Wise Words Podcast Now available on all major podcast channels.


Demand Side Sales 101 Book Summary – Bob Moesta

What you will learn from reading Demand Side Sales 101:

– Why great salespeople help customers make progress in their lives, on their terms. 

– Examples of great sales questions that you can use immediately.

– Ways to find out the trade offs people make when deciding how to progress.

Demand Side Sales 101 Book Summary:

Demand side sales is a sales book like no other. It offers a paradigm shift in the way you should think about sales. It shifts away from selling your product, to understanding the progress that someone wants to make. Once this is known, you can showcase how your product can help bridge the gap and offer the progress the customer is looking for. 

If you’re looking to improve your sales skills or become more persuasive this is the book for you!


People buy for there own reasons:

Turns out, people have different reasons for picking shoes. Different reasons than my reasons, and far different reasons than many brand’s reasons.

Hardly anyone cares about this foam vs. that foam, or this kind of rubber vs. that kind. They didn’t care about the precise weight, or that this brand shaved 0.5 oz. off the model this year compared to last. They didn’t care what the colour was called, only that they liked it (or didn’t). The technical qualities weren’t important—in fact, they were irrelevant.


People struggle and that’s where the opportunity is:

‘Demand is only generated by a customer’s struggling moment. If there is no struggle, there is no demand.’

The struggling moment is the seed for all innovation! This book is primarily for people who find themselves stuck.

Everyone’s struggling with something, and that’s where the opportunity lies to help people make progress. Sure, people have projects, and software can help people manage those projects, but people don’t have a “project management problem.” That’s too broad. Bob teaches us to dig until we hit a seam of true understanding. Project management is a label, it’s not a struggle.

People struggle to know where a project stands. People struggle to maintain accountability across teams. People struggle to know who’s working on what, and when those things will be done. People struggle with presenting a professional appearance with clients. People struggle to keep everything organised in one place so people know where things are.

We are all creatures of habit, and we will keep doing what we have been doing unless we have that struggling moment. So I flipped the lens, stopped trying to push my product, and started to understand what caused people to pull new things into their lives.

Most people don’t think about your product or service if it doesn’t address a problem they have. When you’re getting a restful eight hours of sleep every night, you don’t even notice the mattress store when you walk past. But if you find yourself choosing the recliner every night over tossing and turning in your bed, then you begin to look at—and see—other options. When something’s not working the struggling moment occurs. It forces people to stop and ask themselves a question. It’s those questions that spur demand.

We need to understand the buyer at a very granular level. What happened that made them say, “Today’s the day I am going to…”? We need to understand causality. What are the events which pushed and pulled them to move forward or backward? It is an important concept.

So you need to find out what made someone start to consider the problem, what event triggered the search. 


Focus on Problems and Outcomes not Demographics:

Bob Moesta: “Once I started focusing on the customer—their problem, outcomes, and trade-offs—as well as gave the resellers tools to inform the customer better, sales soared. Flipping the lens from pushing product to creating pull for our solution changed my perspective. As I puzzled over it, I realised the focus was always on the product’s features and benefits. The customer was a set of demographics: age, zip code, income, etc., but that’s not what causes people to buy. Their age and location say nothing about what’s going on in their lives. To me, these demographics seemed like static pieces hanging in space, disconnected.”


How to be a great sales person:

Great salespeople are real people: they ask questions, they listen, they learn, and they help you make progress in your life. Salespeople help customers solve problems and make progress in their life. Instead of pushing their product, they represent their product and how it fits into your life. Sales is about perspective—think concierge, mentor, or a coach, not an order taker.

What’s so special about their approach? It’s a worldview of selling from the customer’s vantage point, which Bob Moesta and Greg Engle call demand-side selling.


Supply side vs Demand side selling:

Supply-side: The focus is on the product or service and its features and benefits. How will I sell it? Who needs my product? You define demand through the product. In this scenario, the consumer is usually nebulous—an imagined, personified version of the customer—an aggregated set of demographic and psychographic information. You aggregate and triangulate the consumer around the product through correlative data.

Demand-side: The focus is on understanding the buyer and the user. How do people buy and how do they make progress? What’s causing them to make a purchase? Demand-side selling is understanding what progress people want to make, and what they are willing to pay to make that progress. Our product or services are merely part of their solution.

Supply-side and demand-side together make a business work. The key to synching these two world views starts with understanding demand without the product or your solution—just the context and desired outcomes, tradeoffs, and hiring requirements.

Demand-side sales always starts with understanding the people who already bought and made progress with your product or service and then seeing the patterns to help others who have not made the progress yet.


