One of the most important skills that a salesperson needs to possess is the ability to engage in what I refer to as “appropriate and respectful confrontation” with a prospect…at least when the need arises. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just refer to that as the ability to push back.
If you go on enough sales calls or have enough sales conversations with prospects, there is going to come a time when the prospect will say something that you disagree with. Maybe the prospect is just factually incorrect. Perhaps the prospect has reached a conclusion that is simply not well founded. What if the prospect is making forward looking statements about you or your company that don’t sit well with you?
The elite level salespeople that I coach have two skills that are very helpful in dealing with the scenarios listed above:
- They have the confidence and the courage to push back (they are willing to challenge)
- They know the right way to push back (appropriately and respectfully)
I believe that most sales calls come down to just a few moments that really matter in terms of their ability to impact the call. And no doubt that one of the big moments is when the prospect says something that you just don’t agree with. When that happens, you have two options:
- You can play it safe and let it go
- You can push back
And do you know what the sad news is with all of this? Most salespeople are afraid to push back because they think it will upset the prospect. But the reality is this: not only will the prospect not mind, it is actually the conversation they want to have….as long as the push back is not aggressive and as long as the push back in non-emotional.
So here are the two words to remember: warning and permission. Salespeople who excel at pushing back always give the prospect fair warning that they intend to push back…and they ask for the prospect’s permission to do so. It might sound like this:
“Bob, you said something just a few seconds ago that I have a different view on…would you be ok if I challenged your thinking just a bit and shared with you why I see that issue differently?”
I learned long ago that the word fear is an acronym that stands for “false expectations appearing real.” Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen if you push back? Of course, maybe you don’t want to push back. If that is you, would you be ok if I respectfully challenged your belief? Would that be ok?