Last week I had two almost identical conversations.
Both individuals were referred to me and had indicated interested & excitement via email in a conversation. They scheduled the meeting freely with my calendar, but when we got on the phone, both individuals launched into a list of resistance without giving me the chance to say anything more than “hello”!
They weren’t straight up saying “this is a waste of time”, but there was an undertone.
By the end of the conversation though, both of them were raving and thrilled. Both of them were trying to get me on the phone with their CEO that same week. And CEO in this case was an actual CEO, not a business operator who has appropriated the title because it sounds awesome.
I know I’m not alone! We’ve all walked into a sales appointment or phone call and our prospect is sitting there with every defense raised! But if I’d been in that situation five years ago, it would not have ended the same way and I think a large percentage of sales reps would have walked away sore.
So why do so many sales reps lose the sale here?
There are two major mistakes sales reps make at this point.
They check-out mentally and start looking for a way out of the conversation so they don’t “waste their time”
They stick to the pre-planned agenda in hopes it will change the prospect’s mind.
I get it. Sales is a numbers game and we don’t want to waste time on sales calls that have no chance of closing. But if we just settle for the easy sales, we’ll be one of those reps who barely makes quota again and again and again!
There is also a psychological aspect to sales as well. Settling for just the easy sales means that you can miss out on creating true raving fans & converts and lose out on some of the most rewarding sales!
Alternatively, I’ve seen a lot of reps try to stick to the planned agenda. In essence the appointment goes like this:
Prospect: I don’t need you.
Sales Rep: Cool! What you have to say isn’t important to me so let me show you what I can do for you anyhow, I’m sure you’ll change your mind if I talk long and hard enough!
You see how asinine that sounds, right? Stop speaking Chinese to someone speaking Dutch!
Instead of that, try this…
1) Listen Closely
I listened to what they were saying, but most importantly I listened to what they were not saying.
I was told things like “We are bringing this all in-house” and “We’ve finally figured this all out” and “We only allow clients to do that for us.” Neither of them told me to get off the phone. They both were obviously comfortable being super straightforward with me, but neither of them said that the call was a waste of time. That’s a good sign!
Next, they both regaled me with horror stories of wasted money on outside vendors. I heard the story (and yes, it made my blood boil! Always does!), but I also heard what they weren’t saying “I am sick of being taken advantage of. I don’t want to be taken advantage of again this is not my area of expertise, so I don’t know what questions to ask to protect myself.”
I realized that they needed to know that I wasn’t going to take advantage of them, but they didn’t know how to reassure themselves of that. So, I….
2) Asked Questions
I asked them to explain sentences that I didn’t fully understand (I.e. “We only do this kind of thing for our clients and if we can see the ROI is present” and my response was “I love that y’all are loyal to your clients! How do you measure ROI when you sponsor a client event?”
The other gentleman advised me about how much he hates marketing and marketers, it grates against him. I was able to empathize and agree, “I get it! That’s one of the reasons I left my corporate job in 2014 - I was so tired of seeing them take advantage of businesses and not care. It doesn’t sit right with me. What were some of the lessons you learned working with that last vendor?”
I was able to both show him that I understand his perspective, that there are companies out there taking advantage of other companies (something he already knows now!) and help him make sense of the experience so he could learn from it and move on.
3) Gave Them an Out
With these sales calls, I gave them each an opportunity to get out. I told them about something that could help them outside of me, and warned them of the potential problems they might run into if they go down that road without me.
That was what really got to both of them. They had the opportunity to realize that they didn’t need me (Because they don’t need me), but that it would make for better results if they did bring me in. I showed them how we could both get a lot further together rather than them taking it in-house and doing it on their own.
I helped them break down their guards and the barriers that prevent them from even being open to my help. And I did it by slowing down, listening to them, abandoning my agenda, giving them an opportunity to walk, but also giving them an opportunity to move forward with me.
The result of doing these things? I was able to have a real conversation with both of these individuals and give them to the tools they needed to be the expert in their organization when they needed to talk to someone else about working with me!
At the End of the Day…
I have built habits in my brain that help me step back from the “ledge” in sales. Jeb Blount talks about this a lot…
What happens when we get to a point in a sale that is make-or-break, our brain starts to panic and we go into “fight or flight” mode. That’s where most of us lose sales - because we’re freaking out. I’ve taken years to train myself to take a step back and breathe, and remind myself to listen to the situation and try to understand where the other individual is coming from.
That goes a long way to take your “No”s to “Hell yes!”
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About the Author:
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!