Recognising and removing Anxieties:

Casper understood why people buy mattresses and recognised the anxieties that got in the way. And as a result, they designed a better, more simplified way to purchase a mattress. They made buying easy. They gave a few great options, eliminating confusion. They sold mattresses the way people want to buy—risk free and from the comfort of their home.

Anxiety of the new solution. But as they’re thinking about everything they love, and the reasons it’s perfect, they are also simultaneously thinking of a set of questions and anxieties; panic would kick in.


People don’t buy features:

In marketing and sales, there’s the push to add a bunch of features and benefits that don’t bring any value. We get so myopic on the little things that we don’t realise the bigger purpose of what people are trying to do.

If you take the time to listen and truly understand, you will quickly realise it’s not about your product’s features and benefits; it’s about the customer’s struggling moment and the outcome they seek.


Many solutions to the same problem:

There are one thousand different ways we could help them cross the river: teach them to swim, build a boat or a bridge, fly a plane, and so on. But building their solution starts with understanding their situation and why they are thinking about making progress in the first place, as well as what their vision of progress looks like.

Great sales begins with understanding the JTBD by your customer and the progress they are trying to make: What is the situation they are in? What’s the outcome they seek? What are the tradeoffs they are willing to make?


Three different categories of motivation:

There are three different categories of motivation: functional, emotional, and social.

Functional Motivation. How cumbersome is the purchasing process for the buyer—time, effort, and speed? I think of mechanical things here: speed, effort, steps, etc.

Emotional Motivation. What positive or negative internal thoughts are driving my purchase—fears, frustrations, and desires?

Social Motivation. How do other people perceive, respect, trust, or acknowledge me?


The Four Forces of Progress:

The push of the situation. If you think about the struggling moment for the person buying a mattress, it’s about needing a better night’s sleep.

The magnetism of the new solution. The moment you realise that something might bring you a better night’s sleep and help you make progress, that solution creates magnetism and you start to imagine a better life with a good night’s sleep.

The anxiety of the new solution. Despite the problem and the pull the new solution creates, there’s anxiety. Will the new mattress deliver on its promise? Can I even figure out which mattress is the best? What happens if I get the new mattress and I hate it? These anxieties hold people back from making the progress that they need.

The habit of the present. You are used to the old mattress, even though it sucks. You’ve learned to live with it. There’s an energy in that incumbent solution that keeps you from making progress and stops you from switching.


The First thought:

Once you have the first thought, you’ve opened up the space in your mind for the information. Without this first thought there is no demand. But once you have it, you notice things you didn’t notice before, which causes you to transition to passive looking.

Four ways to create a first thought :

Ask a good question…and not give an answer

Tell a story

Give a new metric

State the obvious

Triggering a first thought is about helping people recognise that a problem already exists.


Computer companies should be talking about your current computer’s problems: What bothers you the most? What are you frustrated about? If you had a new computer, what would be better? Computer marketing should be saying, “Life can be better! Imagine if you didn’t have to deal with these problems.” Remember, people are not paying attention until they see the problem in their own lives.

Several months before Rachel purchased her computer, she could have been nudged to active looking with the right questions: what are you going to do if it doesn’t boot back up? By putting the doubt in her mind, it creates the space for her to think, “I’ve got to create a plan. I don’t want to be caught off guard.”


Passive Looking and Active Looking:

Passive looking is the act of figuring it out as you go through life. You have a hole, a nagging feeling, you are struggling, but you don’t know enough to move forward. It feels random. You must decide if the struggle is big enough to warrant moving forward while determining if a solution even exists to solve your problem.

Active looking is when people plan, or spend time and even money figuring out what’s next—the solution to their struggling moment. In order to make progress and move forward people need options, but not too many, as a reference point. These options allow them to start to build an ideal solution in their mind.


Looking for the customers trade-offs:

When buying, there’s no ideal solution, and every customer makes tradeoffs. Part of the journey in sales is understanding the tradeoffs your customers are willing to make. When I sold kitchen countertops, I could send customers to look at the low-end laminate and the high-end granite. These were clear reference points for people to compare our product to. Without these comparisons, people struggle to buy. People need to reject something before they can buy something else.

Realising what people are willing to give up in order to make progress is the most powerful part. People will say they want the top-of-the-line mattress, or the best kitchen cabinets and countertops, but when it comes down to it, nobody gets everything they want. People make tradeoffs. You need to know what tradeoffs your buyer is willing to make.

Tradeoffs: Everyone makes tradeoffs to make progress. I’m willing to give up this, so I can get that. No one can have everything. What tradeoffs is your customer willing to make?

Identify the tradeoffs. Don’t talk features, benefits, and cost, because people are willing to make tradeoffs.


Contrast creates value:

Providing an interviewee with contrast leads to greater understanding. Have them tell you why they decided against an alternative path. I use a bracketing technique to help provide contrast where neither option is right, and they need to elaborate.

