Occasionally, as salespoeple, we encounter a particular prospective client or customer that we sense might not be a match for a sale.

If I find myself in one of these instances, I'll often start the conversation with reasons why we probably won’t work together. In other words, why they won't want to work with me.

Rather than waste time, I want to get all that stuff out of the way. And it's amazing what it does to the conversation. I get plenty of phone calls that go something like this:

"I've sent my people to some half-day workshops, and I'm looking for some new training opportunities for them. What do you have?"

While we do have some workshops and classes that are just one day or less, that's not the bulk of what we do.

So I reply with, "You're probably not going to like the answer."
Shocked, they ask, "Why not?"

"Because most of our clients start off with a multiple-year agreement."

Then there's silence. Finally, they respond, "What?"

I continue, "You shared you sent your people to a half-day workshop. How did that work out for you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You invested money and time on a one-time workshop. What did you get out of it?"

They pause.

"Well, we didn't necessarily get anything."

"Then why would you want to do the same thing again?"

The next thing you know, we're having a full-blown conversation.

If you want an actual conversation, you have to make it about them and their reasons. It's not about you or your reasons. And that takes some of what I refer to as disarming honesty.

You can say things like:

"You're not going to like it, because it's going to take too long."

"We're not the least expensive option out there."

"I don't know if we can deliver in the time-frame you're looking for."

When I share this mindset with some salespeople, managers and business owners we work with, they often say, “Wait a second Bob — are you telling us we should bring up the negatives ... up front?”
I might say. “Only if you want to shorten your sales cycle and waste less time with suspects (people who were never going to buy), and more time on prospects (people and businesses who are qualified to do business with you).”

You see, there is a problem with the average salesperson’s mentality on qualifying prospects. They so desperately want to cram another sales opportunity into their pipeline that they are unwilling to be honest with themselves (and the prospect), about whether not it is a real opportunity, and thus, they can deceive themselves into thinking they have more real potential business in their pipeline than they actually have.

Instead, they’ll add an “interested suspect” to their forecast and take a drug called hopium, hoping that the prospect will be so memorized by their product, service or presentation that the prospect will forget the reasons why it doesn’t make any sense to do business (stalls, objections and resistance).
One might ask, why wouldn’t a salesperson want to know the truth about the legitimacy of a sales opportunity. Simple – taking hopium beats prospecting for new business and overcoming call reluctance and fear of failure.

One other reason to get barriers to doing business out on the table first is that it separates your salespeople from the competition. Most salespeople wait until the end of a sales presentation to talk about objections, pricing and the likelihood of doing business. That creates pressure in the sale call and that pressure builds throughout the sale call, often times, making the prospect uncomfortable as they wait for the pricing bomb to be dropped.

A salesperson that openly raises objections (because their experience/instincts tell them are going to likely surface in the sales call) looks and sounds different to the prospect than all of the other salespeople. Salespeople that look, sound and act different than other salespeople get treated differently than all of the other salespeople.

People are used to salespeople telling them whatever they want to hear. They've build up defenses against it. But if you're really trying to make it all about them, you'll talk about the possibilities of bad stuff early in your conversations, watch your sales cycles shorten and your sales go up.

Bob Bolak is president of Sandler Training in Boulder. For a free copy of “Why Salespeople Fail And What To Do About It,” call 303-376-6165 or email bbolak@sandler.com.