Any good sales presentation will elicit challenges from prospects and customers. It simply means that these potential or current buyers are interested–their nibbles at your statements are love-bites, evidence of their interest. Let’s look at how you can maximize this potential for sales and reduce the perceived areas of conflict.
First, you should have seen this coming. Don’t be like a deer in the headlights. Prepare yourself by knowing the political and organizational climate, how much to share, who will be in the room, and how they like to receive information. Know your audience’s need and expectations, otherwise you’ll be flying blind.
If you understand your industry and its clients in this way, you should be able to deal with resistance and even hostility with confidence. Here are seven specific tips for overcoming this type of medium-to-stiff resistance:
1. Understand the type of resistance you’re facing. The more information you have at your fingertips to counter the resistance, the more accurate you’ll be in the action you take. Is the resistance institutional? Fact-driven or cultural? Is it a flaw in your logic or an ego-trip for the questioner? In other words, you should be alert to what’s coming your way and respond honestly. Look below the surface; look for subtext – the real action beyond the scene. Does the audience need an emotion validated? If they do, show them you understand.
2. Listen for emotions. Even in an emotional storm, there may be subtle differences as to what you are hearing and what you can respond to. Emotions, not your message, may be making your audience hostile toward you. You may represent a point of view or a “difficult” company to them. You therefore provide a convenient target for the audience to attempt to redress a recent problem or vent after decades of resentment and anger. You don’t have to change your message; instead, deal with the audience’s emotional response.
3. Recast erroneous assumptions. The more serious the assumption, the faster it must be countered. You may even (politely) interrupt the erroneous statement. Why? Because the more time that goes by before the error is countered or corrected, it starts to set like cement.
4. Welcome unclear or fuzzy arguments. If an argument is unclear or fuzzy enough, it’s a gift to you. You can go anywhere you want with it. It’s your golden opportunity to express your critical messages all over again in a different way.
5. Go low-key and conversational. The more someone rants and raves at you, the quieter you should become. Why? Because everyone else in the room will quickly realize that the person ranting is out of line. They will see the contrast immediately between the raving person and the considerate, soft-spoken, and reasonable person (you).
6. Be aware of your tone. Watch how you are stating your messages. The best arguments in the world will fail if they sound defensive or angry. Audiences will remember a presentation’s tone far longer than they will recall the facts and statistics.
7. Disagree neutrally. There will be many opportunities for you to demonstrate your rapier wit when you are faced with skepticism and hostility. Resist every one of them, for the reasons given above.
In summary, think in terms of shaping the issue. In other words, frame your message in ways that work to your advantage. No one ever said you have to accept a characterization of you, your company, or a topic in ways that put you at a disadvantage. Sales is no different from other areas of life in this regard: you should always play from a position of strength rather than weakness.