In my last post we discussed how, as a sale nears the decision, the customer’s thoughts turn away from what your solution will do, to what they must give to get it. And, if your solution is perceived in any way as risky, the customer may have unspoken concerns that delay, or even derail, the process.
So what can you do about it?
Most of the time the best way to tackle an issue is by following your instincts. This is one of the exceptions. When someone airs a concern our default response is something like “don’t worry, it will be alright” which, from the receiving end, sounds dismissive and trivialises their concern. ‘Don’t worry’ is the least persuasive phrase in the English language, when did anyone stop worrying because you told them to? ‘Don’t worry’ doesn’t help and can drive any further, unaired concerns, deeper. In sales there’s another trap; pressuring. When a sale stalls it’s tempting to try to push the customer into the decision, we say things like “we can only keep the special offer open til the end of the week” or “this is the last one in stock and I don’t know when we’ll get any more”. Again, it doesn’t work, if the reason for the delay is a concern, putting on pressure will drive the customer away from the decision not towards it.
Then what does work?
Firstly, you can predict if concerns are likely. Is your solution new and untested? Will it be critically important to the buying organisation? Are you a new supplier? In any of these, and lots of other situations, you will be perceived as a risky decision and concerns are likely. So pre-handle them. Demonstrate, from the start of the sales process, that you are trustworthy. Deliver on all your promises, be open and honest, and exceed expectations every time. By demonstrating your integrity, you can mitigate and even eliminate concerns before they arise.
Next you need to spot them, a delayed decision may not be a sign of concerns, it may simply be a process glitch. And saying something like “you must be worried about making such a big decision” doesn’t help. If they weren’t worried before, they will be now. The key is inconsistencies. If the customer’s behaviour changes, or previously resolved issues resurface, it’s a good sign there are concerns. Point out the inconsistency and ask why it’s happened. If there isn’t an obvious reason, it’s concerns.
Once you are certain there are concerns, get them out in the open. Acknowledging that concerns are legitimate enables you to explore them openly.
Finally help the customer to resolve the concern. The key word is ‘help’. You can’t resolve someone else’s concerns; they can only do it for themselves. Ask them what they need to feel comfortable making the decision and help them get it. You may need to tweak what they ask for to make it acceptable to you, but that’s just fine-tuning the deal.
And getting the order.