top of page

Why a Self-Focused Sales Message is Costing Your Team Wins


A common reason for losing sales deals is not addressing the customer’s needs. Many sales conversations focus too much on a product’s features and functions rather than on addressing the customer’s business problems. Salespeople often default to product demonstrations and presentations, rather than mapping recommended solutions onto a customer’s business problems. When the sales message stops being self focused and starts being other focused, things turn around. We call this dilemma “S” (self) vs “O” (other) focused.

A manager at a technology client recently reached out saying, “We lost a deal because we were ’S’ focused.” She attended a presentation with some of her team who had not yet been through sales training with DSG, and the whole presentation was very “S” focused. She recognized that they lost the deal because all her team talked about was themselves.

Where did those reps go wrong?

“S” Focused Danger Zones:

  • Early in the Sales Process - When salespeople are trying to generate an opportunity, it’s easy to think the goal is getting an ‘in’ with someone, so you can talk about what you have to sell. As a result of this approach, the meeting will not be interesting or relevant to the prospective buyer. Buyers are interested in their own world.

  • Later in the Sales Cycle - In the presentation to decision makers, salespeople still focus on themselves. They did not do a good job in the discovery process early on. Now, they don’t understand the business challenges of the stakeholders, so the “S” focused salesperson enters the meeting with a generic presentation, a generic product emphasis, and a message disconnected from the business issues their product was ultimately trying to solve.

The endemic issue lies with sales training. Most sales teams are not trained to be customer oriented. They are trained to understand and sell their product. That process is not designed to engage at a higher level, a level that requires insight into the world of the customer executive. “S” focused selling is typically engaged later in the buying process with technical buyers who only want to know about product and price. When companies shift strategy from product to solution selling, territory-based to strategic accounts, or horizontal to vertical selling, “S” focused sales teams struggle to compete in a new world that requires “O” focused sales conversations.

Tips For Staying “O” Focused:

  • Identity Shift - In a solutions-oriented sales team, the company’s elevator pitch, or 2 minute story, needs to be focused on the customer and solutions to the customer’s business issues. This often requires a complete shift in sales messaging.

  • Account Plan with Manager Coaching - The account plan should drive growth beyond selling one product or product line to selling solutions. It is a way for the account manager and sales manager to work together and have mastery of the customer’s business problems.

  • Playbook - A messaging playbook equips an “O” focused sales team with just-in-time conversation tools and insights into how to speak to the customer’s issues.

In his book Give and Take, Wharton School professor Adam Grant explains his findings on what makes a successful salesperson, “The most productive sales people are actually those who put their customers' interests first. A lot of that comes from the trust and the good will that they have built, but also, the reputations that they create.” How is your sales team building their reputation as trusted advisors? Is your sales team being trained as “O” focused givers?


Sales Plays

Creating Focus Through Sales Plays

bottom of page