Striped Socks: Selling without Selling and Facilitating Paths Previous item Cisco’s Intercloud... Next item A Future in the Cloud?...

“Nice socks. They beat mine…,” he said as he lifted his pants a tad, revealing sporty, striped socks

“Thanks!” I respond, looking down at the Santa-skulls on my socks.

He laughed, “You have to show me where you got’em.”

“Just wait until next week…”

One week later, I walk back into his office…

“Love this week’s socks, too, Kyle! Hey, check out Kyle’s socks this week. The dude has the best socks.”

We all share a smile and move on to the next area of business.


Do I think I have the best socks? Nope, not at all. But a connection is a connection.

I am thrilled my socks have become a discussion point because it leads me to meeting additional people- personally and professionally. What is most beneficial from the above exchange is the organic and genuine conversation starter.

Because, following those additional eyes on my lower legs came the requisite, “Hey, I see you around here, what’s your role? My name is Sean; I’m the managing engineer here” introduction.

Wearing striped socks or Santa socks completely does away with the awkward, “Hi, you don’t know me; I’m standing in the hallway of your office and here’s my business card” line.

But, then what?

In sales, we’re often told to find that pain or pivot point that our target audience can relate to and find relevant and impactful.

But a component of —or surrounding—sales is to sell when there is no sale. It’s more than relationship selling and is more like facilitating paths. Your friendships with people will make it easier for them to survive…to thrive. That enables business both ways.

Facilitating paths is based on the same tenet as relationship selling, and you find yourself asking: “What do you like? What excites you? What do people like? What excites them?” But, facilitating paths is easier. Really, all you have to do is be interesting, be yourself, and make an effort to make genuine and sincere connections.

And, I’ll concede that business people for whose time you’re negotiating with aren’t sitting around their offices thinking, “I hope I meet someone else with kids my kids’ ages,” or “What I need now is to find someone with some good striped socks.”

But, if they have the choice of calling the person they have bonded with over coaching another soccer practice versus the person who came in and said “Hi, my name is So and So. Would you please call me when you need a new widget”; my money is on the soccer practice buddy, every time.

For those of you selling multi-faceted portfolios, this also helps change the push-pull discussion. Often, sales folks find a window with a prospect and try to funnel as much of their portfolio down their mental gullet as possible.

Change the dynamic. You do still need to be prepared to ask for the business. But, just as you wouldn’t ask a first date his or her availability for the next 14 months, you don’t cram your portfolio into every discussion with a new prospect. You need to let sales relationships evolve as you do any relationship.

Your routine, your real-life discussions… those little nuances will lead to more phone calls asking you what else you do. Those little daily interactions will provide more opportunities for you to understand which specific and appropriate ways to help prospects’ business—and yours.

If you would like to read more best practices and sales tips from the EDGE360 team, please click here.

kyle van hoften Working with Cisco is one thing, but with Kyle having worked for Cisco, he brings to solution providers an even more specific understanding of how to grow their Cisco business and manage Cisco processes.