Feb 12, 2021 • Podcast

How should I approach tough conversations during the sales process?

On this episode, Paul covers how to maneuver through a tough discussion with the buyer before you’ve closed the deal.

Before you do anything else, you have to ….

Acknowledge the buyer’s concerns. “Use the words I understand.”

Focus on the facts.

Invoke empathy. You’re not doing anything they haven’t had to do.

Assure the buyer that you’re being fair.


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Check out this episode!

How should I approach tough conversations during the sales process?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Today we are on episode 114. So here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to address a question that came up just a couple of days ago. It’s an interesting question, actually. The question is, “How do you approach tough conversations with a prospect before you’ve actually secured the sale?” Think about that. We’re out there; we’re walking the customer–the prospect through our sales process, and we haven’t won the business yet, but we’ve got to have a tough conversation. That puts you in a tough spot because your big fear obviously is losing the business. You don’t want to say something that could jeopardize your chance of winning that business. So we’re going to talk about that on today’s show.

Before we get into that, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Andrea, thanks for all your help in getting this podcast up and running and also keeping it going. We are now well over a hundred episodes. We continue to grow, and a lot of the credit goes to you. Thanks for your help. So if you’re thinking about starting a podcast— You know, podcasting is a great way to build your audience, build your brand, connect with an audience that you already have. Give it a shot. Now is the time to take a chance and to get going. As you take that chance, reach out to Andrea and her team; they can help you. We’re going to have a link to her website on this episode’s webpage, so check it out.

Also, as I mentioned on the previous show, we’ve got big news coming here in just a few more months. Got a new book coming out. Putting the finishing touches on it right now. It’s going to be your go-to guide for selling through tough times. Can’t wait to share more about that with you later. But in the meantime, pick up a copy of Value-Added Selling. It’s available wherever you get your books: Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Noble. Wherever it is, hey, pick up a copy.

Let’s get back to that question: How do you approach tough conversations before you’ve secured the sale? Here’s the deal. Here’s the situation for this particular seller. And it might sound familiar to many of you. The salesperson put together a detailed proposal based on the customer’s needs, based on the requirements that they have given them. And then the customer changed something. They called an audible and they added something to their specifications or to the request. This means they need to increase the price of their solution. It makes common sense. You’ve got to increase the price of the solution because you added something to it. That’s pretty common, but here’s the challenge. From the customer’s perspective—the buyer’s perspective—they feel like this is something that should have been accounted for from the beginning. Even though the customer is wrong, we can’t tell them they’re wrong and tell them, “Hey, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” We have to tactfully address this concern. As we do this, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Tip number one: whatever you’re doing before you craft your response, before you send that email, before you pick up the phone and call, you have to view the world through the eye of the customer. You have to view the world through the eye of the customer. As you view the world through their eye, try to see how they see, understand it from their perspective. Here’s what the buyer is probably thinking. They’re thinking ‘I already put together all this information. I gave it to the salesperson to put together a proposal. I’m already spending millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And now they miss something on the proposal. And that means my price is going when you go up.’ That’s probably how they are feeling. So we have to give them a chance to vent a little bit, and we have to give them a chance to share their frustration.

So when you’re delivering the news to the customer and letting them know that the proposal is going to change because the specifications have changed, use the words I understand. “I understand, Mr. Customer, that this is frustrating.” “I understand that this is more than initially, we were expecting.” “I understand.” Those words, I understand, they’re disarming. It gives the buyer a chance to vent a little as well, because they might pile on, but it also lets them know that you’re listening to them. I understand—it demonstrates empathy. So we want to use those words and we want to let them rant. They’re probably going to be frustrated and they’re going to let you know that. Let them vent it out. People feel better after they vent. And when they do vent, again, repeat, “Hey, I understand your frustration. I would feel the same way.” So at this point, all we’re doing is acknowledging their concern.

The next thing we need to do is focus on the facts. Focus on the facts. If the buyer changed something that led to some sort of overage or increase or adjustment, that means we need to present that to the customer. We need to let them know that. And I think about this from my old days selling medical equipment. I was selling medical compressors and there was this guy named Brian. He’s over in the Northeast—Jersey guy. Man, he was a great sales guy. Learned a lot from him. And he was very direct in how he would communicate.

I remember, we put together a package bid for a new hospital being built in Indiana. And I was meeting with the architects and some of the key decision makers, and Brian actually called in from New Jersey. And one of the architects said to Brian on the call, they go, “So, I have one question for you. If we decide that we need a bigger compressor for this hospital, what’s that going to do to the price?” And Brian responded without skipping a beat, he said, “What do you think it’s going to do to the price? If you get a bigger compressor, the price is going to go up. If you get a smaller one, the price is going to go down.” It was pretty clear. It was obvious. And he was speaking to the facts.

That’s what we have to do. If the customer changes something on a proposal, if we have to reconfigure it and we have to add things in that maybe weren’t accounted for initially, that’s business. We have to present that, and we have to stick to the facts. But we only do that after we give the customer a chance to vent. So keep that in mind.

Another thing to consider, try using an analogy to help explain the overages. For example, think about a construction project. If you’re talking to the customer, say to them, “Hey, look. What we’re doing right now, we’re building a solution for your company. And what’s happened is we’ve changed something and that’s going to impact the overall project. It’s going to impact the overall solution. Similar to a construction project. Let’s say we start building a building and, all of a sudden, we want to add a room, or we want to add something over here. That’s going to affect the cost. That’s going to affect the overall project. The same is true here.” So, use an analogy to help them understand and to accept the change.

Final thing, invoke a little empathy with your customer. Research your customer’s business, figure out who their customers are and how they go to market. Just say to that customer, “Look, if you are out there putting together a proposal for one of your customers, and let’s say they changed a couple of things, and that that affected your proposal, you would have to do the same thing that we’re doing. This is just good business. We’re not trying to be unfair. We’re not trying to raise your price for whatever reason. We’re just doing what’s fair.” Let them know that what you’re doing is fair. Again, people, they appreciate fairness. Fairness is one of the biggest drivers of price objections. So if you can let the buyer know that you’re dealing with them and you’re being fair, that should help.

All right folks. That’s the show for today. Just a quick recap. Number one: Make sure you’re viewing the world through the eyes of the customer. Empathy is going to be critical here. And use those words, I understand and let that buyer vent; let them rant a little bit. They’re going to feel better afterwards. And when they rant say “I understand.”

Number two: focus on the facts. Just be clear as to what happened. Focus on the facts—that will help you, and it’s also going to appeal to the logical side of the argument. Use an analogy like the construction-site analogy I mentioned.

And then finally, invoke a little empathy from them. Let them know that, hey, if they were in the same position, they would be doing something similar.

Make it a big day.

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