Anticipating Obstacles in the Sales Conversation

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You should never be surprised by routine objections, concerns, and challenges in the sales conversation. The fact that you hear the same objections from different clients, during different stages of the sales conversation, should motivate you to design and prepare effective talk tracks. Likewise, anxiety-inducing statements like “let me meet with my team and get back to you in a couple weeks” are a normal part of consultative sales, so you can learn to predict them and deal with the problem.

Requesting a Meeting

Few things in sales are more difficult than getting a meeting with your dream client. This is especially true when you are trying to displace a competitor who has developed deep working relationships with your prospective client over several years (see Eat Their Lunch for more on how to steal customers away from your competition).

You should go into the meeting request fully confident that your prospective client will agree to meet with you because you believe you belong in a room with them and have the acumen to help them produce better results. But you should also expect your contacts to reject your first meeting request, knowing how highly they value their time. The first “no” is free. You have to earn the second “no” by persisting and asking again.

To face this challenge, you need language that allows you to trade enough value for the time you are asking your client to give you, along with a way to overcome the foundational concern that prevents them from agreeing to meet with you.

Compelling Change and New Discovery

Of all the parts of the sales conversation, the way we approach discovery has changed most drastically in recent years. Legacy sales approaches started with the idea that your client is already dissatisfied, so all you need to do is get them to admit they have a problem.

From time to time, you will find contacts with a well-developed problem statement and who are motivated to change. More often, however, that first meeting will show that your contacts wish things were better, but they also believe that the cost of change would outweigh the benefits.

During discovery in your sales process, your job is to gain information and explore change, with the ultimate goal of helping your prospective client by compelling that change. A trusted advisor recognizes when the status quo will harm their client and helps them change before that happens. It is no longer okay to wait for the “pain point” to prod them to change, especially if you’re just avoiding the work of helping them avoid harm.

Instead, you need an insight-based approach: show up with an understanding of how future problems may develop and what changes can avoid them. And if your client says “we’ll reach out should we decide to do something different in the future,” you need to use new talk tracks to acquire another meeting. For more about controlling the process, see The Lost Art of Closing.

Accessing Stakeholders

There is nothing worse than having a couple meetings with a decision-maker, only to have them reject your request to bring in the other stakeholders— “I am the only one you need to work with, and I will make the decision.” Don’t be fooled: a single stakeholder is not going to be enough to shepherd your deal through to a close. A complex sale features a critically important decision that the client makes infrequently—and the more complex the sale, the greater the risk.

Greater risk requires bringing more stakeholders into the conversation, especially when the decision will affect different areas of the business. So, you need to know how to talk to your client about the need to get the necessary people onboard.

There is a better than average chance that your contact won’t know exactly who needs to discuss the significant change you are recommending. Unless they have a process that their purchasing department is driving, you may need to advise them on who to bring in, when to do so, and how best to manage the process. Help them build consensus, yes, but also help them with colleagues who oppose change and those who are concerned with change—or with your solution!

No Surprises

Don’t let routine complications catch you off-guard. You need to anticipate these obstacles, objections, and challenges, forestalling them when you can and resolving them effectively when they do emerge. Do not neglect developing talk tracks for the tough conversations—and always rehearse them until you have no trouble handling them.

You are responsible for managing the sales conversation, which means you know when certain conversations are going to be necessary and the challenges of having those conversations. Build the language to serve your client and help them make good decisions around their business.



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