Leading Change


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It requires a different mindset.

At the beginning of our sales leadership development sessions, I ask the participants what they would like to accomplish. The most popular responses are “How do I manage resistance?”, “How do I handle no?” and “How do I deal with a difficult customer?”.

Many salespeople seem programmed to think if they can overcome, handle or minimize the customer’s negative points of view, their customer will drop their resistance and the salesperson’s goals will be achieved. In other words, the belief seems to be “If I prove my point, you will you drop yours.”

Resistance to change is a natural part of business, and your role as a sales professional is to facilitate that change and do it better than everyone else. As Mark Sanborn once said. “Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business.”

Managing resistance

So, how do you manage resistance and answer objections? You can meet resistance with resistance, but the winner only gets a loser who remembers it forever. Given that the objective of sales leadership is to obtain wholehearted customers for a given course of action, you need to create a whole new mindset when it comes to managing resistance and answering objections.

Start by thinking of resistance as your customer saying “I cannot catch up with your confidence. This (the latest reason to resist change) is standing in the way. Can you help me?” Any resistance now is seen as the client asking for your help and that should change your entire approach.

So, let’s start by finding out why your customer is resisting. This can be as simple as asking “what is the concern?” In doing that, you are acknowledging that there’s a need and showing an interest in helping your customer deal with that concern.

Now, don’t assume that your customer’s first response is the only or primary concern. After proving that you heard their concern and you’re taking them seriously, you need to continue the investigation, i.e. “So, it sounds like price is a concern. Is there anything else?”

If price is the only concern, you can move on to quantifying the issue. However, if there are multiple concerns, keep asking “what else?” until all the concerns are on the table and you know the customer’s perception of their importance.

The customer’s priority dictates your strategy in dealing with the concerns. The good news is once you solve the first couple of concerns, the rest seem to evaporate on their own.

Once you understand their point of view, you can present aligned solutions that will establish the appropriate priorities, offer help, reduce risk, prevent future problems and/or provide the appropriate proof.

Interestingly, the more you help your customers manage the concerns preventing them from reaching confidence, the more you will be more of a trusted adviser and less of just another distributor sales representative. By the way, in most livestock operations, trusted advisors usually end up with the distribution business, while your competitors are viewed as vendors and relegated to secondary or tertiary positions. So, the trusted advisor role is good for both your psyche and your pocketbook.

Remember, first change your mindset – see resistance or objections as your customer saying “I cannot reach confidence. Can you help me?” Then change your approach by probing to understand the situation from your customer’s perspective.

About the author

Patrick T. Malone is a Business Advisor and Leadership Mentor based in Blairsville, Georgia. He is the co-author of the best-selling business book “Cracking the Code to Leadership” and may be reached at [email protected] or 706-835-1308.