The Customer is Not Always Right2

By Tibor Shanto –

Wrong Lens

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” ~ Steve Jobs, Business Week, May 12, 1998 (thanks to Karri Flatla)

Some myths in sales need to be retired, at or near the top of the list is the commonly accepted notion that the customer is always right.  If they were, we as sales professionals would have no value beyond that of an order taker.  I know there are a lot of order takers out there pretending to be sales people, but that does not make it right.  I am not joking, about the order takers, or the fact all to often, customers are not right, especially when it comes to specific solutions or means to achieving their objectives; and the only thing that is worse is the fact that some sales professionals do not push back against this myth.

Yes it is true that it is their decision, and they can buy what they like, but in the end most buyers do want to buy the right thing for their company, at times they just don’t know any better.  I have always maintained that one of the core values a good (great) sales person bring to a deal is their vast knowledge of a specific areas of practice.  We are if nothing else, conduits to the best practices out there.  I regularly meet sales leaders in companies both big and small, from Fortune 100 companies to the most innovative start ups.  I see more things that work, and more that don’t than any single one of my customers.  That is not a value judgment, but the reality of what I do, a key component of my value.  Just as you see all kinds of companies using your service or product, some using it in the most brilliant ways, ways you never conceived, getting more out of it than you may have imagined before; while others use with less spark than it take to light a match.

As a sales professional it is your job to point out where the buyer’s thinking is wrong, and will likely lead to a bad or inefficient outcome.  Sometimes this easy, buyers genuinely open to suggestions, but just as often they may not appear to be at first, especially when the buyer has done minimal research and comes with preconceptions. This is potential trap for sellers have in a “be found” environment, where sellers are told that the buyer is some 60% through the cycle, and are informed, before they engage with a seller.  Well who is to say that the information they gathered is accurate, complete or really applicable.  A successful sales professional has first hand knowledge of what works, what doesn’t and more importantly why.  It is still true, even in our peer sourcing social selling age that information is not knowledge.

Now how you counter the buyer’s view is key, there is no need to be heavy handed, pompous or impatient; you can have, and should, demonstrate conviction, especially when you do bring real knowledge to play.  Some talk a lot and worry about trust and relationship, I would argue challenging the buyer’s view for legitimate reasons you can back with experience, and will deliver better results based on their objectives, will in fact build trust and enhance a relationship when the client comes out ahead as a result of your challenge and input.

Executed with skill, the buyer will feel and be right with the proper purchase, even if they were wrong at the outset.

What’s in Your Pipeline
Tibor Shanto



  1. Justin Keith

    Great insights! Our first priority with regard to sales is to educate and lead our tribe in the best direction.

  2. Tibor Shanto


    Educating the buyer is key.

    Thanks for the feedback,

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