The Art of Lowering Resistance
Remember the good old days when slick-talking salespeople were taught to get the buyer nodding their head and agreeing with what they were saying because it would somehow get the prospect to agree to purchase? How about when salespeople were taught to sell solutions? What about when they were taught to challenge their prospect?
No Easy Method
Enough reminiscing. My point is these methods have all faded because whatever the sales technique flavor of the month is to help salespeople sell more, it is just a gimmick. The reason there are different sales processes and systems is simply because there is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a big believer in following a process and sticking to it. We teach a very repeatable, logical, and easy-to-follow selling system to our clients because most sales teams don’t have one, or don’t follow one, and then don’t benefit from the results a process produces. Hard data says 55% of all salespeople do not follow a sales process.*
More Than a Process
But a sales process alone isn’t the answer. Connecting with prospects about what matters to them is where the sales magic happens. Truly understanding the prospect’s needs and wants, and the emotions around those desires is the key to sales effectiveness. And the only way you can confidently know the prospect is sharing the truth about all this is to lower their resistance.
Getting them to nod their head in agreement with some random statement is not lowering their resistance. Telling prospects how your solutions might solve their problems is not lowering their resistance. Nor is challenging the prospect going to lower their resistance.
If you aren’t convinced, think about that salesperson on your team who works hard, makes tons of prospecting calls, puts gobs of deals into the pipeline and then those deals get stuck and just fade away. Why do you think that is? It’s because the salesperson has not gotten the truth out of the decision-maker or makers. They resist providing it.
Once a salesperson succeeds in lowering the prospect’s resistance, that prospect will feel comfortable being honest. When a prospect isn’t at ease to share their inner thoughts, they put up roadblocks and stalls. They say things like, “Let me think about it,” or “Check back with me in a couple of weeks.” And the seller who is in selling mode, and not the connection mode, obliges.
Conversely, the magic of lowering a prospect’s resistance creates a whole different scenario. The prospect doesn’t feel sold to, they feel understood and respected. And in return, they respect the seller that made them feel that way.
My Lesson Learned
In my first real sales position right out of college (company name withheld to protect the innocent), after a few months of initial training and fieldwork I was called back to HQ for a weeklong training session. In it, I was taught to get every objection out on the table before addressing anything. They made me practice the process on video repeatedly and when I went back to my territory I was refreshed, energized, and emboldened, confident in my new skills.
I met with one of my larger accounts having my new bag of tricks and sense of purpose. It did not go well.
I distinctly remember them saying something to the effect of “Oh I see you have been to barracuda school.” I was proud of it at the time but after 35 years of experience, I see it more clearly. I was just following a process, a script, just using a gimmick really. And even then, when the internet didn’t exist and buyers still had to meet with salespeople in order to buy something, the hardcore “barracuda” aka Challenger strategy fell flat.
I believe that these faulty practices have caused salespeople a lot of stress and anxiety over the years. They’ve also caused the situation we have now where buyers don’t want to engage with salespeople. They use voicemail to shield themselves, block the endless emails salespeople resort to, and then retreat to the internet to inform themselves about buying decisions. I firmly believe that the few salespeople who actually allow themselves to be honest and real and connect genuinely with prospects, and therefore are respected and trusted by prospects, have the most success and enjoyment from sales.
Okay, so how can you get your salespeople to lower the resistance of the other party? It is simple but may not be easy.
- Get rid of the gimmicks. Salespeople have to swear off all the crappy sales tips and tricks they have learned over the years such as the “puppy dog close”, the “takeaway close” and especially the silly, ineffective process of getting prospects to agree. And for the record, prospects likely aren’t agreeing when the seller says something like “Wouldn’t you agree that…?” The prospect just says “yes” to shut the seller up.
- Be honest. Easier said than done. When opening a sales meeting, the seller must honestly indicate that what your company does may not help the prospect and that the desire is to find out about them, and their needs, which will determine IF they can help the prospect. Anything less than an honest conviction about this, and the prospect will sniff it out. The seller will be just that, someone trying to sell something as opposed to a trusted resource that is there to help.
- Fully understand and adapt to the preferred communication style of the buyer. Remember what I said about no one-size-fits-all processes? Well, it’s true for communication styles too. Some buyers are hard-charging, no-nonsense “show me the results” kind of people. Great. Deal with them that way. Others need lots of “proof” to be able to make a decision. Fine. Give it to them. People are people, not robots, so sellers need to operate like people too and adapt with each prospect.
- Be genuine and inquisitive. This is an art in and of itself. Some people just have a hard time being genuine. They sound forced, scripted, unconfident, and therefore disingenuous. These sellers require more training and coaching. They require practice to have real conversations. They need to get out of their own head and into the head and heart of the prospect. It is the sales leaders’ job to help individual sellers become adept at being genuine through practice and role play.
- Before trust is earned, never, never, never defend. If a prospect says, “we are doing pretty well,” or some other version of why they don’t need your services early in a conversation, a seller must not argue or defend. Instead, acknowledge it. Agree and get on the same side of the situation with the prospect. An example response could be, “Glad to hear it. You may not need what we have.” Sellers will gain more trust by being collaborative with the prospect as opposed to being argumentative.
- This may be hard for sellers who are accustomed to pushing a product or those that have a tendency to spew features and benefits, telling the prospect what they should do as opposed to inquiring about the prospect’s thoughts, beliefs, and concerns. So, leaders must work with salespeople to help them resist the temptation to tell, show and argue. And don’t get me wrong, a salesperson should absolutely exhibit confidence in their solutions, and must come with the attitude that we would love to help the prospect if it makes sense, but only if it makes sense. And if it doesn’t, no biggie.
Reap the Benefits
If you can help your sales team members learn the fine art of lowering resistance using the five steps listed, you will notice more confidence in prospecting, shorter sales cycles, and less junk in the pipeline. All of these items lead to increased efficiency and more sales. If you are intrigued by the concept of helping salespeople have real conversations in a genuine and honest manner and would like to explore how to get your sales team to connect in a more human way, let me know.
*Source: Objective Management Group