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Selling Against Resistance

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Feb 18, 2018 @ 19:02 PM

To understand corporate politics in sales is to understand the shifting intensities of resistance. My most recent previous article argued that it’s important to clear a path through the thick brush and brambles of your prospect’s company politics by retaining your courage to do what it takes to get to the right audience.

 

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One reason why it’s necessary to master corporate politics in a selling context is that there will always be divides in thinking, due in part to sincere differences in understanding on what’s best for the business, and due in part to plain old self interest. And whether we're talking about reaching the lone business owner or the key procurement coordinator at a large company, how we overcome resistance will determine our outcome.

Your products and services might appeal to one group of stakeholders at a company, and at the same time seem unnecessary or even detrimental to another individual or faction within the company. In the first scenario, where there is appeal for your products and services, resistance is low. When resistance is low, your words and actions are interpreted in the best light and minor mistakes are given a pass. With the second group, however, the resistance is high. Everything you say and do is viewed with suspicion. Minor mistakes are magnified in an I-told-you-so kind of way.

There is virtually no way to close a sale when resistance is high. When you encounter high resistance, your first order of business is always to lower it. Watch Dave Kurlan explain how to do that in this short video. As you improve your ability to sell to businesses through their political underbrush, it is imperative to learn how to manage resistance. Sometimes, flipping just one detractor to an ally might be the key that closes the sale. So let’s talk about resistance in the context of corporate politics. Here are my top-seven most common scenarios:

Top Seven Most Common Resistance Scenarios in Sales

  1. The Resistant Purchaser
  2. The Resistant End-User
  3. The Resistant Problem Owner
  4. The Resistant Decision Maker
  5. The Resistant Outsider
  6. The Resistant Insider
  7. The Resistant Faction

Today, we are only addressing the first one. Stay tuned for future articles covering the remaining scenarios, which you will want to print out and keep with you so that the next time one of your salespeople has one of these issues, you’re ready!

1. The Resistant Purchaser
This is the most common resistance scenario and can happen at any point along the path of your sales process. At the beginning, it is resistance to meet with you. In the middle or near the end, the resistance is against continuing the discussion or returning your phone calls.

If you’re getting resistance to meet, work on your positioning statements – not your elevator pitch. The positioning statement is about whom you help and why they need your help. The elevator pitch, as described by most people who describe such things, adds a part about how you help them. Leave that out. The “how” part shouldn’t matter this early in the sales process and often only serves to increase resistance.

If you’re getting resistance in the middle, then you have lost their interest and while you may have distracted them from their mental to-do list momentarily with your exciting positioning statement, they now think they already get it and don't need it. As sales Hall-of-Famer Dave Kurlan often reminds us, while the science of selling is following the correct process, the art of selling is managing resistance, both raising it and lowering it when appropriate.

If we get near to the end of the sales process and we suddenly find resistance, or you find the floor disappearing under you feet exposing a swimming pool with live sharks and all you have is a tiny air tank in the shape of a pen that Q gave you, now you’ve really messed it up! The prospect, somewhere along the way lost interest, or wasn’t heard, or wasn’t understood, and the presented solution doesn’t match up with what really matters to them.

Now, I welcome comments below, and I realize the above might offend some salespeople who might be reading this thinking I’m blaming you, so I will say that it could also be that the company changed priorities, or the purchaser moved to another department, or their phone system went down for weeks and they couldn't call for help because they didn’t have any phones. However, since we don’t have any control over that, let’s work with something within our control and for that matter, let’s make it even more within our control by taking full responsibility for it. Let’s go ahead and blame ourselves. So now that we own the problem, we can own the solution.

When the prospect gets resistant at the end of the sales process, if you’re still talking, it often sounds like an objection, in which case, click here to view the same video link as above where Dave sheds new light on an old term. Lower resistance by agreeing with your prospects concerns and objections. Then ask questions about what they are thinking and feeling, why they think or feel that way, and let them tell you as much as they are willing. When they have said all they want to say about it, ask them what has to happen that would make them want to hear about alternative solutions.

