“Shy Bairns get Nowt!”

Published by Alison Gittins

When I moved to the North East of England over 15 years ago, I soon stumbled across the great local saying:

shy bairns

It has since become a regularly used catch phrase in my training and motivational talks; said of course with an Irish accent and roughly translated as “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” This saying lies at the heart of great selling and more specifically is paramount to effective closing

As someone who has worked extensively in International Sales and more recently coached SME’s and start-ups predominantly in the NorthEast, I have reached the conclusion that for some reason (you may be able to share with me your views) the English in general and particularly those in the North East tend to be quite shy about two critical aspects of business development:

1)      blowing their own trumpets and

2)      asking for business.

Call it modesty, call it shyness, maybe it’s about not wanting to appear pushy or arrogant or simply fear of rejection; the fact is we tend to hold back where others would boldly venture and therefore don’t always reap the just rewards for our talents and skills.  In business, it is sadly quite often not a question of the best product or person who wins. Rather it’s about the one who manages to get himself best heard in a noisy market place and more importantly remembers to ask versus naively hoping or waiting for others to respond.

I bumped into a lady at a conference recently and upon hearing what I do, she quickly told me “oh I’m not very good at sales, I don’t like to be pushy!” Being pushy is not good salesmanship and is indeed a real turn off. However, having the confidence to go for it and ask for the business (when it makes sense) is an entirely different matter. This is about controlling the sales process and ensuring a positive outcome for both parties! It requires a delicate balance of timing, intuition and confidence.

The thing is some buyers will naturally take action themselves and will not require you to do much more than be the right person, with the right product, at the right time. Others, however, will hold back and wait. They know they need to take action but procrastinate or get distracted. This is where you need to help buyers buy well and buy YOU! If you are offering real solutions which deliver real tangible benefit then you have infact an obligation to help the buyer buy now and buy from you and not waste time… theirs and yours. If you don’t help them buy and lead them towards the right solution, they may end up buying the wrong one or none at all and then you’ve done them a dis-service.

I had a real lightbulb moment some years back when I read about the 64% dilemma in The New Solution Selling, by Keith M. Eades. It really clarified for me the need for a sales process and asking or closing rather than waiting and hoping. In brief, if we apply the 20:80 rule to buyers and sellers, the market is made of 20% natural born sellers (eagles) and 80% average to poor (journeymen), couple with around 20% great buyers (innovators / early adopters) and 80% average to poor buyers (pragmatists, conservatives, laggards). Illustrated in diagram form, this looks roughly as follows:


So in summary, take heart, be confident and don’t be afraid to lead your buyer and ASK, remembering “Shy bairns get nowt!” If you have connected with a potential buyer and established real need and you believe in your value to that customer, then ASK for the business. Or indeed after you’ve got your first order, what about the next sale or indeed referral…ASK!This illustrates that 4% of the market place is made up of great sellers selling to great buyers where it all happens fluidly, easily and with best outcome. However 64% of the market place is made up of average to poor skilled sellers selling to average to poor skilled buyers and hence the need for process and taking control of the sales situation or else inertia, procrastination or worst still poor buying decisions. This also highlights the critical importance of training or coaching, if you find yourself or your team in the 64% dilemma i.e. with average sales skills or confidence, selling to the most challenging or difficult buyers.

After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen – you hear NO! So what? Move on, next – at least you know! A far better option than sitting around waiting and wondering or worse still being pipped at the post.

Author – Jackie Wade, Winning Sales