Myth: People buy from people?

For decades salespeople over every industry have used the expression “people buy from people” when looking at the techniques and psychological reasoning behind how sales are successfully closed.

Google results - "People buy from people"

However, over the last ten years many sales industry leaders have come forward to denounce this particularly well-known mantra. In fact, if you type “people buy from people” into any search engine today, you’ll see pages and pages of articles detailing how, actually, in this digital age, it’s less about who you’re buying from (which has no bearing whatsoever) but about the product/solution you’re actually buying; whether this be cost, efficiency or reputation. In fact, it’s often the case that buyers are trending to avoid any human contact at all in making a purchase, opting for a less traditional but often equally less time-consuming digitised approach.

I don’t dispute that, in general, the above may be true.

But in the events world, where business is done through networking, human connections and professional relationships, people DO buy from people. I have no doubt that this will always be the case. 

For years I’ve been working in the events (primarily trade shows and exhibitions) industry, applying various sales techniques in order to secure business at any point over the sales cycle; whether this be upselling as an account manager, rebooking onsite, following up incoming leads or the development and closing of new business deals. What I have come to discover as a fundamental principle is that; yes it’s important that your event is an attractive proposition for any exhibitor or sponsor as per its advantages and benefits, but, you, as a salesperson, are actually part of the product. It’s up to you to use this position positively in order to maximise revenue potential; leading to exceeding both organisational and individual targets.

Below is a (quickly summarised!) top 5 list of what you should do in order to make the most out of the philosophy that people buy from people.

People buy from people that…

1. Understand their needs.

For those that I’ve worked with on any sales coaching, you will know how I swear by the discovery process. This process, if executed properly before any sales conversation, will make sure that you understand the needs of a customer, catering to those needs in subsequent solution-based selling and instantly demonstrating how you’ve understood the buyer and their business goals. It’s a win-win.

2. Are credible.

Your credibility as a salesperson will increase ten-fold if you demonstrate that you know about the industry; where it’s been, where it’s at and where it’s going. It takes simply moments of regular industry research that should eventually become habit, cementing your position as a knowledgeable and reliable professional.

3. Deliver.

It’s important to manage expectations and not deliver false promises to a buyer. Make sure everything you’ve said you can deliver, actually can be done.

Delivering means the little things too; have you said you’re going to get back to them by the end of the week? Do it. Promised them a half-page advert in the exhibitor guide? Make sure this is communicated internally. Agreed to sending them further information this afternoon? Work on it immediately after the call, so that it can be sent over before the end of the day.

4. They trust.

Sometimes, for reasons beyond our control, things don’t always go the way we planned it. In order to limit damage, make sure you communicate to your customer if you expect a delay, the event has changed, or their particular type of desired stand build is no longer in stock and therefore unavailable. This will promote an element of trust in the relationship; trust that can only be built over time but can be very easily lost.

5. Listen.

It sounds obvious, but so many salespeople are so focussed on pitching their product that they forget to actually listen to the requirements, worries and desires of the customer. Listen to what they have to say. Make notes. Revisit the content at a later date, demonstrating your investment in their time, business and success. I promise, it won’t go unnoticed!


Of course, there are many other tips and techniques that can make you a more personable and successful salesperson, but the above five show us all that, whilst leading sales experts may have recently condemned the expression that “people buy from people”, we in the events industry (as such a unique sales beast) should be using the philosophy in our commercial endeavours on a daily basis. Need some help doing it? Get in touch.

Sales Training, January 2020

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