If it’s because they won’t return your calls, it might be due to what I just described about a mismatch between perceived solution and described problem. This is of course more challenging because if you can’t speak to someone, it’s hard to lower anyone’s resistance. Somewhere along the path of your sales process, we might have failed to find the compelling reasons for doing business. It could be because we didn’t ask enough questions, we didn't ask good questions, or we didn’t ask the hard questions. Maybe we didn’t have enough rapport to ask them, or maybe we weren’t listening, or maybe we did everything right and our prospect either changed their mind or were lying to us in the first place.

In this case, it’s important to try to get them back engaged and when you do, don’t try to sell them even harder, making the false assumption that your last pitch just wasn’t good enough. They don’t want that. Instead, take them back to the beginning. It might sound something like this, “When we first spoke, it sounded like you had a problem in procurement so that every time you were in a pickle, you were almost always out of dilithium crystals right when you needed them most. Is that still a problem?” And then follow up with something like, “Do you still want help? Should we keep talking?” Etc.

The Other Six Most Common Resistance Scenarios in Sales
Stay tuned to this blog by keeping an eye out for the email, or by subscribing in the box to the left so I can deliver the articles right to your inbox. I will address each of these common resistance scenarios in these upcoming articles. You won’t want to miss how I recommend dealing with The Resistant Faction when I give you the same advice my friend received from the chief of police in Guangzhou, China after a group of thugs stole the air conditioners from their corporate headquarters in broad daylight.

And one more thing: If you have a sales team, or sales teams, and want to become an elite sales coach, or you want someone who works for you to become an elite sales coach while learning the most state-of-the-art sales management skills, come to our Sales Leadership Intensive on May 22nd and 23rd in the Boston area. The class is kept at the optimal size to ensure both lively discussion and personal attention as we learn about your business and show you how to get the most output from your people with nothing but the power vested in you by the executive team. As I write this (2/18/18), we have six seats left. Because you read my blog, click on this link to register for the event and receive a $100 discount.

 

Photo Credit: lightwise (123RF)

 

Topics: sales and politics, top sales management articles, overcoming sales resistance

7 Sales Beliefs that Cut Through Internal Politics

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sun, Feb 04, 2018 @ 12:02 PM

Don’t you hate when you have a great prospect and you’re about to close, and your offering makes a ton of sense and you know you can really help, and then poof, the deal is scuttled by internal politics? Or am I the only one? From the salesperson’s vantage point, outside the company, isn’t it interesting how clear it is to tell who the people are that care about the company and who are just thinking about themselves? It can drive you crazy: “Don’t you see what this person is doing!?” And yet, within the company, there doesn’t seem to be enough will or even understanding to do anything about it. In the interest of delegating, so it goes, oversight gets neglected.

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The larger the company, it seems, the more likely that is to happen. But it doesn’t have to. Selling to larger companies adds a political dimension that is as important to the sales process as any of the critical stages, milestones, and steps we build into an effective sales process. As if selling isn’t hard enough, without adding a seemingly random roadblock, unconnected to the solution.

I hear frequent stories from my clients describing internal politics that slow progress and halt deals. The details of each story are different, but the themes are the same and the behavioral psychology is often familiar. Humans behave like humans. Failing to understand that and failing to plan for it, as the saying goes, is planning to fail.

The typical story goes like this: Their salesperson, Ethan, might tell us that the company's CEO, Janet makes all the decisions. "But we’re meeting with Dave, who expressed that he wants to move forward with our proposal. Dave’s head of procurement." But then there's Jim in operations, who used to have a bigger position. "Dave likes Jim. He brought him to the firm from a company where they both worked in the past. It doesn’t seem like the company has a lot of confidence in Jim because they moved him from running all of operations over to 'national projects' which was obviously a made-up role, but they let him keep his VP title. And Jim, of course, has an opinion about the deal even though our solution affects him more or less indirectly."

