The Client-centred Blog

The two styles of selling and why one of them is toxic

Although you could fill a small library with books on selling it seems to me that there are two distinct styles. 

You could call these pushing and pulling and here is how they contrast.

Pushing is based upon trying to persuade, convince or entice someone into buying a product or service. It often involves ‘pitching’ to potential clients and also uses the traditionally taught ‘features and benefits’ approach in the hope that something sticks. The approach is essentially ‘Here is what I offer, would you like to buy one?’ 

Creating a pull has its foundation in asking searching questions, listening deeply, and trying to understand someone. Instead of attempting to convince or persuade the intention is, first and foremost, to connect and understand. Only upon doing this, and with the client’s permission, is information shared about how help can be provided.

Ultimately, these two styles tend to create completely different levels of trust, rapport, and connection. 

Being seen as a ‘trusted adviser’ by clients is the result of creating a pull, rather than pushing. This also happens to be very good for business. Trusted advisers invariably win more business, experience greater client loyalty, and receive a regular flow of high-quality referrals.

What is behind these two vastly different styles?

For many years I got hooked up on the idea that the difference was all about language and behaviour. I thought that if someone could learn to do and say the right things then this would be of great benefit to them when trying to be more successful with building better relationships and selling their services.

However, it began to dawn on me that there were people I came across who paid no conscious attention to their language and behaviour and yet they were brilliant at engaging clients and creating exceptionally strong relationships.

At the same time, I also saw that there were people who had paid enormous attention to what they said and did and yet their results showed little or no improvement.

So, what was going on? 

Ten years ago, I got introduced to a highly practical understanding of the human mind that made it crystal clear why focusing on language and behaviour is so hit and miss.

At a more fundamental level than our language and behaviour is our state of mind. 

Our behaviour is the result of state of mind and when we are communicating with other people what they are responding to is where we are coming from rather than primarily what we say or do.

So, to put this into the context of this article, pushing is invariably the result of an underlying feeling of insecurity, tension, or pressure within the adviser. 

What this means is that instead of being able to be completely focused upon the client, they have some of their attention upon their own gain. 

The problem is that clients will often sense this too and it creates a barrier. 

If the adviser is not comfortable then the client is hardly likely to feel comfortable either and it compromises the quality of the communication. It drastically lowers your ability to positively influence someone because if a client is not bought into the adviser then they will be reluctant to follow their lead.

The power of presence

The single most important thing you can do to build complete trust and create outstandingly good client relationships is to be fully present with your client. 

What this means in practice is that you do not occupy your mind by evaluating, judging, filtering, fixing, solving or, in fact, any kind of mental activity that takes your attention away from your client.

When your mind is clear you are free to both notice and be responsive to what the client is thinking, feeling, and trying to communicate. This it creates a deeper level of connection because the client really feels ‘heard’ and that you were paying attention.

You cannot under-estimate just how much difference this makes.

Yet it is also highly unusual. Very few people have real, genuine presence because most people, often unknowingly, have a lot of personal thinking going on.

Surely the job of an adviser is to provide solutions?

I have noticed that, for some advisers, the idea of having nothing on their mind seems counter-intuitive. The thinking is that surely you should be assessing the client’s needs, situation and how you can help?

Of course, you are there to help and serve your client and I am not suggesting that you disregard the issues that your clients have; quite the contrary.

However, I am pointing out that in a client interaction your quality of mind is by far the most significant factor in building the kind of relationships that every adviser really wants to have with their clients.

Creating a pull through presence, listening and the quality of your connection is the most powerful way to sell because it dissolves resistance, facilitates your clients doing their best thinking and feels natural and easy. Pushing, on the other hand, is draining, coercive and highly ineffective by comparison.

P.S. Do you want to transform the way you sell your services and create more prosperity in your life? If so, I have two one to one coaching slots opening up next month. Send me an email at and tell me a little about what you want to accomplish and why, and we can then set up a conversation to see if working together would be a good fit.     

John Dashfield

John Dashfield spent 14 years as a self-employed adviser. Since 2006 he has been a coach, mentor and author helping advisers create transformations in their business and personal lives.