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Henry Ford and the faster horse

Weight-Stronger-Jason Forrest-Forrest Performance Group“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford

When I had a pre-cancerous growth on my face, my doctor didn’t ask me what I wanted to do about it. He told me. He said, “Hold still while I remove that.” I didn’t request a cancer check. He didn’t ask, “So how can I help you today?” He just led the way. And I followed.

I believe and will proclaim until I die, that customers like salespeople who lead them to a solution. There’s nothing that hurts my sales-loving heart more than seeing a salesperson refuse to lead a customer who is practically begging for leadership.

There’s this alarming trend out there these days that says we shouldn’t be selling. We should be listening and waiting for the customer to tell us what they want. And then we should ring them up and send them on their way. But what about discovering why they want whatever it is they’re describing, and then providing them a solution, whether it’s what they said they wanted or not? Maybe even something better. That’s sales.

If you asked what a music-lover wanted in the 90s, they never would have said, “I’d like to get rid of my CDs and still have access to all my music. I want to read books, email, and talk on the same device and ditch my CD player too. And hey, give me personal navigation and entertainment on it while you’re at it.” No, at best, they may have asked for a smaller CD player.  And what if Apple would have chased after that professed need?

Mike Myatt penned an article called To Increase Revenue, Stop Selling which I respond to in greater depth in an upcoming post for Avid. But I had too many grievances for one article, so I’m addressing one of its claims here. Myatt says, “I hear complaint upon complaint that companies just don’t have money to spend, and that nobody is buying. If you’re experiencing this type of reaction from your customer, it’s not because they don’t have money to spend, it’s because you’re selling and not adding value. It’s because you’re talking and not listening. It’s because you don’t get it…”

The reason people aren’t spending money isn’t because we are selling, it’s because we’re not. Nobody is giving them enough advice or leadership on where to spend it.

Selling isn’t just about giving the customer what he/she wants. It’s about telling him/her what she wants. I understand not wanting to be an overbearing, pushy salesperson. But the answer isn’t a black and white, “stop talking, start listening” approach. There’s a balance that allows us to achieve mutual purpose. It involves listening to their perspective and then telling them what they want based on your expertise.

When I hear or read (as in Mike Myatt’s article) that the art of selling is dead, or that “sales” should be removed from org charts, I have to go back to Henry Ford’s quote. We can either wait for customer’s tastes to advance or we can lead them to what they really want–what they don’t even know to tell you.


Contributed by Jason Forrest, new home sales trainer/coach

Jason Forrest (named one of 2012′s Top Young Trainers for Training Magazine–a national, industry-wide publication) is an expert at creating high-performance sales cultures through complete training programs. He incorporates experiential learning (rather than theory) to increase sales, implement cultural accountability, and transform builders into sales organizations that build homes. A sales professional at heart, Forrest is the author of Creating Urgency in a Non-Urgent Housing Market and 40-Day Sales Dare for New Home Sales. As a consultant for many of the leading homebuilders in the United States, Canada, and Australia, Forrest’s competitive distinction is his behavior-modification approach (which focuses on people, process, and presentation) and his focus on culture change.  Learn about our new home sales training programs at

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