Serving or Selling?

Lately, I keep having conversations with people whose customers are telling them, “sorry, I have no budget”.

These days, whether or not people have money, they are reluctant to spend it.  They feel like they shouldn’t, (becasue no one else is) or they are not in the mood to.  Paralysis.

The goal of the sales process today needs to be to get and keep the customer talking.  This gives you time to get more information, and them time to get more motivated.  

So when they say, “I have no money”, the trick is to keep them talking anyway. 

“I have no budget” does not need to mean, “I can’t, or won’t buy this”.

This can be the opening of a great opportunity to GIVE them something which gets you the permission to continue the discussion.

I was writing a post about how to do this, (which I’ve included below), 
but Seth Godin, coincidentally just framed this problem so well, and in his usual entertaining way,  I wanted to share it with you.
It’s short so I included it right here, and also linked to it on Seth’s blog.

The Panhandeler’s Secret – by Seth Godin

When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious.

One day, I’m walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, “Do you have a dollar for four quarters?” He held out his hand with four quarters in it.

Curious, I engaged with him. I took out a dollar bill and took the four quarters.

Then he turned to me and said, “can you spare a quarter?”

What a fascinating interaction.

First, he engaged me. A fair trade, one that perhaps even benefited me, not him.

Now, we have a relationship. Now, he knows I have a quarter (in my hand, even). So his next request is much more difficult to turn down. If he had just walked up to me and said, “can you spare a quarter,” he would have been invisible.

Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.
Interact first, sell second.


So how can you keep the customer engaged in your sales process when they are telling you to go away because they have no money?

Remember selling is taking, service is giving. 

Giving is the way to create a relationship and differentiate your self from the competition. 

Giving lets you stand out so you are the one who ultimately gets the business when the business is to be had.

Giving helps you keep the conversation going — Giving gets you the opportunity to keep selling.

To paraphrase what Seth said,  Don’t try to close, before you have invested in “opening”.

Ideas for what you can give:

Ask, how can I help you? 

This is surprising and disarming.  You’ll stand out.  Believe me, I’ve been sold to a lot.  This is a rarity.  It keeps the conversation going.

Can you refer them business?  Can you make an introduction?  Helping them grow their business (not just with the clever application of your great product), but by doing something personally to help, will set you head and shoulders above your competition.

Can you help them solve a persistent issue or problem? First you need to listen enough to know what is plaguing them (again, not just about the problem your great product solves), but any problem that is important to them, that you can apply some personal energy to.

Can you give them a free trial?  Can you give them some free training or technical support?  Can you give them a taste of the full offer?  If you can do this, DO IT!

This is the perfect comeback to “no budget”.  Your answer can be “Great!”, no budget needed.  Let me help you progress on this with no cost to you.  Then they get hooked on the value – you get a bunch more insight along the way, and they will move to “buying” vs. “being sold to”. 

Can you give them a valuable insight?  Information, a report, an article, a book?  Know what they are interested in, and be on the lookout for things they would benefit from learning more about.

Now is the time to be serving/giving. 

You will get more business in the short term and you will be building a foundation of good will, which will pay huge dividends in the future.  People remember who helped them in tough times. 

And people do business with people they are currently engaged with.  Stay engaged.  Help.

Even if you are not a sales person, now is a good time to help people. 

You build value in your network by putting value into it.  

Think of always maintaining a balance of giving more than you take. Then when you need something you will find that help is abundantly available.

In your sales process, anything you give will increase the value of what you ultimately sell. 

Your ideas?

I know there are many superb sales people who read this blog, who do this really well in good times and bad.  If you have any techniques for keeping your customers talking, please share them here:

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You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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