Selling Formula

By | February 24, 11

Selling Formula

Selling, I believe, is the most important aspect about running a business successfully. The chance for your business to survive, grow and expand is dependent on its ability to make profit, which is unquestionably tied to the ability of the business to continually sell its products in large quantity.

A business needs to sell in large volume to have money flowing in, so that the cost of production can be recovered. A business that is unable to sell as much to cover all the cost of operating it, and leave extra, is on the road to collapsing because soon it will have to face the reality of having no more money to meet the needs of the business.

No doubt, selling should be a top priority for entrepreneurs and managers of business. Whatever your background is, you should learn and develop selling skills. You should be your business’ number one salesman.

If you are having sales problems in your business, or you want to know how you can sell more of your products and keep your business flourishing, you will need to read Zig Ziglar’s teachings on selling. According to Ziglar, there is a formula for selling that can be applied to any industry and get similar effective result. Knowledge of this formula puts you at a vantage position in the market, giving you the opportunity to outsell your competitors.

Below is the excerpt, Sell by Design, Not by Chance, The Formula for Successful Selling Skills, from his best selling book, Ziglar On Selling: The Ultimate Handbook For The Complete Sales Professional.

Enjoy it!

SELL BY DESIGN, NOT BY CHANCE: The Formula for Successful Selling Skills

Sales professionals are open-minded (not empty-headed) and willing to change. Nonprofessionals are so narrow-minded they can look through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time!


Table tennis was a very popular recreational sport during my high school years. One of my buddies taught me to use the “three-finger” grip on the paddle. Being a better than average player allowed me to have lots of fun. I often competed with a friend whose physical talent and competitive spirit were similar, so we alternated in the win-loss column.

One day a new kid came to town, and he used the “handshake” grip and absolutely slaughtered me. Needless to say, I was somewhat chagrined at the experience, but I could immediately see that he could do things with that grip that I would never be able to do the way I was holding the paddle-regardless of how long or how often I practiced.

I immediately changed the way I was gripping the paddle, and for the next few weeks the level of my performance dropped considerably. As a matter of fact, for about six weeks my regular playing partner won virtually every game. However, as I mastered the new concept, we placed closer and closer until the day came that I won.

From that point forward, my table tennis improved remarkably. I’m proud to say that I won the championship tournament we held at Yazoo City High School. Now when you understand that there were forty-two students (including the boy who taught me the new grip) in my senior class, that was no mean feat.

Here’s my point: Sometimes as you change and learn, you might not make immediate progress, but if the fundamentals are correct (and the ones in this book are), you can rest assured that as you “drill for skill” and start to own the procedures, your career will definitely move to new heights (and so will your personal life).


In 1987 Bryan Flanagan and Jim Savage took the concepts from my book Secrets of Closing the Sale, as well as information from all my audio- and videotape albums, and combined my research and experience with their own research and experience to develop a sales seminar for our company called “Sell by Design, Not by Chance.”

Bryan had been a national sales instructor for IBM as well as a successful salesman and sales manager before he joined our company as a speaker and trainer. Jim, who was our senior vice president and editor at that time, had a background in education as well as sales and sales management, which allowed him to help shape the program and preserve the educational integrity.

The goal of “Sell by Design, Not by Chance” was to shape a sales training program that would function as a blueprint for success in the world of selling. Much of this book has evolved from the “Sell by Design, Not by Chance” seminar.

Today’s successful persuader must have a specific plan of action. If we had to stop and develop a plan for each sales call, there would be more planning than selling. Since there is a direct correlation between “money earned” and “time spent with a prospect,” we can eliminate unnecessary planning by examining a “formula” with concomitant value.

Concomitant is a seventy-five-cent word that means “transferable skills.” For example, a person who is a good table tennis player will probably have some skills that will transfer to badminton or racquetball. In the world of selling, we need a plan of action that will transcend product line and situational differences.

Our planned selling process consists of a four step formula that we will overview here and develop in detail in the following chapters. The first step is Need Analysis, second is Need Awareness, third is Need Solution, and finally, Need Satisfaction.


In 1904 Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his research. Pavlov did research on digestion and the nervous system. He included experiments with dogs in which he rang a bell just before feeding time. In subsequent experiments, he would ring the bell, and the dogs would salivate-whether the food was present or not.’

In today’s sophisticated selling market, getting in front of a client with a brochure and saying, “Stop me when you see something you like,” just won’t make it. You can make an occasional sale, but you can’t make a living-and you certainly can’t build a career.

