If You Sense It, Say It (Nicely)

If we’re paying attention, prospects will often give us clues to roadblocks we might have to overcome during the sales process.  A word here, a facial expression there, and we know something is happening.  Sometimes it’s not good.  Your intuition tells you that something is wrong and needs to be discussed, but you don’t know how or are not comfortable bringing it up.

Here are a few fairly common issues that fit this category.

  • Their budget may be inadequate to address the problem.
  • There may be others who will influence or make the decision.
  • They have a long-standing relationship with an existing vendor and it would be difficult for them to change.

Have you ever said to yourself during a sales call, “I get the feeling that….”?  If you have, it’s important to deal with the issue early on before it becomes a bigger problem or even a deal breaker.  You might say something like this:

Salesperson:  “Sue, I’m not sure why, but I get the feeling that it would be very difficult for you to make a change, given the long standing relationship you’ve had with your current supplier.”
Prospect:         “We have had a good relationship with them, that’s true.  But recently they’ve had some quality problems and we’ve decided to look at alternatives.
Salesperson:  “Really.  Are you sure that the quality issues are serious enough for you to consider making a change?”
Prospect:         “Yes. The issues are pretty serious.”

Sometimes, during a sales call, your prospect will say something that conflicts with a previous statement.  You’re confused, but you don’t know how to bring it up without seeming to be confrontational.  When this happens, act like Colombo.

This tactic is especially useful when you need to get more information.  It involves acting somewhat confused (on purpose) in order to encourage your prospect to open up and clarify a particular issue.  Lt. Colombo (the late Peter Falk of the TV show Colombo) used this approach to perfection.  It’s totally disarming and puts the prospect in a position to help you, the “confused” salesperson, get things straight.  It sounds like this:

Prospect:        “We’ve decided to wait a month or two to make our decision.”
Salesperson:  “I’m a little confused.  You said this problem was costing you $10,000 a month and was a top priority to fix.  Can you help me understand why you want to delay now? I must be missing something.”
Prospect:        “Well, here’s the real problem…”

Self-Study Assignment:  Think back over the past several weeks where using this tactic could have brought something to the surface quickly.  How do you think your prospect would have responded?  How would that have helped you?