One of the most popular topics in our Influence and Sales Workshops is the subject of resistance and conflict. When you need to influence someone, whether it is a colleague or a customer, learning how to handle resistance is a key skill. This month’s newsletter will address the most common reasons why people resist, and some practical tips on how to overcome resistance in a constructive way.
The 5 Most Common Reasons for Resistance
There are many reasons why people resist. STAR has surveyed thousands of participants and managers, and the 5 most common reasons for resistance are as follows:
- Resistance to Change- "I like the current system (or process, product, service, etc.).”
- Time Pressure or other Priorities- "I’m too busy”.
- No WIIFM or No Perceived Benefit- "What do I gain from this?”
- Argumentative by Nature - "No.”
- Conflicting Goals- "Our goals/objectives are different than yours.”
Three Ways to Respond Constructively to Resistance
Because there are so many reasons that people may resist, you should not be surprised if you encounter resistance when you attempt to influence customers and colleagues. Here are three general guidelines on how to respond to resistance in a positive way.
- There is no single best way to resolve conflict or resistance. The most important initial step that you can take is to assess or diagnose the underlying reason for the resistance. In other words, once you have identified the root cause for the resistance, you can then develop an appropriate response. Use the above list as an example: Your response to "too busy” would be different than your response to "no perceived benefit”.
- Cite areas of commonality. It is easy during a disagreement or argument to focus on the differences between your two positions or opinions. However, research on successful influencers and successful negotiators has shown that an effective response is to highlight areas of agreement to the other person. This helps to defuse the tension and the sense that the two of you are so far apart.
- Sometimes the resistance is minor and easily resolved. In other cases, the resistance is more substantial and requires more effort on your part. For example, what should you do if the other person becomes nasty and confrontational? Those situations require both more effort and control by you. In these extreme cases, you need to avoid the natural temptation to sink to the other person’s level and to "play the same game”. Don’t respond in kind! Take a break, let the other person vent, table the agenda item, show empathy…but don’t become adversarial in response.
STAR has three workshops that address the skills and concepts in this newsletter. Please visit our Sales Workshops Page online to learn more about these workshops that teach the skills involved in handling resistance and conflict: How to Achieve Results Through Influencing Workshop, Sales Negotiation Skills Workshop, and Essential Selling Skills each teach how to effectively handle resistance.
The Best Sales Professionals Respond Skillfully to Objections
What are the most common sales objections? How can you improve your ability to respond to these objections? All salespeople encounter objections, but the best salespeople are more creative and confident in their ability to respond to objections. What is the most difficult objection that you encounter from customers?
Common Objection: "Your Price Is Too High”
Average sales professionals tend to respond poorly to the "price-is-too-high” objection. The best salespeople, by contrast, have learned some effective ways to respond. Think about how you or your sales team are currently responding to price objections.
Depending on the industry that you are in, and the type of selling that you do (product or service sales), here are four effective ways to respond to "Your price is too high."
- Highlight the value that your company, product or service can provide. Have the courage to express in a clear and compelling way why your higher price is justified. For example; lower shipping costs, inventory management, productivity gains, reduction in waste, and technical assistance. Whenever possible, quantify the value by using ROI, and cite the payback time or time savings.
- Offer to substitute a less expensive product or service. In many cases, the competitor can offer a lower price because their product/service is not at the same quality level as yours. If so, recommend that the customer use one of your other products or services instead.
- If you must make a price concession, get something in return. Don’t make the most common mistake that average salespeople make, which is to meet the lower price without getting anything in return.
- Instead of making a concession on price, offer an "elegant currency” instead. We discuss the concept of "elegant currencies” in-depth during our negotiation workshop, but if you haven’t heard the term before, an elegant currency is something that has high value to the customer but is low cost to you. For example: "I can’t reduce our price any further, but I would be willing to extend your warranty.”
Visit our Essential Selling Skills workshop and our Online Selling Skills pages for more information. Sales Managers interested in helping their salespeople improve handling objections skills, visit our Sales Meeting Kits: Handling Objections page.
"The obstacles you face are mental barriers which can be broken by adopting a more positive approach." -Charles Blasier
The Best Sales Professionals Respond Skillfully to Objections
What are the most common sales objections? How can you improve your ability to respond to these objections?
All salespeople encounter objections, but the best salespeople are more creative and confident in their ability to respond to objections. What is the most difficult objection that you encounter from customers?Common Objection: "I'm happy with my current provider"
Think about how you or your sales team currently responds to that objection. Average sales professionals tend to give up when the customer says that he or she is happy with the current situation. The best salespeople, by contrast, have learned some effective ways to respond.
Depending on the industry that you are in, and the type of selling that you do (product or service sales), listed below are four effective ways to respond to "I'm happy with my current provider."
- Highlight a differentiator about your company, product, or service. The customer may indeed be happy with their current situation, but isn't aware that your company could offer some additional benefits or services that their current provider doesn't have.
- Ask more questions to probe further about the level of satisfaction with the current provider or supplier. We recommend two questions in particular. First ask "what do you (the customer) like about the current situation?" This would be critical information to learn, because eventually you will have to meet or exceed those criteria. Second, ask "If you could change one thing about your current situation, what would it be?" The best salespeople have learned to dig a little deeper because a new customer will not readily disclose areas for improvement unless you persist.
- Use the "Swiss Cheese" approach. Ask for a small share of the customer's business as a way to demonstrate the value of your company and product/service. This allows the customer to test how well your company does without displacing their current provider. This doesn't work in all industries but can be quite effective because it doesn't feel aggressive or greedy to the customer.
- Don't give up because the situation may change. The best salespeople are persistent about calling on prospective customers. A comprehensive study on business-to-business selling documented that average sellers gave up after making fewer than two sales calls on new customers, whereas successful sellers made five or more sales calls. If a customer says, "I'm satisfied" tell him or her that you would still like to stay in touch, especially since things may change in the future. This allows you to build a relationship with the customer and to demonstrate firsthand to the customer that you are reliable.
Learn more about handling objections by visiting our Essential Selling Skills workshop page and our Online Selling Skills series page. Sales Managers interested in helping their salespeople improve handling objections skills, visit our Sales Meeting Kits: Handling Objections page.