What’s the best reason for a customer to NOT do business with you or your Channel Partners?

Follow me as I blog my way through my book: 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel Brain.

Question #23 in 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel BrainSometimes it’s a good idea to begin training sessions with a simple activity.

In one of my workshops for sales and marketing people I give each person a standard deck of 52 playing cards (no Jokers) and ask them to complete a simple assignment:

Sort your deck of cards.

No further instructions. Just, sort your deck of cards.

Besides a few odd looks, when I remind them they have only 3 minutes, they get busy.

What do people do? Here are some common variations:

  • Four stacks: one for each suit (most common).
  • Two stacks: face cards and numbered cards.
  • 13 stacks: one stack for each card value.
  • Three stacks: face cards looking left (Kings of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs; Queens of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs; Jacks of Diamonds and Hearts), face cards looking right (King of Spades; Queen Spades; Jacks of Clubs and Spades) and number cards. Card shark warning: don’t bet against this person
  • Two stacks: red and black cards.

Ever notice which face cards look left and which look right?

When time has run out I ask them for reactions. Broadly, responses fall into two categories:

Group A: “This is stupid, you’re wasting my time.”
Group B: “Next time, better instructions would help.”

There’s a level of frustration because they weren’t able to sort the cards into the “right” piles because I didn’t explain the sorting criteria.

Just one giant sorting operation

I can’t recall who taught me this, but the gist of it is this: Sales is just one giant sorting operation. It’s not a question of getting turned down or hearing a “no” or getting agreement for a meeting. Rather, your job is just to sort your contacts into the proper category. Nothing personal. It’s not about you. It’s just a simple card-sorting game.

Sort sales opportunities like this $223 Coin Sorter

Sort sales opportunities like this $223 Coin Sorter

Believe me, I have to keep this in mind when I’m speaking with a customer, too. Rejection is never fun, I don’t care who you are.

But the problem is most sales professionals haven’t been given the sorting algorithm and are therefore no better prepared for their “game” than my workshop students. There’s no roadmap or litmus test to apply. They’re on their own.

Which is precisely why I ask the question about the best reason for customers to NOT do business with you. In other words, what are the reasons that would be dis-qualifiers for them being your customer?

For instance, rather than having your sales team (and especially your Channel Partner sales reps) waste time looking for customers who qualify, try the opposite approach and have them look for disqualifiers.

Disqualifiers may include things like:

  • Geography (you really cannot afford to service someone outside a particular radius)
  • Financials or credit rating
  • Technology

Case in point

A few years ago I was working for the board at Unitrends. At the time, they were considering a new round of funding and were concerned, that after several previous tranches, it would just be good money after bad. My team was tasked with figuring out if Unitrends was worth another infusion.

As you probably know by now, my firm does a lot of customer research for technology firms. Since we’re unbiased and technically savvy, it’s relatively easy for us to reach common ground with our client’s customers.

About halfway through our interview process, we detected a striking similarity among all happy, profitable customers: While they represented a small segment of companies at-large, this group was what was left after we asked just one, seemingly simple question that disqualified everyone else.

This turned out to be quite a Eureka! moment for us. It was one question our sales team AND our Channel Partner sales reps could ask—at the onset of a conversation—that would determine product fit.

It was THE turning point and was all the evidence the board needed to justify their decision.


John Fox

John Fox

CEO - Founder at Venture Marketing
I’m an experienced, revenue-focused, B2B marketing leader especially devoted to the success of the direct and channel sales rep. After all, at the pivotal moment of truth—when reps meet one-on-one with qualified decision-makers—everything the company has put in place to make this meeting happen will be measured.
John Fox