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Why Buyers See Sellers as Self-Centered

One of the negative stereotypes about sales professionals is that we’re all self-centered. Buyers fear getting taking advantage of by self-serving sellers who will resort to any and all means of trickery to line their own pockets.

I’ve worked with thousands of sellers, and I’m convinced that most sellers don’t think that way. The vast majority of sales professionals are genuinely interested in meeting the needs of their buyers. But even the most nobly-intentioned sellers can inadvertently appear to be acting with a “me first” attitude. It happens when sellers assume, presume, subsume, resume and consume.

Let’s look at the meaning of each of those words and an example from the field where a seller accidentally lost a buyer’s faith.

Assume mean to take for granted or without proof; to take upon oneself; to take over the duties or responsibilities of; to take on or adopt; to appropriate, seize or usurp. A tele-seller made a grave error and alienated a prospect by assuming his assistant (who had the same last name) was his wife. The tele-seller, checking an order for personal care items, shared sensitive information with the assistant (a non-relative) because of this embarrassing assumption.

Presume means to act or proceed with unwarrantable or impertinent boldness; to go too far in acting unwarrantably or in taking liberties; to accept as true in the absence of proof to the contrary. A paper goods seller lost a long-time customer by placing a bulk order at a time when the buyer was out of the country and a limited-time volume discount was being offered. The seller considered himself proactive, honestly believing he was doing the buyer a big favor. The buyer considered him presumptuous and refused to take the order despite the cost savings.

Subsume means to consider or include as part of something more comprehensive; to incorporate; to take a place within. A seller bundled in multiple product extensions to offer a comprehensive solution but failed to tell the buyer about the pricing for these extras. When the buyer learned that some of the included items were optional, she didn’t see the seller’s intention as helpful but, instead, as greedy.

Resume means to take up or go on with again after interruption, continue; to take or occupy again; to take or assume use or practice of again; to take back. A seller returned from medical leave and went back to “business as usual,” placing auto-refill orders without first reconnecting with buyers. One buyer had made major supplier changes and needed three times the amount as the auto-refill provided. The seller’s actions left the buyer in short supply and forced the buyer’s company into a production slow-down that affected hundreds of factory workers.

Consume means to destroy, expend or take away by use; to devour; to destroy; to spend wastefully; to absorb, engross. An advertising sales rep was accused by a buyer of being wasteful with the approved ad budget, overspending in media that the buyer did not feel produced sufficient results. The advertising budget was quickly depleted, and the buyer cold not be convinced that the seller was anything other than reckless.

The Latin root of these five words is “sumere” which means “to take, to use or to waste.” Buyers, with their natural suspicions piqued because of those negative stereotypes about sellers, will always respond negatively to the perception that a seller is taking something away.

To counteract these perceptions, sellers must take two steps with every buyer. First, sellers need to balance “sumere” with “addo” which means “to give”. What are you giving your buyers? How visible is your giving?

Second, sellers must be aware that buyers can misperceive any action that looks like taking. Ask yourself: what am I taking? What am I taking away from? What am I taking part in? Be ultra-sensitive to actions your buyers could misconstrue as being self-serving, taking from them rather than giving to them.

This level of self-awareness requires you to get outside yourself. You need to see yourself as your buyers see you. Stop to think before you assume, presume, subsume, resume or consume in interactions with your buyers. Be transparent and give your buyers voice and choice instead of taking liberties they may not appreciate.

The CONNECT2Sell Blog has been discontinued as our focus has shifted to leadership at every level. Research with buyers demonstrates that buyers respond favorably when sellers show up as leaders. If you'd like to step into your full potential as a leader (and boost sales!), take a look at our free and affordable courses on