"I think Dave’s protecting Jim," Ethan might say, adding "Jim actually likes us but he has no clout. And Dave wants to move ahead, I think. But Dave is afraid to talk to Janet because he doesn’t want to put his neck on the line." Enter Michele, who is a procurement specialist under Dave. "She thinks we’re a good fit for the company. Actually, I don’t know if she thinks that but she likes me personally and we hit it off because we both had similar theories about what’s going to happen next on Game of Thrones."

"She said Dave and Jim are having trouble getting together on exactly what to do." Jim, of course, needs to demonstrate that he's still relevant. "It’s a rare clash between these two friends." I don’t think I mentioned that Janet is indifferent to us and to our solution, but since Dave isn’t communicating the details of our deal to her, we don’t know what she knows nor why she would care. Oh and one more thing. He's been working on this deal for eight months. "We’ve had lots of 'really great' conversations," continues Ethan, "and a 'no' is just a 'yes' delayed, right? But they haven’t exactly said, no." They’re getting closer to agreement, and to moving forward, and to getting Janet involved, but the progress report at eight months sounds a lot like the progress report at four months.

Sound familiar? Though this is a simple example for illustration purposes, there are clearly politics at work here. Do politics play a role in selling your products and services to your customers or clients? Are you coaching your salespeople through this kind of sales-process-gone-sideways, regularly?

  • What is really happening here?
  • What should be done about it?
  • How do you avoid this from happening again?
  • How much time has been wasted?
  • What is the cost of chasing this deal?

These are the common questions that come up when politics gets in the way of an otherwise compelling solution. In this case, the salesperson, Ethan, was trying to speak with Dave and Jim to understand their relationship and help them get on the same page. The theory was that if they could agree on how to move forward, together they might be able to convince Janet that this is a good idea. They just needed to get aligned and frankly, grow some… er, courage.

But was this the right choice for the salesperson, given the politics of that specific environment? We often get caught up in the value of our solution and then get frustrated that it’s not moving ahead, especially when, duh, “it’s a no-brainer.” If we don’t understand the internal politics, however, we won’t be able to sell in those environments. Instead, we’ll be limited to simpler interactions, selling to an end-user or a decision maker with few other influences. It’s safer and easier, of course. However, mastering politics in sales opens up far more opportunities for expanding your market.

Mastering politics doesn’t mean you’ll close every deal. Selling in a political environment means cutting threw the noisy communication cross-currents, undercurrents, and general kicking under the table in executive meetings, to find the path that will get you an answer. Sometimes it’s trial and error. The value in getting this right is high, regardless of the outcome of the sale itself. Here’s why:

  • If you win the deal, you increase your business.
  • If you lose the deal, you move on so you have time to win other deals and increase your business.

In other words, work to move the deal along, as early as possible, to get a decision either way. The mistake is wasting time chasing woozles around trees. So where do you think it went south in the example above? How did Ethan, after spending so much time on this deal, find himself running in circles around a clump of trees with his friend, Piglet?

 

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Ethan told his manager that he was frustrated but that he felt that if he could get Dave and Jim to the table again, and hash this out between them, he could get the deal back on track. What would you tell Ethan to do?

Remember the opening line. “Janet makes the decisions.” If the solution is right for the company, then Ethan does them a disservice if he fails to close the deal. He’s caught up in a political eddy between Dave and Jim and missing the real issue: Janet is not getting what she needs for the company to progress. Ethan needs to get to Janet. Obvious, right?

And it’s at this moment where our beliefs might get in the way. “No, you can’t just go around Dave!,” you might say. “They’ll never do business with you again.” In addition to this one, there are variety of other beliefs that could prevent us from looking at the problem clearly and doing the right thing in this situation:

7 Non-Supportive Beliefs that Get in the Way

  • I can’t talk to the CEO. Or, I can’t get to the real decision maker.
  • I can only talk to CEOs after talking to purchasing.
  • I don’t want to step on people’s toes.
  • Pushing this deal is being aggressive.
  • I don't want Dave to dislike me.
  • I need to be patient when they can’t decide.
  • People who don’t want my service will eventually buy from me.

