Real World Selling Situations and Some Possible Solutions

Stephen B. Castleberry

Real world scenario Possible solution
When salesperson offers his/her hand for a handshake, the prospect doesn't offer his hand in return. Seller shouldn't have automatically extended his/her hand. The best thing to do now is for the seller to drop his/her hand and move on to the next thing he was going to do. And the seller should remember not to automatically extend his hand at the end of the sales call.
As the seller is having a seat, the prospect informs the seller that some catastrophe has just occurred in his/her life (e.g., "My child was just hurt at school on the playground"; "My wife just learned she has a possible cancerous growth on her neck"; "I just found out that they are going to be laying off another 400 workers at this plant. I wonder how that is going to impact me!") Seller should ask if the meeting should be rescheduled. Show compassion. Do not try to plow ahead and achieve your primary objective. If the prospect says it is okay to continue the sales call, do so, but be aware that the situation will probably affect the prospect's attention and behavior.
The prospect takes away the seller's portfolio and flips through it. After a few minutes, the prospect closes the portfolio, places it on the floor next to his chair, and says, "Now, what did you want to tell me?" Politely say something to get it back. Like, "I have a picture . . . oh yeah, it's in my portfolio . . . Can you hand it to me?" When the seller has the portfolio back, he/she should maintain better control of it.
Right after the seller sits down the prospect asks, "How much is this going to cost me?" Prospect is adamant about getting an answer to this question before moving on with the conversation. Try to postpone the early price objection. If the buyer refuses, go ahead and tell the price, but say something that lets the prospect know that prices could change based on his/her exact needs (and the product recommended).
Prospect informs the seller that his/her needs have changed drastically since they talked last. Don't get rattled. Adapt to the new needs. Probe to find out all the needs and relate the appropriate material in your portfolio (not necessarily what you had planned on sharing before these changes came up).
Prospect asks the seller to have a seat, but then remains standing. Either ask the prospect if he would like to have a seat also, or find some excuse for standing up yourself (e.g., act like you need something in your briefcase, stoop over to retrieve it, then stand with the information). You don't want to give your entire presentation seated while your prospect is towering above you.
Phone rings on the prospect's desk. Prospect picks it up and starts carrying on a spirited conversation. Nonverbally indicate that you would be willing to step outside while the prospect handles the call. If the prospect tells you to stay, find something to work on and don't act like you are listening to the conversation (e.g., don't laugh if the prospect tells a joke to the other party while on the phone). When the call is finished, get back on track.
Prospect asks for a bribe or a kickback. "After all you're going to make a commission on this sale if I buy, aren't you? Well, why not share some of that with me. If I don't buy you won't get anything, you know." Don't give any bribes or kickbacks. Explain that your commission is simply the way you make your living. Without it, you can't provide for your family. Basically, you're appealing to logic and reason. This may or may not work. If it doesn't, walk away from the sale.
Prospect is very, very confused. Might be because he was at a party late last night. Might be because he is just not a very sharp individual (the world does have those kinds of folks–some of them are buyers). Over time you will need to find out if this is just the way the buyer is. If so, you will need to go slowly and probe constantly to make sure the buyer understands everything. If the buyer just has an obvious hangover, you may want to see if the prospect would like to reschedule the meeting.
Prospect makes a pass at the seller or asks the seller if he/she can find the prospect a date. Don't accept the pass or offer sexual favors to get the business. Appeal to the business nature of the relationship, appeal to company policy, appeal to your own values, etc.
Prospect says something that sort of sounds like it could be a pass (e.g., "Maybe we should meet tonight and discuss this further. How does 7:30 sound to you?"). Probe to make sure this is a pass or not. Say something like, "Why were you thinking of 7:30?" It may simply be a time that the buyer has some free time.
Prospect says something that sort of sounds like a bribe or kickback request (e.g., "I think we could work something out. But you're going to have to make sure I get taken care of in this deal."). Probe to make sure this is a bribe/kickback request. Say something like, "What were you thinking of?" If it's not an unethical request, evaluate the merits of the request.
