Inevitably, a certain percentage of our customers will use their inherent upper hand to score an advantage. Free advice, leverage for a better deal elsewhere, and demands for impossible terms or concessions — buyers have tried it all. They can put us off, never make a decision, dance around issues, avoid confrontation, withhold critical buying information, or pursue a hidden agenda.
Over time, most salespeople develop a healthy dose of sales cynicism. They can tell the difference between a customer who’s being straight and one who’s not. They say to their colleagues, their bosses, their spouses, “Let me tell you about the line this guy was handing me today.” But what most don’t do is confront it. Ultimate sales pros do.
Most customers — especially in complex sales — buy because they value what you value, the relationship. So ultimate sales pros zero in on their relationship with the customer. No relationship, no sale. And if someone isn’t being honest, what does that say about the relationship? You can’t build a good relationship without honesty. So if you’re getting the runaround from a prospect, stop the conversation and call him on it. You have nothing to lose. If he’s not telling you the truth, you’re not likely to get his business anyway.
Don’t be rude, of course. But be direct. Put on a big smile and say something like, “Anna, you’re being very polite and I appreciate you trying not to hurt my feelings. But I feel we’re not making much progress here. So I wonder what is it that I’m missing on my end?” Sometimes a question like that is all it takes for a buyer to get real. But not always. “Oh, no,” the buyer might say. “I really am interested, but it’s just that my boss is really busy,” or budgets are tight, or so on.
To which you might reply, “I’m sure all those things are true, Anna. But in my experience, buyers who really want to move forward find ways to deal with those issues. So level with me: What else is holding you back?”
Does this approach always work? Of course not. Some buyers will never tip their hand. Maybe they see you as a threat to their job. Maybe they’re giving their business to a friend. Maybe you didn’t say “hi” to them in the elevator one day. But sometimes — more often than you think — buyers will actually answer your question. I’ve seen it happen countless times.
They’re not used to dealing with salespeople who have the confidence and the motivation to get to the truth. They’re taken aback at first. And then it dawns on them that maybe you’re the kind of salesperson they want to deal with. You’ve given them permission to be a straight shooter: “Well, since you mentioned it, there is one thing …”
Using this approach, you’re likely to earn their respect, gain their trust. So be honest. Be genuine. These are attributes that you value, what your customers value, even when they don’t show it. Now you’re on your way to building a relationship that can result in a sale.