If you’re experienced in sales or sales management, you know selling doesn't always go “according to script.”
Just as in real life, sales conversations often don't happen the way you want or think they should. Your prospects' thoughts and feelings about the salesperson, your company, your product, service and price often disrupt the dialogue. As lyricist John Lennon of the Beatles sang in Beautiful Boy,
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
When the unexpected and unusual happens, you need to draw upon the discipline and techniques of a structured sales model to help you through the situation. We encourage sales professionals to use and be fearless with the Seven Steps of the Track Selling System.
Let's take a look at some challenging situations you may find yourself in.
You’re on a sales call and your prospect says, "Look, I'm busy. Just leave your brochure and price list and I'll get back to you." Now what do you do?
Respond without hesitation. After all, they were willing to meet with you today for some reason.
"Taylor, thanks for taking this meeting. I can appreciate that you’re busy. However, before I go—and to help me know what materials to leave with you or email you—I need to ask a couple of questions. Is that all right?"
If your prospect gives you approval, begin by asking good qualification questions. For example, you might ask:
People prefer talking to listening. No matter how busy your prospects are, they'll usually find time to talk about themselves or their business.
On the other hand, it’s possible that the prospect really is too busy to talk. You have to respect that but don't just fold up your tent and go home by handing over a brochure and price list. We can almost guarantee a zero likelihood of success by surrendering to the brochure and price request. Your goal is to be of service to the prospect, not to quickly exit stage right. Remember actor Chris Farley as Tommy Boy? The last thing prospects heard from Tommy was “okee-dokee” as he beat a hasty retreat. That’s not the way to help—or sell.
In order to “be of service,” you need information. If they're too busy to meet, your objective should shift to getting an appointment to come back at a time more mutually convenient, when they will have time to discuss how you can help them. Use your professional judgment, follow the process and you will be of service.
Let's suppose that you’ve qualifying a prospect. You’re gathering information that will allow you to serve your prospect's needs. You’re just about to summarize their needs when the prospect interrupts you and asks about the price of your product or service.
In the Five Buying Decisions of the science and psychology of selling—as used in the Track Selling System—it’s important that price is not discussed until after the prospect agrees with your summary of needs and after you present information about your company as well as your products and service. In this situation, your prospect is prematurely asking for pricing.
What do you do?
Most salespeople react to a price request by answering it. They tell the prospect the price without enough context and before building a value proposition. What they've done is jump from trying to understand exactly what the client needs all the way to the end of the sales process when price is handled. The result? The prospect experiences sticker shock and the path to the sale becomes more difficult.
Act, don't react.
Maintain control. By following the steps of the sales procedure in proper order, you increase the likelihood of a successful sale.
When a prospect prematurely asks you about price, you must respond to their question in some way or you’ll damage your communication with them. The Track Selling sales model suggests you say, "Jordan, I'm glad you asked. It’s an important question. However, in order for me to determine the best price I can give you, I need to ask you a couple more questions. Is that all right?"
In other words, stay on track. Continue asking questions about quality, delivery, service, and other factors that relate to price. When you have enough information and you’re prepared for a pricing discussion, proceed to the next step. Most prospects respond well to this approach. You stay composed and in control. Prospects grasp the value of what you offer before quoting price.
Your prospect wants to buy your product or service but you believe the purchase is not a wise business decision for them. It may even be damaging to them or their company. For example, buying your product or service will not solve their problem, but may put their company at risk. What do you do?
You shouldn’t sell people things they 1) don't want, 2) can't use, or 3) can't afford.
Here's an example of how one insurance salesperson handled this kind of situation. After she'd reviewed the prospect's policy, she said, "I think what you've already got is perfect for your needs. It would hurt you if I changed your policy." She then walked away from a $50,000 sale.
The prospect was stunned. He said, "I can't believe what I've just heard! I've had five other salespeople in here reviewing my policy and each of them suggested I buy something else. I'm really glad to hear you confirm what I've thought all along, that my present coverage is exactly what I need."
A couple of weeks later, the salesperson's phone rang. A friend of the prospect needed some insurance advice. The referral said, "My friend told me that if I ever wanted to work with an honest insurance salesperson, I should call you."
The salesperson met with the referral and sold a $500,000 policy.
The salesperson said to her first prospect, "I'd hurt you if I changed your policy,” and walked away from a $50,000 sale. However, she was referred to a second prospect and made a $500,000 sale instead. The reward for professional integrity? A 10x larger sale.
That's not always going to happen. You may walk away from a sale and never hear from the prospect again. You may get no referrals. That's reality. But you acted with integrity, and in the long run, that’s going to pay off. You’ll sleep well, knowing you did the right thing.
Procedures are important to follow in professional selling. But what is more important is that you embrace the philosophy of professional selling-as-service and a Track Selling process when unusual selling situations arise.
How would you handle these challenging sales situations?
Good luck and good selling. Ron.
[Note: Thanks to our friend and mentor, Roy Chitwood, for his contributions to this article.]
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