Inception Selling: The art of planting an idea in your potential customer’s mind

Recently, I had an unsuccessful call with a potential customer in the imaging industry. From a sales point-of-view it was great because I got a firm no and thus little time will be wasted. From a business in 2016 and onward point-of-view, it was troubling—yet another dealer firmly telling me his customers do not want to buy his products online. I know that this call isn't likely to go anywhere, but I always try to leave it with a couple simple but helpful questions:

  • How do you know your customers don’t want to purchase your products online?
  • Have you asked them?

At this point in the sales call there is usually some sort of pause, stumble, or re-direction. While this customer may not buy today, my goal is to plant an idea. Kind of like how our friend Leonardo DiCaprio did it in Inception. At some point this dealer may not just assume their customers don’t need e-commerce, maybe they will have the urge to ask. If you believe as I do that eventually all technology resellers will need e-commerce, then it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The next time that a dealer loses a client to an e-commerce competitor, that urge to ask will be even greater.

You know what’s even better than waiting for that idea to develop? Having dealers ask the e-commerce question to their customers immediately. Leonardo did a lot of work to plant those memories. Does it need to be that complicated? Just Google it. Both B2C and the larger and faster growing B2B. The shift is on. 20% of all B2B sales will be e-commerce transactions in a few years. We know that salespeople have to change their approach to directing online sales or their jobs are in jeopardy. Forrester’s Andy Hoar told us that1 million sales jobs would be overcome by e-commerce by 2020. It going to get harder and harder to justify not having an e-commerce option for your clients.

So, how should you ask, and what should you ask? (…you ask?). Since e-commerce will be useful for all of your clients, an online survey via a product like MailChimp or Constant Contact is the best approach. I’ve gone ahead and built an online survey that you can take for yourself by clicking here. Feel free to use all or some of it for your own survey. And hey, asking if they would buy from your  e-commerce site might be a little bit of inception on your part.