Every time I’m in a situation where a salesperson is presenting a product to me, I generally have a couple of problems believing what I’m being told.

First, they never ask enough questions to find the right product to present to me. That means they are showing and pitching me something that, in most cases, is wrong for my given needs or circumstances.

Second, they give a laundry list of positive features of that product and no list of negatives. So we have a person who is most likely pitching me the wrong product and I can’t believe a word he says because he’s giving me only the product’s features. A feature is only a positive to me if it benefits me for my given situation.

Even those of us who really are knowledgeable about the products we sell are still only halfway there without knowing if a given product has the correct features to benefit our customer. In all the old sales training manuals, they would talk about not just giving a list of features, but explaining their benefits. But why even give a feature—and benefit—if it has nothing to do with that buyer’s wants, needs or means?

Here’s an example outside of flooring but is perfectly applicable for this discussion. I go to a boat dealership and stop at the very first fancy, high-powered boat I see. After barely saying hello, the sales clerk says, “Nice choice. This baby is a tri-hull, top of the line that’s hard to tip over, with a 120 horsepower inboard/outboard motor that will let you fly across the water. It has GPS so you won’t get lost, an electronic depth finder and an easy tilt-load trailer to load these big boats quicker and safer. We are running a sale until the end of this week that offers no money down, no interest financing.”

Those are all wonderful features and benefits but I was looking for information on small lake fishing boats. I don’t need the “power to fly,” no GPS because I can see the other side of all the lakes I go on, and I’m going to pay cash.

In other words, telling me all these pros wasted both our time. If he had taken his time to get to know me and interviewed me about the real reason I’m here, he could have gained my respect and guided me to a boat that fit my needs and desires.

He should have asked what kind of boating and fishing I do, what areas in the state I like to fish in, whether I’m looking for luxury or functionality, how often I’m able to get out each year, and whether I fish alone or with friends and family.

If I were that salesperson, I would have asked my customer to tell me his biggest “fish stories.” Now this “trusted sales advisor” has the five Ws (who, what, why, when and where), and he lets the buyer get to like him because he listened to his big fish stories.

After learning about the customer, the salesperson can present the right features and benefits: “From what you’ve told me, you don’t need a large boat so this 18 ft. bass boat is a nice size for two to three people on smaller lakes. It has a Minkota remote-controlled trolling motor for when you’re fishing alone, and it has an easy crank trailer that allows you to get the boat in and out in the shallower lakes. I guess the biggest negative about this particular boat is the engine might be too big for your needs. Unless you’re like the pro bass fisherman who need to get from one spot to another in a hurry.”

I believe giving just the pros makes it look like you only care about making the sale. When you present a few minor cons—negatives—you show the buyer you understand his or her situation.

If you’ve listened to your buyer, you will know how to make those few negatives into positives. Telling me this boat might be too fast is one of the greatest negative selling points I can think of.

I believe giving just the pros makes it look like you only care about making the sale. When you present a few minor cons—negatives—you show the buyer you understand his or her situation. Plus, when you know a product is the best for this buyer, a con makes them stick up for it. In the case of this boat, I would say, “I know it’s faster than I need but I can put up with that small problem.”

I use negative selling as much as I do positive. When I’m selling a remnant, for example, I’ll say, “It’s too bad this rem is too big for your room because the price is a lot less and it’s a fantastic quality.” The negative is it’s too big; the positive to them is it’s still a great deal for a nice piece of carpet.

Recently, I made a legitimate mistake on a carpet bid for a customer moving into a new home. The carpet style was a three-step quality line. On the bid I priced the one (good) quality but I mistakenly wrote down quality two (better) on the bid. When I realized my mistake, I called and told him, but also I would honor the mistake. He had the nerve to ask if I could give him a better price.

I told him, “I honestly don’t want this order; I’m just honoring my quote. I’ll be glad if you don’t take it.”

Quickly, he said, “No, no I didn’t say I won’t take the deal.”

The pro here was that he really got a great deal. The negative was that to get the deal he had to have his bluff called. You can use negative selling for your buyer’s benefit or for your own. To me, it just depends on whether I like the buyer.

Thanks for reading.