Too Much Selling, Not Enough Helping

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How to deal with common challenges in selling situations

In working to help animal health companies improve the effectiveness of their sales force, I consistently run into three situations that I’m beginning to believe challenge most companies. Many distributor reps are:

  • Selling before determining if the sale is makeable
  • Selling rather than helping the customer to decide about buying
  • Selling instead of managing objections

While every sales situation is somewhat different, there are some constants that can help every rep be more effective dealing with these challenges.


Is the sale makeable?

Every veterinary hospital in your territory is a suspect, but not necessarily a prospect. At a minimum, that suspect must perceive there is a need that your product/service will fulfill. Secondly, that suspect you are talking to must be a decision-maker or at the very least a decision-influencer. And finally, that suspect must have the resources (money, time, space, expertise, etc.) to implement your solution if it is an appropriate fit.

So, the basic mission of an effective distributor rep is to obtain that information in order to determine if it is productive to invest more of their personal and organizational resources. If any one of those three elements are missing, it’s time to move on and stop chasing deals that will not close. Only when all three are present does that suspect become your qualified prospect.

Stop selling and start helping

Nobody wants to be sold, but almost everyone welcomes help in deciding to buy something. A professional distributor rep’s mission is to help prospective customers to decide if their product/services meet the customer’s needs or wants. So, start by mentally redefining your mission. You are in the decision-getting business, while your prospect is in the decision-making business.

Here are four tips that will help:

  • Be interested in them rather than trying to be interesting to them
  • Respond to the customer rather than trying to get the customer to respond to you
  • Stop telling them you understand and start proving you understand
  • Respect their right to a different point of view than yours during the conversation

By giving them respect you will gain their respect. A word of caution, respect does not mean you agree if you don’t. You can respect another’s point of view without compromising your integrity.

Managing objections

For too many distributor representatives, objections have become a game of “If I can prove my point, will you drop yours?” That almost always sets up a win/lose scenario, and that is a game no customer wants to play. Again, this requires a change of mindset. Start thinking about objections as your customer saying, “I can’t get there. This (the objection) is standing in the way. Can you help me remove this obstacle?”

If the objection is apathy, your object is to find out what your prospect cares about and then see if your product/service will help them achieve that.

If the objection is a complaint, your prospect is saying “help me.” Identify the problem and then demonstrate how your product/service could help resolve that issue.

If the prospect is apprehensive, they need the risk (perceived or real) minimized or eliminated. Reposition your approach to do just that by adjusting quantities, time, and decisions that fit into the customers definition of safe or at least less risky.

If the customer tells you “No,” immediately stop selling to prove you respect their current point of view. Then probe to uncover the reason for resistance. Done right, a “No” in the sales interaction becomes either “No not that way,” or “No for now.”

If you customer is skeptical, they need proof. The key here is determining what type of proof the customer would accept and then simply provide it.

These approaches provide you with an outline of strategies to manage objections. Sometimes it is difficult to see how they apply to a specific objection. So, if you have a difficult objection you are struggling with, send me the background information and exactly what your prospective customer said in objecting. In return I will attempt to provide you with a very specific example of how to manage that objective.

With these types of responses to the typical objections, you’re creating a win-win situation for both you and your prospective customer. You’re well on your way to earning their respect and establishing a working relationship that will elevate you above simply a vendor and provide a sustainable competitive advantage for years to come.


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.