An Empty Wagon – Sales eXchange 1943

By Tibor

Wyoming Roundup

We have all heard the expression that an empty wagon makes the most noise, no doubt from an older relative trying to tell us that that we were talking a lot, saying very little of substance, worth hearing, or had as near the level of impact as the noise we were making saying it.  Well, I can tell you that there are a lot of empty wagons when it comes to sales and sellers, usually in lack of substance or delivering on the hype.

You see this when sellers embrace half of an idea, usually the easy half, but fail to follow through on the entire concept and end up making a lot of noise as a result.  Specifically in the early stages of the sale, when they resort to talking about how their product/service will improve Productivity, increase efficiencies, reduce Costs, minimize Risk, enhance their work-flow, and a few other generic variations of the same thing.

The half they bought into is the need to go beyond feature – benefit, and venture forth to where they are presenting their offering from the “what’s in it for the client” perspective.  Where they fail to follow through, is in adding specific substance to the above phrases, leaving them beige and generic.  This unnecessarily extends the length of their sale cycle, or kills the sale all together.

Picture yourself as the person getting the calls, dozens of calls every week, from the copier rep, the wireless rep, the IT integrator rep, the office supply rep, the transportation rep, the sales training rep, and the oodles of other reps.  All telling you that they CAN improve your productivity, not HOW they could do that, what the actual impact would be, but just that they can improve your productivity.  Multiple that by all the “buzz-phrases” and by the number of calls, and by Tuesday afternoon, it all sounds like an empty wagon.

It takes little extra effort to replace the generic phrases with actual example.  How do you in fact increase efficiencies, what has been the actual impact of that increased productivity, and how can you best present it in a way that the buyer can relate to in their world.  All you need to do is go past where marketing leaves you, and study some real world examples, be they your customers specifically, or any client your company has helped.  Understand what their reality was before they used your product and service, and where they after taking your offering on board.  Yes, this requires effort, but in the end a lot less effort than the effort it take to push things up the generic hill, the hill where you and every other generic rep looks frighteningly the same and unappealing.

You will quickly move from saying “we help companies like yours increase your efficiency…” to “clients implementing our software have seen an average increase of 8% in the number of units produced per hour, with a reduction of 5% in rejected product, and a 6% reduction in materials used; this has allowed them to increase revenues by 7%, and a 10% rise in profit margin as a result of cost take out”.  Sure there are a couple of extra words, but the substance, weight and specifics they communicate to a potential buyer are more direct and make a lot less noise than the emptiness of the generic descriptions used by most.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


  1. Hugh Sutherland

    Hello Tibor, first, thank you for these excellent posts they have strong messages to make us more aware of how we should continually revise some of our best-held theories about how to crack a deal.
    While I fully support what you saying about being more specific about “what’s in it for the buyer”, one has to be cautious about assuming too much about the buyer’s needs. Of course, it also depends on what is being sold but essentially I am assuming we are talking B2B here.
    What I have found is that sales teams are pressured to meet target and so they avoid spending time to build a solid, “first name” relationship before attempting to close the deal. I also know how difficult it is to get them to invest the time needed to develop a portfolio of key accounts. My experience in B2B selling is that most deals are closed on mutual trust because the buyer is usually under extreme pressure to sell the benefits of the recommendation when submitting the Capex authorization. And, this is where once a solid foundation has been established, it more a matter of educating the buyer how to “sell” the recommendation upwards with confidence the benefit claims will be upheld in practice.

  2. Tibor Shanto


    I agree that we should not make assumptions, but experience is a good indicator to understanding what is in it for the buyer, and if you are not sure, use questions to get to the real issue.

    I also agree about the pressure to meet quota, but I believe it does not take that much more effort to add some meaning to words and conversations than to just spew out buzz words and phrases.

    Thanks for reading and your feedback.


  3. Hugh Sutherland

    Absolutely and this is where sales people go wrong [just spew out buzz words and phrases] because the buyer can see through this in a flash. However to put some meaning to the “words and conversations” they need to understand the client and the client’s reasons for the intended procurement.

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