Proven responses to trounce The oh-so-familiar sales obstacles

I presented a seminar at an industry conference last weekend. Immediately afterward, I had a table set up alongside the stage to sell books. I processed a few sales with cash and credit cards and finally there was only one person standing in front of me, with a book in her hand.

“Can I sell you that book?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided,” she said. “I have to go to the bathroom. I’ll be back.”

She didn’t come back, of course, but you have to give her credit for creativity. I have experienced rejection in many ways in my sales career, but that was a new one for me.

Common Obstacles

There really aren’t that many things promotional products buyers say when they’re not saying yes. That means you can prepare your response to those obstacles in advance. For example, two of the most common obstacles I hear about come up at the very earliest stages of prospecting when the salesperson is trying to set up that first appointment and the buyer says, “I’m really busy right now,” or, “I don’t need anything right now.”

The typical response seems to be: “Can I call you some other time?” This response is on the right track, but it’s not the best strategy. Rather, you should take it out of the realm of a permission question and turn it into a collaborative question: “When would be a better time?”

The difference between permission and collaboration goes to the common mindset that the buyer is more important than the seller. It’s a variation on the idea that the customer is always right. Great salespeople understand that the goal is a relationship between equals—a happy customer and a valued supplier—and it’s the relationship they position themselves for right from the start.

Call Me Next Week

So you say: “When would be a better time?” The buyer says: “Call me next week.” Please don’t say: “When would be a good time for me to call you next week?” I see that as pushing too hard against a soft obstacle. Just say: “I will.”

When you make that call, remind the buyer that you’re keeping the promise he or she asked you to make. “Hi, this is Dave Fellman from Practical Promo. We spoke briefly last week, and you asked me to call you this week. We were talking about setting an appointment. How does your schedule look for (some appropriate time)?”

Now, if the buyer says, “Call me in six months,” this is the obstacle you should push against because it’s what they say when they’re hoping you’ll forget about them between now and then.

So how about responding this way? “I can do that, but first let me ask you one more question. Are you saying that you do want to meet with me, and that six months from now is the right time to do it? Or, is it that you don’t want to meet with me, but you’re trying not to hurt my feelings? I appreciate that, but I’m a big boy/girl. If it’s bad news, I can take it.”

In my experience, this approach positions you more as a person and less as a salesperson. It might warm the conversation up enough to get you the meeting you want. Or it might not. I’ve been told everything from “yes, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” to “no, I couldn’t care less about your feelings.” Either way, I don’t think I risked much by pushing at this obstacle.

Push Even Further

Depending on the circumstances, or maybe on just how I’m feeling that day, I might push even harder. I have said in the past: “I don’t get it. Why would you not want to talk with someone who really knows his business, and could maybe bring some value to yours?”

I’ve had people hang up on me at that point. I have also had people apologize and start talking seriously with me.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide how hard you’re willing to push. The lesson for today is simply this: the opposite of yes is not always no. Sometimes it is simply “you haven’t convinced me yet.”

David M. Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, a sales and marketing consulting firm serving numerous segments of the graphic arts and promotional products industries. He is the author of Sell More Printing (2009) and Listen to the Dinosaur (2010), which Selling Power magazine listed as one of its “10 Best Books to Read in 2010.” His articles on sales, marketing and management topics have appeared in a variety of industry publications, and he is a popular speaker who has delivered seminars and keynotes at industry events across the United States, Canada, England, Ireland and Australia.

Dave Fellman 2013Learn More At The PPAI Expo 2016

David Fellman will present “Time Management And Organization: Less Talk, More Action,” a free education session at The PPAI Expo focusing on real-world time management and organizational strategies. He’ll also explain how to improve sales performance by prioritizing and putting everything in its proper place.

Where: Breakers D, Level 2, Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas

When: Tuesday, January 12, 3:30 - 4:30 pm

CAS: 1 point

Sponsored By: Bulova

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