It's common knowledge that prospects are a lot
better-informed nowadays than they were ten, or even 5 years ago about
solutions to the problems they encounter, and for the objectives they're
looking to achieve. The easy
availability of information on you, your company, and your competitors has
shifted the balance of power away from us sales people, and towards prospects. No longer can we count on prospects to accept
every claim we make at face value; we need to be able to convincingly support
them. This is particularly pertinent if
you or your company are an unknown quantity (you're a start-up, you're entering
a new market, such as a new vertical, or new geography), or if your company is a
known quantity, but has had some bad press lately. The onus falls on us to back up our claims;
if we don't, it's just too easy for prospects to move on to a competitor with
whom they feel more comfortable.
So what's the best way to do this? Before answering this question, it's helpful
to understand why - in addition to the reasons above - prospects are skeptical
of what we claim. Here are a few:
some, it's their nature
others, it's experience. They've
been duped before, so they've developed an instinctive mistrust of anyone
they feel is trying to sell them something.
to #2, you haven't yet developed a high enough trust level; they simply
don't know you well enough (the start-up and new markets scenarios above)
you're claiming is so hard to believe, most people would doubt it
heard bad things about you or your company, whether they're true or not
(the bad press scenario above would fall into this category)
Your challenge is to provide evidence that supports your
claim and that is acceptable to the
prospect. The good news is that
irrespective of which of these reasons applies in any given situation, you can
use the same 5-step formula for dealing with and getting beyond it:
the validity of and show respect for the prospect's skepticism
question why he's challenging
what you're claiming
what kind of supporting evidence would be acceptable to him and would satisfy
for acceptance that the evidence has fully addressed his concern, and that
it is no longer an issue.
Let's examine each of these steps and why they're necessary:
validity of and show respect for the prospect's skepticism Most prospects,
when they put up any kind of resistance, expect most sales reps to get
defensive - because most do. This sets up
a confrontational dynamic - one not conducive to conducting business. Don't be
most sales reps; instead, use the understanding you now have about why
prospects are skeptical to respectfully engage him in the process of addressing
and eliminating his skepticism.
Gently question why
he's challenging what you're claiming Information is power. Conversely, the lack of information will make
it virtually impossible to get beyond this obstacle.
Ask what kind of
supporting evidence would be acceptable to him and would satisfy him Different kinds of evidence will be required
for different people. One person may
need to see the results of rigorous testing by an independent lab. Another may need to know that you've been
endorsed by a respected thought leader.
Still others may be impressed to see your company mentioned favorably in
the press, or see your CEO quoted in a trade magazine, or interviewed on a
Provide the evidence You should have in your sales kit a variety
of proofs covering all the possible requirements prospects may have. Select the one(s) - and only the one(s) -
that your prospect has told you are meaningful and convincing for him.
Check for acceptance
that the evidence has fully addressed his concern, and that it is no longer an
issue Simply ask.
Here's an example:
Prospect: "I find it hard to believe you can improve on the level
of service we're getting now - and to the degree you claim."
You: "I can certainly appreciate why you'd find this difficult
to believe. Most of my customers did as
well. So that I can try to address your concern, can you share with me why you find it difficult to believe?
Listen to the response, confirm with the prospect your
understanding of it, and then ask, "Tell me, how can I help you feel
comfortable that my claim is valid?
When dealing with skeptical prospects (or any qualified prospect
with whom you're engaged in a sales cycle), keep in mind that in most cases
they want you to prove them wrong. Why
else would they still be talking with you?
If they truly were not interested in buying what you sell and buying it
from you, they'd have already brushed you off by now.
For each claim you might make about you product/service or
company, assemble proofs to cover all the possible requirements prospects may
have for you to support them. Then role
play with a colleague, or with your manager, or at your next team meeting. One of you makes a claim, and another of you,
playing the role of prospect, expresses skepticism with the claim. Each of the "non-prospects" responds to the "prospect"
using the 5-step formula, choosing the appropriate proof to support his or her
claim. Repeat this enough time so that
it becomes second nature. Then, the next
time you encounter a prospect that isn't quite buying what you're saying, you'll
be suitably armed to handle him, and get your deal moving ahead again towards