Exploring the “bicycle” buy cycle; Tom Nies

Thomas M. Nies, Founder and CEO, Cincom Systems Inc.

Last month’s column featured my ideas on how and why salespeople should not think they are involved in “sales cycles,” but rather to approach them from the needs of their customers who are involved in a “buying cycle.”

Seek not to sell

Prospective customers are seeking to buy but they are not seeking — and often resist and resent — efforts to be sold. I like to phrase a sales person’s job as that of an “assistant purchasing agent” rather than a sales agent and use the term “servant sellers” to convey this role at Cincom. The emphasis is on the idea of a servant seeking to help prospects buy what they value, want and need rather than focusing on what the seller wants to sell.

Seek to help buy

To further emphasize my point, I have begun to think of this buy cycle metaphorically as a “bicycle.” I offered a few analogies last month as to how a bicycle and a buy cycle were similar, such as: The importance of the wheels on a bicycle — the front wheel provides direction and represents the strategy and vision for a buy cycle. At the same time, the rear wheel is the source of power or fuel that energizes the cycle. Strategy and direction have to be present along with energy and action in a corporation if a sale is to be made.

I’d like to expand upon my metaphor now to help others better understand the idea of a bicycle and the importance of this servant selling idea by breaking it down into the various parts of a bike.

Ball bearings

A bicycle uses ball bearings to reduce friction. Grease makes the bearings smoother and less resistant. In order to grease the buy cycle, you must be proficient at both the technical evaluation cycle as well as the economic and emotional aspect of the evaluation.


Like a bicycle, if a business stops moving forward it will fall over. Unlike a bicycle, a business does not have a kickstand that can preempt the gravitational pull, so a business must be constantly moving forward or it will fall over.

Front fork

The front fork of a bicycle holds the front wheel that allows the rider to maneuver and balance the bicycle. Maneuverability is very important for those who are looking to optimally be servant sellers to a prospect. Maneuvering is typically of competition during the early and developing stages of a market. Almost every great company establishes themselves by maneuvering themselves into a position where it is considered the best choice for a specific customer’s desires, needs and interests.


There is a certain skill that comes with braking. Knowing when to use the front or back brake, when to brake on curves and when to brake for animals is not only a control means but a safety aid, as well. Braking in a race or when riding in a group is also a commitment because of your effect on other riders. Know when to pull back and when to lay off the brake.

Cranks and pedals

These are the tools that are used to move the bicycle forward. These are the receivers and transmitters of the power and energy of the biker. Emotions and feelings are powerful motivators. They influence why we buy and who we buy from. When sales reps are not focused on being servant sellers and are unmindful of these powerful and often overriding emotional factors, or are unable to skillfully anticipate and advantageously use these forces, they seldom succeed in a buy cycle. Emotions and motives are the cranks and pedals of the buy cycle, a relationship that is built on trust will power the sales cycle. Then, when mixed with emotion it will propel the buy cycle forward.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/