What would happen if we re-wrote these beliefs so that they were more supportive? We don’t need to debate whether the belief is right or wrong because the answer, oddly, doesn’t make a difference. It only matters whether it is supportive or not to selling.

7 Supportive Beliefs that Cut Through the Politics

  • CEOs want to talk to me because I help them.
  • I talk to CEOs early and they trust me.
  • I tell the truth and serve my customers.
  • I’m assertive and pushing forward is my job.
  • I don’t need to be liked. My prospects respect me.
  • I bring a sense of urgency to closing that helps people make a decision.
  • I don’t waste time with prospects that don’t do business with me.

Using these new supportive beliefs, how can we clarify the appropriate next steps on this stalled opportunity? Recognizing that every situation is different, politically, in this case we see that Dave and Jim are working out their new relationship with Jim’s “demotion.” Dave expressed that there’s a compelling case for the deal, but isn’t driving it forward. He’s putting off Ethan, the salesperson, with an endless back and forth dialogue with Jim. Waiting for them to work things out might take a long time, and the emotions associated with fixing their problems with our service will dissipate.

The key to this is the CEO. We need to get to Janet and find out if there is urgency to solve the problem. Dave was the right person eight months ago but we have to recognize he has failed to play the role he should be, and has lost sight of the value, or might never have seen it in the first place. It’s been too long.

So instead of waiting another eight months, the simplest solution is to pick up the phone and call the CEO, get an answer and move on. But wait, Janet is likely to put us off or ignore us. Remember that Michele is involved and we hit it off. So call Michele and have her send the CEO an email telling her that she recommended that you call her and to expect a call from you soon. And this is just one approach. I’d love to hear your ideas. What would you do? Write an answer in the comments section below.

In the context of supportive beliefs, notice that the political solution presents itself once we clear the obstacles of our beliefs and get out of our own way. Janet wants to speak to me because I can help her. She trusts me because I tell the truth and I will serve her. Because I’m assertive, I pick up the phone and push ahead in the best way I know how. Dave, Jim, and everyone else will respect me when I help them get rid of their headaches. My sense of urgency to close is more powerful than the excuse of Dave and Jim stalling. And I’m not wasting any more time when I can get a decision either way, right now, and move on.

There is always a constructive path through the political noise. When our beliefs support selling success, it’s easier to find it. For sales managers coaching through this, use your position as an objective observer to find the real problem for the salesperson. In this case, Ethan was caught up in the stories and forgot his purpose. Questioning this deal with Ethan throughout the process, in the context of coaching, usually resulted in a retelling of that week’s tails and tragedies in an endless saga. Queue the sound of the needle scraping across the record. Stop. The stories all mean one thing: the deal isn’t getting done and now you’ve become part of the story, having been sucked into the vortex of the politics.

The more players there are, the more opportunities there are to find or construct a path toward a solution and decision. The more confusion and personal tensions within the company’s political realm, the more you become the provider of clarity and reason to the conversation, so politics don’t scuttle your next deal.

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Note: If you’re a sales manager, sales VP, director, or CEO, and you want to learn how exceptional sales coaches help their team continuously improve, you won’t want to miss our spring Sales Leadership Intensive at Kurlan & Associates Training Center near Boston, Massachusetts on May 22nd and 23rd. You’ll also learn to shape your environment, motivate your team, recruit like the best, and hold everyone accountable. Be prepared to work. It’s a packed two days. Click here for details. As a reader of my blog, this special link will give you a $100 discount.

 

Image copyrightAndriy Popov

 

 

Topics: sales and politics, internal politics, great sales management training, coaching salespeople, self-limiting sales beliefs



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