As a sales representative, you’ll confront resistance at some point in the sales process, usually at the prospecting phase. Recognizing resistance and knowing how to defuse it are essential competencies to master.
Though you may encounter different types of resistance, the solution can often be summarized with one word: Disarm.
Perfect this skill, and you’ll find there’s no resistance you can’t overcome.
Definition of resistance
The first step is recognizing whether you’re dealing with prospect resistance or sales objections. The difference is subtle, though important. Most of the time, an objection will surface due to the salesperson’s failure of addressing resistance earlier on in the process.
Objections may manifest like this:
- I need time to think about it.
- Your product is too expensive.
- We already have a supplier.
Eliminate these objections by addressing resistance you’ve pre-emptively identified. Your listening skills and ability for consultative selling are essential if you’re to pick up on your prospect’s verbal or visual cues that hint at resistance.
How to overcome resistance
Don’t let resistance turn into emotion. Many elements of your sales DNA will be called into action at this moment: your ability to control your emotions, your need for approval, as well as your capacity to be a relationship builder.
On that note, there are 8 steps to overcome resistance:
- Be aware of the resistance
- Stop what you are doing
- Agree and take the necessary steps to lower the resistance
- Offer comforting messages that your prospect can agree with
- Confirm that resistance has been lowered
- Ask and receive permission to continue
- Remain aware of any change in resistance
- Rinse and repeat if necessary
I’d like to dive a little deeper on step 3 because it’s counterintuitive. To lower resistance, you need to agree with your prospect’s objection, even when the prospect is wrong. There are 2 things every rep should do to lower their prospect’s resistance:
- Ask open-ended questions
1. Lower resistance by disarming, not disagreeing
The best way to lower resistance is to disarm the person who’s resisting. Disagreeing will cause even more resistance.
A tactic to avoid when trying to lower resistance is trying to sell your way out of it. Instead of convincing the prospect that they’re wrong, try agreeing with them to disarm them.
To someone saying, “I don’t think you’re right for me,” agree with “You may be right, let’s talk about it.” Put yourself in the position of the buyer and ask yourself to which reaction they’ll most respond to.
2. Ask open-ended questions
The prospect may have legitimate cause to resist, though they may not have all the elements to properly analyze the situation. By asking the proper, open-ended questions, you want your prospect to find the answers by themselves, which makes them more willing to respond to your solutions.
“I’m not sure I can help you, can you tell me if some aspects of your current situation leave you unsatisfied?”
The prospect will see you as a person who wants to find out more about them and act in their best interest, as opposed to someone who wants to sell to them, no matter what.
Different types of resistance
Every prospect reacts a certain way when faced with the situation of turning down a salesperson. Your ability to lower resistance depends on your ability to identify and handle the different types of prospects. In a recent Hubspot blog article, Leslie Ye describes the main types which I summarized below.
1. The Know-It-All
A very common type, these people never require a salesperson’s help.
By asking open-ended questions, bring this person to admit to a few “I don’t know” which you can then bring a solution to. You need to figure out early on if this prospect will respond or whether they’re too stubborn, and if they are, let them go.
2. The DIYer
These people believe they can do everything themselves. They’ll gather the information from you, and then proceed on without you.
Sell value rather than price. You may be able, by asking just a few questions, to make them understand that they do need your expertise.
3. The Fan
A fan is a person who adores what you do. It’s not resistance as so much as a person taking up your time and energy. They don’t necessarily need your service, but they’ve been following your social media accounts, appreciate your branding and are too nice to tell you they don’t want to purchase from you.
Guide them towards your website or resources, which they can peruse on their own. Limit the conversation and qualify whether they’re going to do business with you, or only star gaze.
4. The Ghoster
These people will start the sales process, might even get to 3rd base, then ghost you. Either they’ve changed their mind, are busy, or unsure.
Open a door to give them an out. They may be afraid to confront you, so put them at ease to reveal their reason for ghosting.
5. The Busy Bee
This person isn’t necessarily avoiding you; they’re legitimately swamped.
Send an email and let them know you understand that they’re busy. There’s no magic solution, be persistent, give different meeting options. In other words, put the ball in their court. They may come back to you months later when they’re ready to allot you some time.
6. The Traditionalist
The traditionalist is afraid of change. They haven’t yet reached their limit with standard solutions and might view your product as too “trendy.”
If they were 100% unwilling to consider a different approach or solution, they wouldn’t have taken your call. Ask open questions to determine their pain point and focus on your solution, rather than your product.
7. The Waffler
These prospects can’t decide. They might have fooled you into thinking they’re the decision maker.
When prospecting, make sure you ask the money question. Find out quickly if this person needs others’ approval and instill in them the urgency to act now! There are also questions you can ask to help you stay in control of the sales conversation. Questions like “can you tell me more?” or “Do you always take the time to think about decisions like this?”
8. The Hardballer
In short, this person aggressively negotiates every aspect of the sales process.
You must decide if you want their business. If you do, let them feel they’re winning. Unless you’re willing to walk away, you’ll have to negotiate and accept some of their terms.
9. The Control Freak
The control freak needs a say in every aspect of the sales process, even to the point of skipping steps.
Lower resistance by determining their pain points. If ceding on some superfluous points will make them happy, do it. However, if they persist on skipping important steps, let them go.
When to create resistance
At the different end of the spectrum, if you ever find yourself dealing with a person who has zero interest and is entirely apathetic, you’ll need to create resistance!
Once again, you will achieve this by asking open questions which will create emotion, a spark of interest. Make them realize they do require your service. When resistance occurs, disarm, ask open questions, build credibility, and go at their pace.
On the other hand, you also have to know when to walk away…