – we need to be able to communicate that it does!
This is what we as sales professionals are trained to do, right?
Yet, we still miss our target from time to time, don’t we?

Why? While there are a number of reasons, let’s quickly look at just one.

According to my friend, a very popular business development Coach, Kumar Gauraw, we can sometimes actually be so enthusiastic about what we offer, we forget where to place our focus. He writes:

“A lot of people are so fired up about their product, their opportunity or their services, they forget to pay attention to connect with the prospects and their needs. This to the extent that they don’t even bother to learn about the prospect before they put the proposition across.”

I couldn’t agree more. While huge belief in (indeed, while passion for) one’s product or service is obviously a terrific thing, it can have a downside, as well. It can cause a salesperson to forget what we mentioned earlier; that — when it comes right down to it — it isn’t about the product or service…it’s about the prospect. And, it’s not about what the salesperson sees as being most valuable about it. It’s about how that product or service will add value to the prospect, and only as THEY perceive that value to be.

So, first, do your research. Can you learn, in advance, about your prospect and his or her needs (either theirs personally or their industry’s) that would put you on the right track toward understanding them? If not, what questions are you prepared to ask them during your presentation that will provide you with this information. If you don’t do this, you simply cannot expect to present in such a way that your prospect will understand the value you can potentially bring them.

As my friend, the great entrepreneur, Sean Woodruff says,
“A professional salesperson connects the needs and desires of the prospect with the benefits that our product or service provide them.”

Indeed! And, to do that most effectively, there are three keys:

  1. Always put (and keep) your focus on the target…the other person.
  2. Understand the value that you, your product or service provides to that person.
  3. Discover how they perceive its value and communicate that to them.

Do this correctly and you’ll “hit” (in this case, “hit” meaning, “bring exceptional value to”) your target on a constant and consistent basis.

[Ed. Note.  Bob Burg is coauthor of the International Bestseller, The Go-Giver. The book has been published in 21 languages and has sold over 250,000 copies. To download Chapter One, check out his blog and connect with him on Social Media, visit]