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Be lazy get rich: How to sell more by doing less

“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”  – Zig Ziglar

This post is expressly written for those entrepreneurs who close deals directly. Face to face, over the phone or even via email – direct selling is still the best way to convince prospects to part with large sums of money for high value product, service or experience.

If you’re an exclusively online entrepreneur or sell something so transactional (groceries) that no direct selling is needed, then this article is also for you. For you (and all of us), sales skill is what gets you your killer network (selling yourself), your affiliate deals and funding if necessary.

Every entrepreneur must master sales. Quickly. This post reveals the biggest shortcut of them all. 

The big mistake newbies make

I’ve met many skillful sales people and many terrible ones. The big difference boils down to a naive attitude that some call “the crocodile approach”. This is when a clueless sales person hangs onto a dead prospect, calling them, visiting, emailing and generally never letting go. The idea is, if you bite the ankle of an antelope and hold on like a vice grip… eventually you’ll get a meal.

The crocodile tactic actually works sometimes. Lots of sales training material will inform you that “staying in touch” and “several points of contact” is what’s required to close deals. From a certain perspective that is correct.

However, the crocodile gets exhausted. It doesn’t have energy for anything besides one massive tussle with a single antelope. It’s not efficient hunting.

Let’s be honest. Viewing sales interaction as a predator/prey thing feels… icky.

Adopt a crocodile mindset and you’ll condition yourself to believe that every sale has to be a massive, bloody struggle. You’ll miss out on the “antelope” that are queuing up to feed you voluntarily – they exist, but we’ll leave the metaphor there.

The lazy entrepreneurs sales tactic

“Obstacles” prevent sales happening. They’re objections and real situations in the prospect’s life that derail the sales process. The intention of the tactic described above (and hundreds of others) is to hold on long enough to disarm a prospect of these obstacles. It’s hard work.

The lazy entrepreneur simply seeks prospects who never had them in the first place.

Zig Ziglar said:

“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

The lazy (but smart) entrepreneur casts her prospecting net wide. She thinks carefully about the people who naturally lack these obstacles. She plots and schemes and figures out exactly where to go to find them.

When you discover a prospect who has both need, money, hurry and desire… your sales challenge is simply to create trust. In some cases, this is doable through a killer powerpoint presentation. Sometimes a solid testimonial is needed. Sometimes a firm handshake is all that is required.

Selling to people already have the need, money, hurry and desire is pleasurable – for both you and the prospect. They know they’re there to buy. They want to meet someone who can help them do that. They want what you’ve got and, this part is key – they want to be seduced into making a decision today.

The lazy entrepreneur doesn’t waste time working with prospects who need to be convinced that they can afford something. They don’t bother trying to explain why today is the day to buy – as opposed to “next month”.

The lazy entrepreneur learns to spot the signs of Ziglar’s five basic obstacle – from miles off. The lazy entrepreneur zeros in on only the prospects who don’t have them.

The smart dealer of luxury cars realizes his showroom is an art gallery – that it attracts people who just want to ogle nice cars. He focuses instead on those folks who’ve convinced themselves they need to act now, who turn up to the showroom in a Mercedes. The Mercedes is like a neon arrow above the prospect that reads: “Hi! I have the money AND the desire for this product. Come talk to me!”

The counter example is the newbie car salesman, who fails to notice his prospect arrive in a Honda. He then spends an hour describing the features of a two hundred thousand dollar Ferrari to an enthusiast who’s never spent more than $25k on a vehicle.

How does this apply to you?

No matter your industry, pitch or product… you can make double in half the time by making your sales strategy more efficient.

The first step is to get clear on what the defining, observable indicators of the five basic obstacles are. How do you know if your prospects are:

  • Really needing what you’ve got?
  • Able to afford it?
  • In a rush to get things done now?
  • Salivating in desire?
  • Believing you’re gonna take care of them? (trust)

You need to be able to answer that question. If you haven’t yet figured out a way to spot these indicators in your industry/niche, then this is the ultimate low-hanging opportunity. Spotting these before you waste time with going-nowhere interactions will speed up your sales cycle (and thus overall success) enormously.

I use this tactic for selling my consulting services, which is direct sales via (mainly) email. Here’s how I pre-screen the five obstacles…

  • I make it time consuming for people to get in touch (filling out my Become a Client form, for example).
  • I pay very close attention to the spelling, grammar and email signatures of those who do get in touch. These are all huge indicators of education, experience and thus income level.
  • I respond to people who say things like “Help!” very rapidly. In my game, when an entrepreneur needs urgent shrinking… they’ll tell me.
  • I use the blog and my testimonials to create anticipation and desire for transformation of results.
  • Ditto trust. This blog is a window into my world (hanging with me on twitter – dangerously more so). Like all bloggers, I let a bit of personality hang out to establish myself as a real person.

It may sound cynical to think of it like this, but it’s really a high-integrity, respect way to market.

I’ve carefully built my online presence so that I get very few inquiries from people who have more than one obstacle. Sure, I sometimes have to create a bit of extra desire. Sometimes I have to talk NDAs to create that extra level of trust.

The point is, I’m never pitching people who need to be convinced on each of the five points. I don’t have the time.

Neither do you.

Build a business and sales funnel that allows you to spot high-quality, fast moving prospects a mile off.

Commit to only investing your time and energy pitching prospects who need to overcome just one obstacle.

Be smart, be lazy. Your prospects will thank you for it, while you do twice as well in half the time.



+ Add Comment
  1. Good timing. 😛

    This weekend, someone told me, “I keep thinking there’s a way for you to KNOW who really needs you before you spend time trying to convince them.”

    I glanced up, thought and answered, “My contact form.” Usually contact forms ask for names, email addresses and messages.

