Long post: Reading Time, 4 minutes
(But it'll be a very valuable 4 minutes)
I believe that sales conversations should be legitimate, genuine conversations – not sales pitches, and not mutually antagonistic psychological warfare, either. If you’re selling something, you have to be sincere. authentic and helpful.
Still, there are times when your prey – er, prospect – will use mental tricks of their own on you, to probe your commitment, delay a decision, or beat down the price. And most people have no idea how to turn these stall tactics to their advantage.
I’ve found a cool book that offers lots of ideas and ammunition for situations like this. Close the Deal: Smart Moves for Selling, by Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman, provides 120 checklists of successful sales tips and tactics – and one of the best deals with what the authors call “Reverses.” These are things you can say and do to counter prospects' stalls and keep them talking – the ideas being that the more you discover about a client’s needs and concerns, the better you can help them, and the closer you'll be to a sale.
Here are a few highlights from the chapter, “Nineteen Reverses That Clarify the Buyer's Position.”
“Reversing is the strategy of shifting back onto buyers the pressure they place on you with challenging questions and statements,” say the authors. "The buyer uses these questions and statements to mask deep levels of emotion and pain. Reversing often involves asking a question in response to a buyer's question. One reason to reverse is to keep buyers talking. Another is to get them to redefine their original question or statement to something that is closer to their real intent, which they almost never reveal without help.”
To avoid annoying prospects with your reverses, the authors suggest preceding most reverses with “softening statements” such as, "I appreciate that. . .," "Help me to understand...," "I'm not sure, but...," "Good point,” “I’m glad you asked,” "A lot of people ask that,” and “First, let me ask you this. . . ."
Here are 10 useful examples from Close the Deal of “reverses” in action.
1. Pinned down.
Buyer: "What's this going to cost me?”
You: "Good question. Why do you ask?”
2. Off the record.
Buyer: "What's the price?"
You: "Off the record, Pat, what price were you looking for?"
(None of this discussion is off the record, but the pressure it relieves will many times open up buyers.
4. Controlling the interview.
Buyer: "What about [topic you don't want to discuss yet]?"
You: "That's an important question. Could we back up for just a moment, first?"
5. Pressure-packed moment.
Buyer: "Why is it that you won't give me a price?" (Buyer is bearing down on you.)
You: "Pat, is there some reason why you're putting all this pressure on me?"
8. The "magic wand" reverse.
This reverse helps buyers paint the picture of their needs and wants. You ask, "If you had a magic wand that could produce the ideal solution to your problem, what would it be?"
When buyers say something that is in your best interest, say, "What?" This allows them to hear it a second time and is a powerful way to make them more positive about your product.
14. Buyer expresses mistrust or anger.
Your best reverse is, "There must be a reason you feel that way." Take great care not to get angry back.
15. A question you can't answer.
When you don't know the answer to a buyer's question, say, "I'm not sure. What do you think?" Never answer a question dishonestly.
16. You need more information before you respond.
Buyer: "How reliable is your delivery?"
You: "Please help me with something. What does reliable mean?"
… and a sneaky one…
17. Your price is under fire.
Buyer: "Here's what I'm paying my present supplier. Can you beat it?"
You: "No. That's a good price. [pause] Let me ask you a question. Can you guess why we do so much volume in this market, and yet we never have the lowest price?"
You: "That's it! [Say this no matter what the buyer picked.] Now why do you think our customers are willing to pay extra for service?"
Selling is not psychological warfare. But that doesn’t mean you should walk into any deal unarmed.
Excerpted from Close the Deal: Smart Moves for Selling, by Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman, Perseus Books, Cambridge, Mass. 1999.