Does Reverse Selling appeal to Customers/Investors?
Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman were appalled by false advertising and bad advice about parenting and started an online magazine and blog network called Babble. They wanted to challenge the clichés about parenting. In 2009 when they approached investors they made presentation before their investors with a typical sales pitch. In two rounds they realized that their unbridled enthusiasm was perceived with scepticism as salesmanship with a hidden agenda.
Remembering the adage, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ they decided to change the typical sales pitch. This time rather than putting the best foot forward, they decided otherwise. The first slide was: ‘why you should not invest in Babble?’ With this, they put all their cards on the table, the investors perceived them with positive intent. Babble received $3.3 Million in funding
Two years later they made a similar pitch to Disney. The slide read Five Reasons why you should not buy Babble. Some reasons included 3 page views per visitor which was lower than expectations, 40% blog posts are by celebrities etc. Disney ended up buying the company for $40 million.
This does not mean that reverse selling will work in all situations. It is recommended when you are selling a solution for which there is no precedent with both the parties; in short it is a novel idea; the customer is apprehensive of your proposal and you expect the customer to change his belief system. If your prospect is powerful, big and experienced in his domain, your objective should be to break the ice and build trust. Here humility works. When a vendor makes a typical elevator pitch the prospective client tries to either find loopholes in your sales pitch ( 50 installations in last one year! Oh that’s too low or Pan-India service network! That means your products need services regularly) or he may simply sidetrack the issue.
In his book You can Negotiate Anything Herb Cohen narrates an interesting anecdote on the sidetracking angle.
Herb was representing a renowned US Aircraft manufacturer and was visiting Japan. After making a powerful sales pitch to his Japanese client he said, “ Gentlemen, I hope you are convinced about our product range and the capabilities we bring on the table. Do you have any questions?”
Client: “ I did not understand your presentation.”
Herb: “ What did you not understand?”
Client: “ Everything, can you start from the beginning please?”
However for conventional products when the competition is aggressive a conventional sales pitch is fine. Whether you are selling unique solutions or conventional products trust and rapport building is a must! In case of the former positive intent ( with humility ) is crucial whereas for the latter displaying the competence creates the impact. (for details refer Trust – The difference that creates the difference from Contextual Selling)