There are only two kinds of salespeople in the world: dogs and cats.

This irrefutable scientific fact is based on my 15+ years of directly observing salespeople, dogs and cats.

Sure, CEB‘s “study” and popular Challenger Sale “book” might be “rigorous”.  (Roll your eyes and make air quotes when you read that last sentence.)

My theory, however, is less thinky, more truthy and more readable.  Judge for yourself.

Dogs & Cats: an Introduction

Maybe you’ve seen a dog.
They look like this.
Know any cats?
Here’s one.
cat glasses color crop
Pleaser Peer
Oblivious Curious
Excitable Deliberate
Comes when called Comes when ready
Obeys Challenges

Which One Are You?

 wagging dachsund single frame 2 cat glasses color crop single frame
Dog Salesperson Cat Salesperson
Status Inferior to prospects. Doubts his product and ability. Unprepared. Empty suit. Adds little to no value. Equal to prospects. Confident in her product and ability. Prepared. Expert teacher. Adds value.
“Thank you for meeting today.” “I’m glad we could meet today.”
Listening Excitable. Interrupts. Makes noises of acknowledgement but isn’t really listening. Thinks about his response rather than listening to the prospect. Chill.  Listens without interrupting. Remains still while listening. Recaps and clarifies to make sure she understands. Stays in the moment. Listens fully before responding.
Prospect: “We have problems with…”

Rep: “Uh huh.”

Prospect: “…with inventory…”

Rep: “Mmm.”

Prospect: “it’s costing us…”

Rep: “Got it.  We have a great solution for inventory.  Here’s how it works…blah blah blah.”

Prospect: “We have problems with inventory.”

Rep: “You have problems with inventory?” (silence)

Prospect: “Yes. It’s costing us a lot of money.”

Rep: “It sounds like you’re really concerned. How much money?” (silence)

Prospect: “$10M”

Rep: “That is a lot. Why do you think this is happening?” (silence).

Discovery Loves routine. Has used the same simple checklist & questions for years.  If prospect throws him off his routine, he gets confused. Curious & flexible. Asks intelligent questions. Has a plan, but tailors it to the prospect. Deviates when she hears something interesting.
“Bark? Bark? Bark? BANT? BANT? BANT?” “Tell me more. How…?  Why…?”
Qualification Happy to meet with anyone. Sells too low in the organization. Has one meeting and puts the deal in the forecast. Gets one objection and wilts. Removes the deal from the forecast. Networks & listens, but focuses on selling to the real buyers. Meets key stakeholders and establishes value. Develops champions. Uncovers buying process. Advances the opportunity. Reframes and overcomes objections. Forecasts accurately.
To Prospect: “You liked the demo?  You want me to send you my presentation so you can share it internally?  Great!”  

To Manager: “This prospect is HOT! 90% it’ll close this quarter.”

To Prospect: “Who are the other key stakeholders and what are their goals?”

To Manager: “I have a meeting with Sue, the CFO, to show her how to reduce DSO. I’ll re-forecast after that meeting.”

Objections Eagerly and immediately responds – even before the prospect has finished asking the question. Fails to listen and clarify – and often answers incorrectly. Prematurely elaborates. Listens and empathizes. Clarifies and seeks more information to get to the question behind the question.  Closes.
“Yes, our product does do X. Let me tell you how great X is…blah blah blah.  Wait.  You don’t want a product with X? Oh, we can turn that feature off.” “I’m glad you brought that up. A lot of people ask us about X. Why is X important to you?  Oh, so what you really want is Y? If I could show you how you can get Y by working with us, would you move forward? Great. Let me explain how we deliver Y.”
Negotiation Has no strategy for negotiation. Wings it. Says “yes” to every request. Gives concessions without getting anything in return. Talks to fill the silence. Plans to negotiate by making a list of potential gives and gets. Rehearses the conversation. Soft-closes for a get when the customer asks for a give. Makes a point or asks a question then remains silent, waits for the prospect to speak and listens.
“Of course we can discount 25%. Wait! We can probably do 30%. OK. 35%.” “If we were to offer a discount, could you commit to more volume up front, say 200 instead of 100?”
Closing Afraid to ask for the close. Gets happy ears when selected and thinks his job is done. Reactive. Doesn’t follow a process to get the deal across the goal line. Routinely misses forecasts. Loves to ask for the business. Confirms she is selected and works to put a mutually-owned close plan in place with the prospect which includes dates, actions and owners. Nails forecasts.
“Uh, Hi Joe.  Just checking in. Do you think I’m going to see that order today? You’re not sure?  OK, I’ll check back next week.” “You made a great decision, Joe. Now, let’s create a plan together that begins with the end in mind. We’ll start with the go live date and includes all the steps to get there including legal and procurement. OK?”  

In Conclusion

When it comes to sales, think and act like a cat.  You’ll be the purr-fect salesperson.  (Sorry)

What else?  What do you think about this theory?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Selling!

P.S. – If you’d like free startup sales tips sent to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.