Too many salespeople are ringing a bell and hoping the suspects will salivate when in fact just the opposite happens. If your actions come across as what some perceive as stereotypically “salesy” in nature, the prospects are turned off.

As an example, at one time cafeterias put the desserts at the beginning of the line. This is done less frequently today because the public has “marketing savvy” to a much larger degree than at any time in the history of the world.

The dinosaur is extinct, and so are the career hopes of any salesperson who comes across as the fast-talking, high-pressure used car salesman who has a model that his grandmother drove only to church (and she must have gone quite often since the odometer has been around twice).

Of course you will see items next to the cash registers in some grocery stores and some retail outlets because impulse purchasing is an important part of sales and marketing, but the sophistication level of the buying public prevents Pavlovian selling to any large degree. Add-on sales can be made using this technique because when you buy a dress suit, a shirt or blouse is a natural addition. However, Pavlovian selling is selling by chance.

Successful sales professionals use a process or design-a blueprint. And the good news is that there is a single blueprint for sales success regardless of product or service. I know this may seem hard to believe, but read on!

Four-Step Formula

1. Need Analysis
2. Need Awareness
3. Need Solution
4. Need Satisfaction


The following is a four-step formula that you can plug into your sales efforts. The time spent on each step may vary, but if you are successful in sales, you will be involved in some form of each of these steps.


Customer-driven (wants) and need-oriented (needs) selling begins with the sales professional doing a Need Analysis. Even if the prospects are coming to you and asking for your product or service, it is entirely possible that they have not properly identified what they are really looking for.

Let me give you a specific example. It is a fact of life that everybody who is breathing is getting older. And when you consider the alternative, getting older isn’t all bad! It is equally true that our population consists of more and more senior citizens, and over the next thirty years or so the number will increase significantly.

There is a tremendous market for goods and services among those senior citizens, but I might point out that many of the products of today were completely unknown just a few years ago.

As simple as telephone answering machines, computers, and mobile telephones might seem to some, these “gadgets” can be quite bewildering to others. The “in-tune” salesperson of today will do well to become “tuned in” to the thinking, fears, concerns, and interests of all prospects, including the senior citizens.

The following example from Agewave by Ken Dychtwald and Joe Flower indicates the importance of properly identifying the need of the prospect and utilizes the senior citizen to make this major point.

Robert Beck was the director of benefits at IBM during its phenomenal growth years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because of his work involvements, Beck, who was middle-aged, became very capable at using a wide variety of computer and electronic technologies.

It should not have been surprising to him when his seventy-eight-year-old father commented one day that he wished he could have a VCR like his son’s.

“You can, Dad-all you need to do is go out and buy one,” said the younger Beck. “Easy for you to say,” replied his father. “First of all, even though I’d like to own one, I wouldn’t know which one to buy. Second, I could never carry it into my house. Third, I wouldn’t know how to set it up.

And fourth, I’m not sure that I could follow the instructions on how to use it, and I wouldn’t want to buy something I couldn’t use.” For the elder Beck, money wasn’t the issue; the real concern was the inconvenience of purchasing, setting up, and learning how to use the VCR.

As a solution, the son went with his father to an electronics store and helped him buy a good, easy-to-use VCR. Then they worked out a deal with the store manager whereby one of the technicians would deliver and set it up.

For an additional $25, they arranged for the technician-now Mr. Beck’s “personal customer service representative”-to give him three lessons, spaced one day apart, on how to use the VCR. Once he got the feel for the new technology, Mr. Beck quickly became a big fan of videos and eventually had the largest collection of movies on his block. In fact, he began a weekly movie-watching club for his retired neighbors and friends.

He enjoyed his VCR so much that he returned to the electronics store and worked out similar arrangements for a stereo, cordless phone, and coffeepot. For him, making the purchase more convenient and being taught to use the equipment was every bit as important a part of the sale as the product itself.

I hope the point is obvious. The Norwegian word from which sell is derived is selje, which means “to serve.” In order for you to serve your prospects, you must clearly understand their needs before you can proceed.

Customer-driven (wants) and need-oriented (needs) selling begins with the sales professional doing a Need Analysis.


In Needs Analysis, the goal is to x-ray the prospect. The sales professional develops the skill and talents necessary to look within the customer and find the needs of the customer-to uncover existing needs. These needs may be on the surface or just below the surface, but they definitely exist. Your duty (and opportunity) as a sales professional is to get those needs out into the open-to discover needs.

As you are searching for needs, “wants” and desires will surface. Don’t make the mistake of discounting these wants as frivolous because prospects take action on their “want to’s” as well as their needs.

Please understand that I did not say you invent or create the needs and wants. That’s not selling. You uncover a need that is already there and, in the process, render a real service.

