Eliminating Pressure with Easy Exits

In martial arts the defender uses the attacker’s momentum against him.  This involves doing the unexpected beating the adversary at his own game.  In selling, this technique, called “going negative,” is quite counterintuitive, but incredibly effective.

Instead of following the traditional selling tactic of trying to push the prospect into buying, the salesperson does the opposite, giving the prospect an “easy exit.”  It’s very disarming and completely removes any pressure to buy.  Freed of pressure, prospects often open up and share more information than they ordinarily would. Here’s an example:

Prospect:          “I’m not sure if we need to address this issue right now.”
Salesperson:   “Sounds like it’s not much of a priority after all.  Maybe we should just close the file.”
Prospect:          “No. We’ve got to do something.”
Salesperson:   “Okay.  What were you thinking?”
Prospect:          “Well, why don’t we…”

Notice how the prospect “refused” to let the salesperson close the file.  The prospect went from a confused state of vacillation to saying he needed to do something.  It happened because the salesperson removed the pressure.

The prospect provided the momentum to move the sale forward.  The salesperson simply got out of the way.  If, in fact, the prospect said that closing the file was the appropriate thing to do, there probably wasn’t much pain in the first place, and closing the file might have saved everyone some time and preserved rapport.  Using an easy exit (sometimes called a “takeaway”) can never hurt the salesperson, because if the prospect agrees with the salesperson, it’s easy to simply say, “I thought so.”

Here’s another example:

Prospect:          “That’s really more than we wanted to invest.”
Salesperson:   “I see.  Sounds like you have some serious reservations about the program.” (Moving away.)
Prospect:          “No, we really like your program. It’s just that our budget is a little tight right now. Can you help us with some payment terms?”
Salesperson:   “Not sure.  What were you thinking?”
Prospect:          “Can you do…?”
Salesperson:   “Maybe.  Assuming we could do that, what would happen then?”
Prospect:          “We’d have a deal.”

It’s important to note in these examples that the salesperson refrained from trying to “overcome the objection” by trying to create a greater sense of urgency (example #1) or selling the benefits (#2). Simply by moving away and asking open ended questions, the salesperson was able to move the sale forward.

Warning:  Easy exits are not for everybody.  They can’t be used in every situation, and shouldn’t be overused.  Practice them in some non-critical situations to get used to them.

Self-Study Assignment:  Consider how traditional salespeople would put pressure on the prospect when an objection or stall came up, and the consequences of pushing too hard to turn the sale around. Make a commitment to learning the Easy Exit (Takeaway) in the next week or two.