How to Get Around the Top Prospecting Roadblocks
Rejection is a normal part of selling. If you sell for a living, you'll hear the word “no” many times in your career. This is particularly true in prospecting where prospects offer up all different types of resistance.
The root cause of most resistance is that the prospect wasn't expecting your call. Chances are the prospect just wants to get you off the phone and continue on with his or her business. It's important to note that this resistance often has no bearing on whether the prospect is interested in your solution. In fact, most sales professionals have many examples of great customers originally starting off as challenging prospects.
Given the frequency of prospecting resistance, sales management training may help you master these effective prospecting techniques, which are critical to your sales success.
Save the Selling for Later
The key to managing prospecting resistance is to quickly refocus the call on the goal of prospecting: setting the appointment, not selling.
Why shouldn’t you use a prospecting call as an opportunity to sell your solution?
Many sales professionals can’t help themselves and get trapped into discussing their solutions or pricing. This is a big mistake and should be avoided unless you have the decision-maker on the phone and he or she has ample time to spend with you. By giving too much information upfront, you may talk your way out of the appointment and lose the opportunity to meet with the customer. Furthermore, if you start selling during the prospecting call, chances are you won’t be adequately prepared. Even worse, the prospect won’t likely give you enough time to let you discuss his or her needs.
You can start selling after you have found out what is important to the buyer. That's the purpose of the first appointment.
Responses to Common Forms of Resistance
The challenge of managing normal prospecting resistance is quickly redirecting the conversation without coming across as being too aggressive. Fortunately, you can anticipate and practice managing prospecting resistance since most of it falls into one of the following categories:
#1 Prospect requests more information
When a prospect asks you to send them information, they, of course, are simply trying to get you off the phone. Remember, if you just send out information to the prospect, you'll lose control of the process, significantly reducing your chances of having any further conversations with the prospect.
Here are a few possible responses that redirect the conversation back to setting the appointment: “Before sending you out generic information, I’d really need to understand more about your situation to be sure I'm giving you the best solution for your needs. Do you have time tomorrow for a brief conversation?” Or, “I’d be happy to send you information. When should I call back to discuss further?”
#2 Procrastination – “Call me back next quarter”
The prospect may be genuinely busy, but in the world of sales, “next quarter” can be a lifetime. Your response should focus on how you are in fact being respectful of their time and that speaking with you now is better than speaking next quarter. Consider the following, “I don’t want to take up your time. If we could set up a 10-minute call, I’ll show you how we're helping companies such as XYZ [save time/money}. That way, if you're still not interested, you don’t have to worry about me calling you next quarter. Would you be interested in talking for 15 minutes next Tuesday or Thursday?”
#3 Too busy
This is more challenging than simple procrastination. Here, the prospect is telling you in more forceful terms that they want to get you off the phone. While it's likely that the prospect is busy, it's also likely that they don’t understand the value of your solution.
One effective technique for managing this type of stiff resistance is to let the prospect keep control of the process by asking for permission: “Can I take 20 seconds now and explain what we do, and you can decide whether it’s worth a follow-up conversation?” Assuming you are able to create interest with the prospect, then ask for the appointment.
#4 No budget
This form of resistance is meant to be an immediate show-stopper: no budget means not qualified, so there is no reason to continue the call.
The best way of overcoming this form of resistance is to immediately take the issue of money off the table: “Oh, there is no expectation that you'll buy now. I just want to share how we're working with companies such as XYZ, and how we can create value for your company, even if you buy later. Can I schedule a call for…?”
#5 We're already working with someone
This is an extremely challenging form of resistance since it requires you to quickly differentiate your offering from the competitor in a meaningful way. For example, “Several of our customers also use [competitor] for [abc]. But they use us to help them with [xyz]. When is a good time to schedule a brief call?”
#6 Not interested
Without question, this is the most challenging form of resistance. The prospecting is effectively hanging up on you. One effective technique is to immediately share a success story and hope you can generate interest. For example, “That’s what XYZ said until we showed them how much money we could save them…”
#7 Truly not interested
In some cases, the prospect doesn’t want or doesn’t need your solution. In these cases graciously accept defeat and move on to another lead.
So how hard should you push? I have a simple rule of thumb: if you've responded to the resistance and the prospect still says no, you should let it go and move on to the next opportunity. Being overly aggressive or pushy is never a great long-term sales strategy.
You might also enjoy these articles on Sales Prospecting:
- What to Do When a Prospect Isn't Ready to Buy
- How to Effectively Get Your Prospect's Attention
- How to Prevent a Prospect From Going Silent After Your Proposal
- Generating New Business with Referral Prospecting
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.