Sales Management Digest

Understanding Antagonistic Prospects
Paul E. Hendricks
Fear of change is the reason some prospects may not buy your product or service. For the professional salesperson, the prospect's fear can influence the sale in either a negative or a positive way.

Understand that even though your prospects are wary of the influence you may exert over them, they want to feel needed and important. If you can accomplish that, they will be more trusting and open to doing business with you. Fear of the unknown might be voiced in an objection; fear of influence may take the form of stony silence or a noncommittal attitude.

Some people feel that the best defense against being influenced by a salesperson is a good offense. That is why you may encounter some who act very antagonistic toward you or your product, making remarks like, "Are these things really as good as you say they are?" or, "Be honest with me, now." Are these people implying that you weren't being honest before? No. But ask yourself, "What are they trying to say to me?"

Their remarks could be seen as a plea for empathy. Your prospect is asking you to put yourself in his shoes for just a moment and feel the fear that grips him when he considers making a decision. No one wants to make a wrong decision. Wrong decisions mean failure. To give reassurance, use empathy. Make statements or ask questions that show concern for the needs of the prospect. Ask questions such as "Why do you feel that way?" Statements such as "I understand how you feel" are statements that tend to establish a common ground and improve communication between you and your prospects. These may seem to be relatively simple things, but are the essential elements of the sales professional's approach to even the toughest prospects and to the most challenging sales.

Include in your opening remarks to your prospect some small personal item about yourself. This usually initiates a similar response from the prospect. It brings the human factor into the picture. Your prospects and you have many basic things in common, even if your backgrounds are very dissimilar. Everyone's favorite subject is himself. Hopes, dreams, ambitions, viewpoints may vary, but all human beings have them. Cultivate these things in your prospect. Then listen very carefully to what he or she has to say.

Expressions of shared feelings, questions of concern, words of reassurance all are part of the sales process. Apply them liberally and practice them daily and you can turn your prospect's fear into trust in you.
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