Recently, I had difficulty with one of my tires so I went to the tire store to get it replaced. Much to my chagrin, the service attendant identified a small problem with another tire, which indicated the front end was out of alignment. He explained that if I did not correct the alignment, I would soon be replacing yet another tire.

Needless to say, realigning the front end of my car cost money, but the investment actually saved me additional costs in the future. The attendant (salesperson) did not cause the problem; he simply identified the problem and offered a solution, which is exactly what the professional does. We don’t create problems; we identify them and offer solutions through our goods and services.


Today’s successful salesperson is customer-desire driven and needs oriented! The days of product-driven, product-oriented sales are gone forever. So, regardless of the product or the service, the customer has needs and wants that must be met. If your product or service meets a need or desire, then you have a chance to make the sale. If no needs or desires are met, no sale!

Basically, people buy because they either need or want something. If we can give persons a reason for buying and an excuse for buying, the chances that they will buy improve rather dramatically.

Many years ago, I was privileged to be part of an organization that raised more money in the state of Georgia than any direct sales securities organization had ever raised. By selling stock in a direct marketing effort, we raised over $40 million to build a paper mill in Blakely, Georgia.

In many, many instances, when I sold one member of the family a few shares of stock, virtually every other member of the family bought. They often made me promise not to tell how many shares (some would invest only $50 or $100), but all were able to say they were stockholders with their family, and they were very happy about that fact.

The same principle worked in the cookware business. Many sets of cookware were bought because other family members had bought, and family pride can be a tremendous motivating factor. The reasons people bought were: (1) They wanted the cookware, and (2) the other family members had the cookware.

The excuses people had for buying the cookware were: (1) savings on fuel bills, cooking oil, and electricity, and (2) less food shrinkage and increased nutritional food value. Each “excuse” was legitimate, but the overwhelming factor in buying (just as was the case in the stock sales) was “want to.”

Today, home computers, laptops, and cellular telephones are bought similarly. The reasons people buy are: (1) They want these high-tech products, and (2) other family members and peers have the products. The excuses people have for buying the latest technological products are: (1) convenience and (2) communication improvement. Again, each “excuse” is legitimate, but the overwhelming factor in buying is “want to” (which is enhanced by others’ ownership).

People invariably will buy what they want, even above what they need. How many times have all of us seen families literally living in poverty and yet every family member is smoking, drinking soda pop, and watching TV? How many fur coats do we really need in Dallas, Texas? People certainly don’t buy them primarily because they need them; they buy because they want them.

When you start looking at needs and wants, just how many suits of clothes do we really need? How big a house do we need? How many shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, or pairs of shoes? Fortunately, for those of us in the world of selling, our job is not to determine only needs (in the strictest sense of the definition of the word need) because people buy more than they need.

I suspect that if you and I were to stop a thousand people on the streets of Any City, U.S.A., and ask them point-blank, “Do you need … (a new car, air-conditioning, a new computer, more life insurance, or any other products, goods, or services)?” very, very few would say, “Well, as a matter of fact… ” I’m also even more convinced that if we were to tell our sales story in a persuasive manner, out of the one thousand people there would be at least fifty-and maybe as many as three or four hundred of them (depending, of course, on our product)-who would buy.

What happened to those people who didn’t “need” our product? Let me remind you that people often have no idea what their needs may be because they don’t know what is available. Fifty years ago we didn’t realize we needed air-conditioning in our cars, computers in our homes, extensions on the telephone line, and 1,001 other things. We don’t make people unhappy by revealing new “needs” to them.

The reality is, we can bring a much more enjoyable lifestyle to them, help them enjoy the ease of living, provide more effective and efficient operations, or offer significant savings through the use of our products. The basic question is not, “Do you need a new computer?” The question is, “Would you like to reduce errors in expensive promotional mailings as well as time spent entering names?”

If you are fortunate enough to sell a product or service that people want and need-and you believe they need and want it, even if they are not yet convinced-you are on your way to sales success!

A salesperson armed with integrity, a strong belief in the product, and the desire to get the product into the hands of as many people as possible is a powerful force with which to deal. And it is even more powerful when you add persuasion skills to the sales arsenal.

For our purposes, wants and needs are basically used interchangeably throughout this book.

If we can give people a reason for buying and an excuse for buying, the chances are rather dramatically improved that they will buy.

Recommended Resource
This is a great book by all standard on Selling, and I very much gladly recommend it to you if you desire to develop winning selling skill.

Ziglar On Selling: The Ultimate Handbook For The Complete Sales Professional

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