    But what if they asked other questions, like, “Why do you need a website? What goal are you trying to achieve? When would you like it in place?” Those are just examples, mind you.

    I think people who invest energy and time into answering those questions just to contact me would thus be more likely to commit. (Maybe. Maybe they’re lazy!!) They’d also be pre-qualifying themselves (startup, mid-sized company, blogger), and they’re giving me valuable info I can use to speak directly to their needs.

    Something to think on… after I’ve had more coffee. 😛

    1. Maybe you should give them an option to check that says “I’m too busy to think, but I know I want to hire you right away” … that negates the need to answer the other questions on your form. Could be interesting to see who clicks it and how that then converts 🙂

  2. Excellent info Peter. And I like James idea to beef up the contact page to further determine urgency. In other places on my site, I say flat out if you’re looking for quick and dirty design, I’m not for you. It usually works. Occasionally, I still get someone who doesn’t seem to read that or think for them I’ll design a beautiful logo for an inexpensive price.

    One person thought they could pick out a logo for a business like I kept them on a shelf.

    Colleges might consider teaching classes on what custom services cost or even how to have a sales conversation.

    Anyway, good stuff! G.

    1. Hey Giulietta,

      I think most academics would rather eat their own arm than see a sales training course in their syllabus 😛 … that’s fine though, there are a few advantages to sales skills being scarce.

  3. Good points! I often wonder how artists who think their art will sell itself manage to get by, yet sometimes wonder how much work really has to go into marketing without getting overdone. It’s often in the balance and knowing who you are marketing to and what you are marketing!

    1. It’s a fine line ACL (should I call you “ACL”?) …. kinda paradoxical really: First, be so remarkable you never have to market… then get superb at marketing ANYWAY. Therein lies success.

  4. The best way to Find prospects that will part with large sums of money for high value products, services or experiences is to offer something that they Want, which they are ready, willing and able to buy. Attempts to Convince high probability to buy will almost always create resistance, which can seldom be overcome. Trying to Get people to buy has the opposite affect. What really works is mutual commitments.

    Peter, if you want a free download of our book “High Probability Selling” or the audio book, just let me know.

  5. Hey, Peter,
    This is a really fine post that was usable the moment it touched my brain…no chewing required! Applicable to any professional. I wish I had something smart to add, but you said it all ready, so I’ll just share it! And the idea of starting a contact form with an “EASY” button? Brilliant.

  6. Peter,

    Ok this is my new favourite post by you. It completely tops all the rest.

    As someone still creating a name online in my industry it feels like the only way I can build trust is to complete a test or offer a freebie.

    What are your thoughts on that?


    1. There are lots of more subtle ways to build trust Ainslie. Part of what builds trust here is the design of this site – it inspires confidence.

      Testimonials are another great angle. People respond to the really good ones. No need to give away your time/work if you don’t want to.

  7. I’m reading this post, and I’m wondering … is he seriously reading my mind?

    And then, of course, I realise, yes, you are 🙂

    So I’d better be freakin’ careful what I think … cos you are reading it VERY well.

    Also, thanks Ainslie for the question re freebie … and Peter for the reply. Thank goodness, I don’t have to ‘give-away’ anything else to earn trust … just ‘be’ authentic in blog posts and image …

    *sigh* and LOL 🙂

  8. Excellent article, Peter! Thanks!

    I always pre-qualify prospects, first with a form or questionnaire and then with a phone call unless it’s someone I’ve known awhile. It saves me tons of time in the end. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted doing it since I started and my PITA client ratio has dropped significantly.

    I get a little nervous with the help!!! people though. They’re in a rush, but they can require a lot of hand-holding down the line (me trying to calm them down). I suppose this is a problem for me because I’m not a shrink for entrepreneurs. 🙂

  9. Love this post how we would all like to be rich and some of us maybe lazy too, however I think maybe the two do not go together well, if i had the money, i’d be so busy, but maybe thats just me ?

  10. Peter

    Two weeks ago I printed this article for discussion with my sales team which is focussed on selling in-ground swimming pools.

    I did not thoroughly read it before the meeting and so as we read through it together I had to change tack. Instead of being supportive, I realised almost its theme ran contrary to all we practice.

    One of my team turned to me and said with a twinkle in her eye: “So you want us to focus on the fat juicy leads?”.

    Both the word “lead” and the word “qualify” are banned in our company because historically in our experience they invite salesperson reports (post-appointment or post-phonecall) that enquiries were “not leads” and enquirers were “not qualified”: “I need some more leads. Real ones!”. “Come on! When are you guys going to spend some more dosh on marketing?”.

    Since the “banning” a few years ago, our focus has changed to reporting in terms of individual performance after an encounter with any enquirer … rather than focus on the enquirer’s claimed characteristics, circumstances and objections in explaining why a sale was not delivered.

    Questions like “How did you seek to overcome that objection?”, “Do you think you could have unearthed that obstacle earlier? Without pitching?” are discussed.

    My team attempts to “work efficiently” using a consistent objective approach to ALL enquirers. We probe and push and probe some more in assessing whether to pitch at all.

    Subjective “guessing” as to enquirer capacity for buying from us – based on what they wear, drive, or where they live – is unacceptable here.

    We sell more by doing less … but not in the way you suggest.

    Thanks for your article.


    Xavier Smith

  11. Great article, i know its all in my head and trying to get over so many obstacles right now, This has been so helpful and encouraging. will be back for more. Hard to find quality genuinely helpful stuff out there. Thanks again. x

  12. People may want not to close the deal on the first visit, they may want to study other options, often is more than one person to decide, thats part of the job, that s why sometimes you have to be like a nexus5, a human replica built to sell to humans.

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