Prospect says he/she likes everything about the proposal, but just doesn't have that kind of money. Also, extending credit is out of the question for some reason. This is termed "budget bogey" in the textbook. Don't fall for it. Probe to see if there is some way the prospect can afford it. If not, you may just have to look for another prospect.
Prospect asks the seller for his/her opinion on some personal issue (e.g., "Who are you going to vote for in this presidential election?). Stay away from volatile topics, if at all possible. Throw the question back to the prospect ("I don't know? Who looks good to you?"). If the prospect demands you give your opinion, do so, but say that you recognize that others may hold different opinions, often for good reason.
Prospect is very quiet. Practically says nothing at all. Won't offer any objections. Stop talking. Ask questions. If trial closes are successful, seek commitment. If you can't gain commitment, ask the prospect what he/she would like to do at this point.
Prospect seems unusually nervous, even afraid. This is displayed nonverbally. Let the prospect know you sense an uneasiness about the situation. Ask if there is anything you can do to help alleviate the concern.
Buyer brings up something he is angry about just as soon as you walk in the door. Address the concern. Do so by first getting all the facts. Then seek a resolution of the problem. If necessary, use the prospect's phone to get resolution (e.g., to find out when the last shipment left your plant, etc.).
Prospect acts offended that you've never called on her before (perhaps because she thinks her store is too small). Probe if the prospect seems offended. Say something like, "I hope I've done nothing to offend you?" If so address the issue, truthfully and gracefully.
Prospect seemed preoccupied when you walked into the room (e.g., looking at a report, reading an email message, listening to a voice mail message). As the presentation continues, you realize the prospect isn't really paying attention. Don't continue until you have the prospect's attention and interest. If you can't achieve it, it is probably best to reschedule the meeting for another time.
Buyer expresses his dislike for his job, his managers, the products he sells, his customers, etc. Be careful. Don't fall into the trap of expressing your own dislike for any of these things. It may just be a ploy to trap you. On the other hand, the buyer may be blowing off steam. If so, let him, but don't you join in also. If the buyer acts like he is going to quit, be sensitive to the fact that you may be starting to call on his successor in the future and plan accordingly.
Buyer is asking for all sorts of semi-confidential or confidential information (e.g., "How many of these units does our competitor in town sell a month?" "Can I see a copy of the formula that your plant uses to produce this product?") Don't share confidential information you know about your other customers with this prospect. Also, be prepared to share information that your firm considers acceptable, but don't feel like you have to reveal secrets about your firm in order to get the business. Be diligent. Some buyers may be pumping you for information so they can go into business and compete with you. Or they may be asking you so they can share the information with your competitor.
The prospect says, "Look, I don't want to see a bunch of fancy charts and graphs. Just tell me what you can do for me!" Be adaptive to the buyer's wishes. Avoid charts and simply, concisely explain how the features of your product meet the buyer's needs. Then attempt to obtain commitment.
The prospect, while using a calculator during your presentation, pushes the wrong buttons (perhaps on purpose) and exclaims that your product does not have much value for the money paid. Go through the calculations again, watching the prospect closely for errors. If it happens again, you run through the numbers yourself, just to make sure you hadn't miscalculated when you prepared for this presentation.
The prospect (a reseller) tries your new food product and exclaims that it tastes awful! Be understanding. Help the buyer see that, in the end, it is not her tastes that make the difference. It is her customer's tastes. Then show test results to prove that her customers will in fact demand the product and that they like the taste.
The buyer starts to nod or goes to sleep. Change something fast. Ask the buyer a question to get him more involved. Consider doing something that will allow the buyer to stand for a moment (e.g., engage in a product demonstration or trial). Whatever, don't continue until you have the buyer's attention and interest.



























































©Copyright by Stephen B. Castleberry, 2004, all rights reserved.