The Yes Curve a.k.a. The Dumbest Sales Technique Ever…

If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve probably been subjected to the “yes curve” theory of sales.

I have no idea who invented this theory. Whoever it was, I suspect it
was created a long time ago, before people became used to the process
of being sold something.  It is surprisingly tenacious in its refusal to die.

Here is the theory in essence:

Ask small questions one at a time. Each question should only have
one real answer: YES. As you move up the Yes Curve, you are
accumulating a “bank” of yes’s. This bank makes customer more amenable
to saying YES to the sale you are trying to make. As the bank grows and
you move along the yes-curve, you can ask harder questions, but you
don’t ask The Big Question (”will you buy?”) until you have achieved a
critical mass of yes’s. At this point the customer should be far enough
along the Yes Curve that you can simply close the sale.

Lets go back to buying a car to see the yes-curve theory being applied.
Ever noticed that car salespeople often asks a litany of stupid
questions like “do you like the color”, “doesn’t it drive nicely” and
“isn’t today a great day for a test drive”? Yup, you are being

If you are mean-spirited like me, you’ll throw them the occasional random “no” just to break the yes-bank.

But in all seriousness, this theory has some fundamental flaws.  Specifically:

  1. Customers buy products because they want them.  Not because they’re lulled in to a yes-frenzy.
  2. The yes-curve often misses questions critical to the success of a sale because the person using it doesn’t want a “no” answer.
  3. Using the yes-curve leads to the salesperson talking almost all of the time.  This is always a bad thing.  If you’re talking, you’re not listening.  If you’re not listening, you aren’t hearing what the customer really wants, you’re just making assumptions about
    what they want. People buy based on what they want. If you haven’t
    identified what they want, you’re wasting your time and theirs.

I’ll talk about why people buy in another post…

1 comment for “The Yes Curve a.k.a. The Dumbest Sales Technique Ever…

  1. August 25, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I never realized they were looking for a “yes” response. No wonder the car sales people I dealt with always seemed so depressed.

    I thought they just cared about me and my opinions. Turns out they were looking for impossibly ultra-simplified positivity. Thanks for the tip.

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