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ATD Blog

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: What Vanilla Ice Can Teach You About Sales

Monday, October 21, 2019

All right stop.

Collaborate and listen.

Ice is back with my brand-new invention.

What does Vanilla Ice know about sales? If you listen to his iconic hit, “Ice Ice Baby,” there’s a lot you can learn.

In What Sales Winners Do Differently, we studied 731 B2B purchases from the buyer’s perspective and asked them about the factors that were most important in choosing a provider. Buyers choose sellers who:

  • Listen to buyers (75 percent).
  • Collaborate with them (73 percent).
  • Understand their needs (73 percent).
  • Persuade them they will achieve results (70 percent).

Like Vanilla Ice says, buyers want sellers to stop, collaborate, and listen.


How often do you go into a sales conversation and walk a buyer through a pitch deck? How often do your colleagues do this?

While I thought the days of straight-up pitching were over, I continue to be surprised by how many sellers still do this. This needs to stop. That is, if you want to win today and in the future.

Sellers can no longer pitch products and services and expect the orders to roll in. They need to be better and do better. They need to provide value and think strategically. They need to understand their customers’ businesses. Insights and ideas are still needed, but through conversation, not pitching.

The sellers who do this will win more now and in the future. Those who don’t may not be around much longer.



Seventy-three percent of buyers say that collaboration is an important factor in their decision to choose one provider rather than another. Collaboration also represented the second-largest difference between sales winners and sellers who came in second place. Sales winners are 2.9 times more likely to collaborate with buyers than second-place finishers are.

Most buyers want to collaborate. Few sellers do it. Those who do are much more likely to win new business.
Here are a few tips for collaborating with buyers during the sales process:

Make It Easy to Collaborate With You
Every interaction with your buyer is an opportunity to collaborate. If it’s a remote meeting, use the right technology and tools that promote collaboration. If you’re face-to-face, stand up at the whiteboard or flipchart and run a sales meeting like a facilitated session.

Ask buyers for their thoughts and ideas. Tease ideas out of them.

Challenge Buyer Assumptions With Incisive Questions
Collaboration isn’t having a conversation and deferring or agreeing with everything the buyer says. Play devil’s advocate and ask why the buyer thinks the way they do.

Question the status quo. Push buyers to think differently. Redefine their needs through the questions you ask. For example, if a buyer is considering two different paths forward, ask about a third path they may not have considered. Ask them why they think the other two paths are the best options.

Buyers often have an idea of what needs to happen to achieve their goals. Sometimes their idea is spot-on. More often than not, however, there are major flaws in their ideas, misguided assumptions, and foreseeable mistakes that you can help them uncover.

Create a Shared Vision
When you collaborate with buyers, you create a shared vision of where you’re headed and the path to get there. Wikipedia defines collaboration as the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Sales isn’t about pitching your products or services. It’s about defining and understanding goals (yours and the buyers) and developing a path to reach them.

Collaborate in How You Interact
Collaborate in how you interact with buyers by being responsive, proactive, and easy to buy from. This sounds like common sense—and it is. But what is common sense is not commonly practiced.



When you listen, you can connect with buyers and learn what’s really important to them. We all want to be heard. In sales, it’s especially important to hear your buyers and to dig deeper to understand their goals, needs, and ambitions.

Sellers who listen:

Build Stronger Relationships: When you seek to understand buyers’ true motivations by digging deeper, listening, and asking probing questions, you go from a trivial, supplier relationship to an essential, trusted partnership.

Understand Buyer Needs: When you listen to your buyers, you can craft a solution that’ll be effective for them. Active listening allows you to show your buyer that you understand their needs. When you listen and summarize what you hear, it gives the buyer confidence that you “get it.” Many sellers don’t do this, and it leaves buyers wondering how well they are truly understood.

Craft Better Solutions: Because you listen, you know what your buyers want and need and are able to bring forth the right set of your products or services to meet those specific needs.

Are Well-Liked: Let’s be honest, we all like to talk about ourselves. To share our own story. When you stop and listen, you give the buyer airspace to tell their story and do the talking. When other factors are equal, people buy from people they like. Giving buyers airspace to talk increases the odds of them liking you.

Demonstrate What It’s Like to Work With You: Nobody wants a vendor who thinks they know it all and doesn’t listen. Listening during the sales process gives buyers confidence that you’ll listen once they become a customer.

If there was a problem, Yo, I’ll solve it!

When you stop, collaborate, and listen, you’re in a much better position to solve your buyers’ problems. You’ve taken the time to dig deep and understand their issues and what’s important to them. You’ve built a strong relationship and worked together with the buyer to craft a solution that’ll work.

Take these lessons from Vanilla Ice and you’ll be well on your way to winning more sales.

About the Author

Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group and bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He helps companies around the world unleash the sales potential of their teams through sales training and consulting services. He also is director of the RAIN Group Center for sales research. You can follow Mike’s writing and research on the RAIN Selling Blog.

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Going back to basics is not a bad idea. ACTIVE listening will never be a thing from the past...
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I'm not sure that it's a good idea to listen to the advice of Vanilla Ice; also in the song he repeatedly points out that "if there is a problem, yo, I'll solve it" however there is no evidence anywhere in the lyrics indicating he has, in fact, solved any problems. Truth be told, it seems he creates a few, or through his inattention gets embroiled in some easily avoided situations.
(Tongue firmly in cheek here- interesting and attention-grabbing article!)
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