By Andrew Neitlich

The unsell

By Andrew Neitlich

To many professionals, selling is a dirty word. And that’s okay, because by not selling, even unselling, you end up selling more.


My hard drive just crashed on a laptop I’ve had since 2000. I went to the local computer repair shop to get a new hard drive for this laptop and to buy a long-overdue desktop.


On fixing the laptop, the computer salesperson said, “You know, if you don’t want to get the new desktop now, that’s okay.”

I poked some polite fun of him saying, “You have to be the worst salesperson I’ve ever met, offering to give up a $1,000 sale.”

He said, “Not at all. I only want you to buy something if you really want to. We don’t sell people things they don’t want or need.”

Of course I bought the system. Plus, I’ve already been back a few times to get some upgrades.

This salesperson has been extremely responsive, and quick to turn around any upgrades. And I now know he has my best interests in mind.

So it is okay, and even a good idea, not to sell, in case you were worried. So long as you ask good questions and deliver a solution to your customer, you will do fine.

  • php_man

    This particularly goes when selling an option from a range of prices. If there are 5 products, with a range of features, and I ask which is best for me and I immediatly get a reply of the most expensive I will likely walk out.

  • I think that the unsell is a good option if you don’t know yet what the customer wants. You are then just providing them an option to buy without coming across as pushy as well as finding out what they are there to buy. Me personally I don’t like pushy sales people asking me to buy something I don’t want. In fact I find it annoying and often don’t go back. However if you ask the right questions upfront and find the customers motivation you can easily find the right solution and then sell that solution knowing that is what the customer is willing to spend their money on.

  • Ally Moll, Life and Creativity Coach

    Awesome! I wish more sales people were like this. When I do find someone like that I tell everyone who will listen how great they are and go back and purchase from them over and over again. Someone needs to teach an unselling class to a lot of salespeople out there.

  • I’ve never thought of it as “unselling” but that’s exactly the approach I use with prospects. I’ve always considered it an ultra-low-pressure sales tactic, but “unselling” sounds better! ;)

    It should be noted that these tactics don’t work for everyone; as many as 60% of my prospects seem to write me off when I take the unselling approach. Those prospects who do sign on and become clients, however, are all the more loyal and satisfying because of it.

    I would speculate that by unselling, many unsatisfying (“problem”) clients are avoided from the start.

    Anyone else have similar experiences to share?

  • I think that’s the mark of an un-honest salesman. It’s called reverse psychology ;)

  • The unsell, or down-sell, is a good technique to build good will.

    I would much rather make less money now, honestly, by selling someone something much cheaper/less than they initially inquired about, and gain their goodwill. The goodwill results in repeat business and great referral/word-of-mouth.

    This is common in the service industry.

  • Chris

    There are two types of sales in my opinion transactional and consultative. A transacationl sale is usually something that happens within a few hours to a few weeks. The desktop purchase is a great example of a transactional sales process. I need something, for the most part I’ve done my research, I know what I need, etc. The unsell, if you will is completely acceptable in this scenario because I already know what I need/want going into the transaction.

    The consultative sell is what most of us are faced with in our daily sales routines. A typical consultative sales process will usually take a few weeks to possibly a few months. The ticket amount is much larger and most clients need to be educated, questions need to be asked on a much deeper level than that of a transactional sell. This is truly a solutions based selling process. Much more time needs to be spent with the client educating and exploring options and possibilities. To take the unsell approach will most likely cost you more clients and business than it will ever gain.

  • I totally agree. What’s the point of ruining any reputation you might have by trying to sell everyone the most expensive service you offer?

  • coacnolic4t


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