Equal and Opposite Reactions

Three centuries ago, Sir Isaac Newton formulated three physical laws of motion that describe the relationships between two objects, and the forces acting upon those objects, and the resultant motions in response to those forces. The third of Newton’s laws says this:

“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.”

In other words, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Based on observation, it appears this principal applies pretty well to human interactions as
well. Recently, an inexperienced salesperson was sharing a story with me regarding the events of a specific sales call – a call that didn’t go exactly as planned:

I sat down with [the prospect] and, after a bit of conversation, I asked him, “What is the biggest problem you currently have that I can help you with?” He looked at me – and he seemed a little irritated – and said, “Well, what is the biggest problem YOU have that I can help YOU with?”

 Oops. The perfect example of “equal and opposite reaction.” But this brief exchange tells us quite a bit about where that particular relationship stood at that moment. Lacking the credibility and the right to ask such a penetrating question, the salesperson got exactly the reaction he deserved.

While an insightful question is critical to revealing valuable information and buying motivations, it can also fall completely flat, depending on the timing of the question. If you were to ask someone to marry you, it might be one of the brightest moments of that person’s life. But, if you decide to

ask on your first date? Not so much. That means my first actions with a potential customer should be designed to create trust and open up lines of communication.

The vast majority of the time, customers won’t be upset with you unless you first give them a reason to be so. There are, of course, those unpredictable, irrational people of the world, but most customers won’t complain about your lack of response unless you are unresponsive. They won’t criticize your poor delivery and implementation unless you screw up the delivery and implementation. They won’t procrastinate a decision unless there is a lack of value present in your solution.

Most people act or respond the way they do for very specific reasons. But, instead of realizing this basic concept of human behavior, salespeople look for something else to blame rather than themselves. The economy. The product. The price. The customer. Whatever works.

The point is, salespeople will dramatically improve sales performance when they grasp this idea of equal and opposite reactions:

1. When you make sales calls unprepared, you will encounter indifference
2. When you ask poor questions, you will get bad information
3. If you fail to differentiate, you get dumped into the commodity bucket
4. When you push ahead before you lay a foundation, you may encounter hostility 5. When no value is present, no deal will be forthcoming

When you encounter a lack of success with a customer, take a look at your actions. Were your responsible for an equal and opposite reaction?


Kelly Riggs







Kelly Riggs is an author, speaker, and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the United States. He is widely recognized as a powerful speaker and dynamic trainer in the fields of leadership, sales development, and strategic planning.

He is a former two-time national Salesperson-of-the-Year with over two decades of sales management and sales training experience, including the development of two comprehensive corporate sales training programs in two different industries.

Kelly is also the founder and president of Vmax Performance Group, a business performance improvement company located in Broken Arrow, OK. He has written extensively for numerous industry publications, and his first book, “1-on-1 ManagementTM: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t,” was released in 2008. His second book, “Quit Whining and Start SELLING: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales” was released in May 2013.