How to Speak Up and be Assertive with a Sales Prospect

Mike Montague

How to speak up and be assertive with a sales prospect

Today I asked a group of salespeople to share something that they wished they’d said to a prospect when they had the chance. I explained they were in a ‘safe environment’ so it was okay to be honest. The comments were interesting. And when I say interesting, I mean somewhat reserved, restrained and polite.

Some salespeople told the group that on a regular basis they accept a prospect’s “call me next week” but when they call ‘next week’ the prospect is never there. Other salespeople told us their ‘gut instinct’ told them the prospect wasn’t interested or wasn’t planning to do business with them but they accepted the “looks good, I want to think it over” comment. Deep down the salespeople knew the prospects were lying to them but they just couldn’t bring themselves to speak up and challenge the prospect for fear of appearing rude or pushy.

They shared their frustration with not being able to get the truth from a prospect and were determined not to get ‘caught again’, but they do and continue to. Do you sometimes feel the same way? Have you heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity? – “Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.” So, why do we continue this behavior and hope for different results?

Let’s start with this example, you call a prospect and they take your call. When it comes time to talk about next steps, in your mind you’re clear about what you want to happen, but what you hear is not what you expected or what you were hoping to hear. It doesn’t matter whether the next step is to schedule another call, a face-to-face meeting or to buy your product or service, the answer is vague. Does it occur to you that perhaps it’s an excuse to get rid of you?

If you’re new to sales you may accept the excuse because you don’t think a prospect would lie to you and quite frankly, you believe them. After all, you’ve never lied to a salesperson! On the other hand, if you’ve been in sales for a number of years your gut should tell you it’s an excuse to get you off the phone. But, for whatever reason you let them off the hook and you accept their lame excuses about running off to a meeting, checking with management or any number of other excuses you’re given. When you hang up the phone you’re frustrated with yourself because you know the prospect lied and you really wished you had said something but you didn’t. And yes prospects lie to salespeople.

Here’s another example: you’re face to face with a prospect and you’ve discovered their pain and you know your product or service can solve their problem. You’ve already discussed the budget and now you’re ready to move onto the decision step. They’ve indicated all along that they’re able to make the decision and write the check, and suddenly they tell you about discussing it with management or their spouse. You agree that it makes sense and reluctantly leave the meeting without a commitment, but you really wished you’d said something to get a more definitive answer. Afterwards, you rehash the conversation and you realize that you’re frustrated with yourself for not being more assertive when you had the chance. Ever wonder what it would take for you to say THAT, when you have the chance?

Saying ‘that’ when you want starts with believing in yourself and being gutsy. Here are a few tips to help you get gutsy and say THAT when your gut tells you the prospect is giving you an excuse:

1. Listen to and believe your gut instinct!
2. Take a deep breath.
3. Slowly formulate your response.
4. Use a softening statement before addressing the issue.
5. Ask for their permission to say what you believe is true.

If you’re serious about learning how to stop accepting the prospect’s lame excuses, contact your local Sandler Training center and discover how.