I was sitting in the best burrito place in Budapest one afternoon. At a table near me, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation in English, My Hungarian is still pretty weak, so the familiar language caught my attention.

In this conversation, an older guy in a business suit was sitting with a young, fresh faced 20-something guy in jeans and a t-shirt. The older guy was peppering with younger one with questions:

  • So how long have you known her?
  • Where did you guys meet?
  • Do you speak any Slovakian?
  • What is your current status?
  • What does she do for a living?
  • Etc.

The kid didn’t seem to mind, but it was eminently clear that the older guy was COMPLETELY controlling the conversation. I am not making any value judgement here, just an observation.

It reminded me of a talk show. Where Johnny or Jay or Connan or Larry fires off well informed questions, directing the celebrity of the moment through the interview until the key moment when the hot issue is approached, exposed and explored – with or without the consent and/or comfort of the interviewee .

What does this have to do with sales and selling? The key concept here is all about what we can call “the spotlight”.

Some non-salespeople (and some salespeople) have the misguided idea that salespeople love the spotlight. They believe that selling is an opportunity to get up on a kind of stage and present the wonders of a product or service in such a dazzling way that prospective customers can’t help but throw money at them, like bras at a Beatles concert in days of old.

These people have it all wrong. If these people are salespeople, then it is probably a hard job for them. The image of the snake oil salesman on his wagon in the old west town is an old story, and it no longer plays in Peoria or anywhere else.

If you aspire to be an effective professional salesperson, then you should remember the concept of “the spotlight”. To help you remember it, perhaps I should tell you what it is:

When you are in a sales conversation, imagine that you and your prospect are on a stage with two chairs. You sit in one, the prospect in the other. The stage is dark, except for a single spotlight. The spotlight shines not on the person talking, but on the person who is the subject of the conversation.

You are selling most effectively when the spotlight is on the other person – the prospect.

How can this be? Don’t you need to tell the prospect all about your great stuff so that they know that they need to buy it? Not necessarily.

In the sales process that I map out in blow-by-blow detail in my book Mastering Your Sales Process, the first four steps (leads, prospecting, qualifying and needs analysis) are designed to allow the salesperson to demonstrate professionalism which generates trust and to gather client information interactively, in such a way that what feels to the client like the gathering of information (spotlight on them) simultaneously and proactively addresses potential objections and informs parameters for the solution option.

In this way, the second half of the sales process (solution, objections and close) can be brief, spot-on, and totally effective without the need for presentations, lengthy proposals, extended negotiation sessions, or any of those other “spotlight on the salespeople” activities that usually do more damage to the opportunity to close than they do help it.

Proposals and presentations have their place, but if you want to be effective, the skills you need to focus on revolve around understanding the compelling reasons that the prospect has for wanting your product or service, and fleshing them out in a dialogue that highlights your understanding of the issue, your ability to fix it, and your character as the kind of person the prospect wants to partner with towards a solution.

Keeping the spotlight on the prospect with great questions, trial solutions, thorough needs analysis, properly timed and complete proposals will help. A lot. When you do it all right, your closing technique can be as simple as something like “well OK then”. It is true that to close, you do need to say or do something, By keeping the spotlight on the prospect the right way as you work towards the close, you can keep it short, and help make it more effective than your best uninformed, spotlight-on-you monologue or power point presentation ever will.


Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!