Without giving them contrast they often can’t figure out why they did what they did. Ask people to tell you what it’s not. Most people can eliminate or tell you what it’s not easier than they can tell you what it is.

Sometimes asking them to compare two things that are not similar at all works well. It forces people to think and use better language.

However, when you give somebody two things, they struggle to decide. And if you give them one thing, they typically can’t choose. So, in sales when someone is deciding, it’s important to have enough contrast to create meanings. Otherwise, they cannot make the tradeoffs they need to make for progress.


Unpack vague words:

Everything is bound. You are trying to figure out the interviewee’s reference point.

One person’s definition of the word fast may be entirely different than another’s. There’s no healthy, only healthier than…There’s no fast, just faster than…


Context creates meaning:

The irrational becomes rational with context. When the answers feel irrational, it’s typically because you don’t know the whole story. “Hold on I am confused…”


Set-up bad questions:

A lot of times there’s a question that is either a little bit too personal or a little too close to the vest. You know that if you don’t ask, they will never tell you, so you set it up: “Okay, this is a bad question, don’t feel you need to answer it and please make it better.”

When you set it up as a bad question, they are always expecting the worst, much worse than the actual question. It disarms them from what might have been a negative or awkward response.


Real growth:

Most real growth does not come from stealing a small segment of customers from your competitors. It comes from truly understanding the problem your customer is trying to solve and focusing on helping them. By doing this, you reach people who wouldn’t even enter the marketplace to begin with.

The focus of sales tends to be on the point of differentiation from competitors. One more feature: they have Bluetooth 5, we need Bluetooth 6; they have two-cell lithium ion batteries, we need three-cell. You end up over-engineering the product, until people don’t even understand what they are buying. The buyer doesn’t care! They want you to solve their problem; to speak their language. Salespeople should be doing these things, but they are not.


Sales, marketing and customer support:

Sales, marketing, and customer support must learn to play together! Most organisations treat them as three separate entities, but they’re not. And treating them as such makes sales unnecessarily hard.

They work at a very high, abstract, macro level. They have an ideal or imagined customer, created through the triangulation of data, such as: customer age, zip code, income level, etc. If you think about it, age and income level are not the real reason someone buys a car, but that’s how marketing works—data correlation.

It all starts with customer support. Most sales models think of new business as harder to get than renewals, therefore, they put their lower-level people on renewals. But renewals are just as hard, sometimes riskier, than new business because you’ve got history to overcome or reshape.


Pull Side example on Banks:

Many people think all banks are the same. So if you think this, and your bank sucks, you don’t say, “Oh boy, I think I need to get a better bank.” You don’t believe there is a better bank. As a result, you don’t even know that you’re struggling with your current bank. Part of marketing and selling is showing customers that something else exists.

The conversation should not be about loans and terms, it should focus on the progress people are trying to make: What could you be doing if you had more money? How would your business grow if you had access to better capital? Then try to understand their anxieties: What’s holding you back? How can we help you mitigate the risk? How can you prepare for the downside?


Great Sales Questions:

These questions can be divided into push, pull, anxieties, and habit.

Push Questions: What are you struggling with? What’s not happening that you want to happen? Where’s your frustration? Why are you doing this now? What don’t you like about your current product or service?

Pull Questions: What are you hoping for? What’s going to be different once you’ve got something new in your life?

Anxiety Questions: What are you worried about? What’s your greatest concern about getting rid of the old product or service? What’s your greatest concern about putting something new into your life?

Habit Questions: Even though there are problems, what do you love the most about your current product or service? What are you willing to give up in order to get something better? What are you not willing to give up?


Unpacking Questions:

What does THAT (insert: easy, convenient, fast, healthy) mean? Tell me what THAT is? Tell me what THAT is not. Give me an example of THAT. Give me an example of not THAT.


Prototyping solutions:

Prototyping is “let’s pretend.” Once you have the context and the outcomes framed you want to pull in contrasting solutions to their problem.

Framing the struggling moment and unpacking are all about context. Prototyping is about building contrast to create meaning. This is not about building real options. It’s about showing them things that are different enough so that you can have a deeper conversation.


The Six Buying Stages:

Let’s review the six stages of buying.

First Thought: creating space in the brain for solutions to fall into.

Passive Looking: learning, framing, and prioritising to know what to do next

Active Looking: seeing possibilities, framing trade-offs, and ruling things both in and out—inclusion and exclusion.

Deciding: connecting the dots into alternatives for progress, getting buy in from the group, making trade-offs, and setting expectations to measure progress.

Onboarding: first use, doing the job, and seeing both the progress and the metrics of progress achieved.

Ongoing Use: building new habits, identifying new struggling moments, and new feature development.