A key aspect of Honest Selling is the focus on avoiding behaviors that create sales resistance. In most cases, these actions are manipulative. However, in some cases, perfectly ethical behavior creates sales resistance, because too many salespeople do it that way.
Following are six things (in no particular order) that cause sales resistance. My advice is to avoid them at all costs.
Talking About Benefits Too Early
There's actually nothing wrong with talking to a prospect about the benefits of your services. After all, you're there to deliver results so that your client can realize some benefit of having you involved. The only real problem is that most salespeople exaggerate the benefits they can deliver, which causes prospects to distrust any mention of benefits at all. So, if you talk about benefits during prospecting calls or very early in your sales meetings (before you've built a relationship), you'll activate your prospect's learned behavior and create immediate sales resistance.
So, before talking about benefits, you should discuss the features of your services instead. Features are facts, such as guarantees, specialties, billing practices (fixed-fee, hourly, etc.), industry experience, proven results, and so forth. Discussing features never creates sales resistance.
Listing benefits in your marketing material does not create sales resistance either, because it's not a face-to-face situation. So, talk benefits only when you market, late in the sales process or when asked a direct question -- and talk features all the other times.
And NEVER exaggerate anything!
Talking About Yourself Too Much
This has less to do with creating sales resistance and more to do with creating bad relationships. You see, virtually all humans love to talk about themselves - this includes your prospects. So, give them what they love. Ask tons of questions, and you'll not only create a stronger relationship, you'll find out what you need to know to do business.
Besides, one of the primary fears all decision-makers have is that you'll talk about things they don't understand. If your prospects are doing all the talking, you won't have a chance to activate this fear.
You've just told your prospect how much the engagement will cost, and he says, "Wow. That's a lot of money."
You'll create immediate sales resistance by spending the next five minutes telling the prospect all the reasons "It isn't really that much."
Never disrespect your prospect by discounting his opinion, because to him his opinion is perfectly valid, if only for the fact that he owns it. Instead, agree and negotiate. For instance, you might reply, "You're right. It is a lot of money. Were you prepared to spend that, or not?" If the prospect says, "No," ask him what he was prepared to spend, or ask him if he wants to remove some of the objectives of the engagement, so that you can reduce the fee.
If his budget is hard and fast, he'll probably tell you his budget and work with you to change the engagement, so you can meet that budget. After all, you are the only salesperson who isn't creating sales resistance by telling him he's wrong, so he trusts you and is willing to work toward a compromise.
Bottom line, though, if he can't afford you, then you're wasting your time. So, you're better off ending the meeting on a positive note and leaving. That way, the prospect will still want to call you for another engagement later (when he has more room in his budget).
This is one of my personal pet peeves, and, among other things, it involves the following traditional sales tactics:
Aggressive body posture - sitting forward, upright and on the edge of your chair - creates sales resistance. (Do you know why most salespeople sit forward on their chairs? Because they won't have as far to fall to their knees when begging for business!*) If you're focusing on the relationship, you should be confident and professional, but relaxed and sitting in your chair normally.
Being too damned perky is the kiss of death. There isn't a human on the planet that really believes you're that upbeat, so simply speak in your natural tone. And, I'm afraid that if your natural tone is perky as hell, you'll be better off toning that down a bit too (sorry).
Building rapport. I'm not talking about building relationships, but rather the "Oh, you fish ... I fish too" stuff that so many people try to do and every prospect sees right through.
Begging For Business
I have a client who for years has used, "Listen, Joe. I really want this business, and I'll do whatever it takes to make this work." If you're dealing with non-decision-makers, they'll eat this up and abuse you with it forever. And, if you're talking to the decision-makers (the people who can actually authorize a project), you'll lose their respect immediately.
Never grovel for business, because you might get what you wish for and then have to work with these people who view you as a total subordinate who can be pushed around.
Because it's another form of "begging for business," I also recommend that you never reduce your fees to get the first gig. (Unless, of course, the objectives are reduced as well.)
Most decision-makers can spot a lying salesperson a mile away (although the lying salesperson believes otherwise). If your prospect wants five industry references, and you don't have them, say so and ask her if that will keep you from getting the engagement.
I did this exact thing early last year, and the woman said, "I'm sorry, but my boss wants five medical industry references."
So I said, "I guess we just found the reason we can't do business then, didn't we?"
Naturally she said, "Yes," and we ended the phone call. But, two weeks later I secured the largest engagement we had all year, on a referral from this very woman.
Honesty pays, and lying will bite you in the end. Period.
If you want to eliminate sales resistance, treat your prospects the way you'd like to be treated - as peers. You'll not only get more engagements, you'll enjoy doing the work more, too.
* Special thanks to Jacques Werth for this humorous anecdote.
Copyright 2000 Orbtech, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Gill E. Wagner is president of Honest Selling and author of a book by the same name. He trains executives, service professionals, and project managers to build business relationships based on mutual trust and respect. Gill has more than 22 years of business, marketing and consulting experience, and has been the CEO or partner of four different companies. For information, contact Gil at 314) 416-1440. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: http://www.honestselling.com