“If I heard you correctly, Linda,” stated Melinda, “you never change vendors in the middle of a financial year. What do you mean by never?”
Linda looked at her for a moment, wondering what the problem was. “By never, I mean never . . . unless of course, there is some horrendous problem.”
“By horrendous you mean to say . . . ?” asked Melinda.
“Well, just two months ago we had to change our vendor for lubricants because they were totally uncaring about our need to get shipments when promised.”
“That must have been a real problem for you,” responded Melinda in a soft voice.
“I wanted to dump them after the second late shipment, but everyone else still wanted them.”
“That must have been a really difficult position to take since you were the only one.”
“Actually, the head of production felt the same way, and the only fellow who still wanted to keep them was the accounting manager.”
“He wanted to keep them . . .” asked Melinda her voice trailing off.
Linda laughed and then said, “Their billing department was so messed up we never saw the bill until two to three months after we got product. I have no idea how they stay in business.”
“If I’ve heard correctly, tell me if I missed something, you’ll change vendors if the problem affects your production department.”
“Always. If production doesn’t have what it needs, when it needs it, that vendor is history.”
“Dumb question, I’m almost embarrassed to ask.”
“No, no,” protested Linda, “ask.”
“Why did it take so long for your lubricant vendor to become history if you always . . .”
“I see what you mean,” replied Linda. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the lubricant company is owned by a good friend of the owner of this company. Normally a vendor gets two missed deliveries, and on the third, as the owner says, he’s out.”
“So, the owner calls the pitches.”
“With every vendor, he hires them and fires them.”
By not accepting “never,” “everyone,” and “always,” Melinda learned valuable selling information.
What’s an absolute? Words and phrases like: always, never, everyone, at no time, and so on. Why do prospects and even salespeople use them? Simple. To avoid the messy problems associated with being specific.
For example, if you don’t like something that’s happening at the office, it’s psychologically safer to say, “Everyone at the office really dislikes . . .”
Prospects, if allowed, will consistently use absolutes to avoid talking to you. Yes, they will hold a conversation, but one devoid of meaning. Consider what Melinda would have heard if she had allowed Linda to hide behind the absolutes.
Nothing of worth. Now consider what Melinda did hear by not allowing absolutes to go unchallenged.
At the top of the list is knowing that the owner of the company is the one to whom a presentation must be made. There is no point in presenting to anyone else.
Next on the list is finding out that this company cuts it very close with its inventory. This is an essential point to follow up on.
Finally, is there a problem with this company paying its bills? The accounting manager liked the three-month float before paying a bill even though production got behind. This is also essential to follow up on.
When you hear an absolute being used, note it and then question its usage. Yes, you will get some stares just as Melinda did. After all, you do know what “never” means. Right? Never . . . except.
Prospects are used to being allowed to get away with this word usage. Every other salesperson who has come through the door has accepted it. When you do question it, it will initially come as a shock to them. Let them have the wordless moment. Then invariably, they’ll keep talking, but now specifically.
Not only does this tactic work with prospects, it works with anyone. Try it out but be kind in how you question the usage of an absolute. Soften the person up as Melinda did, then ask.
Practice on people who are not prospects until you get the softening part down. Without it, your questioning of absolutes could come across as very arrogant.
Absolutes tend to have more exceptions than Swiss cheese has holes. Don’t accept them.