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How to Reduce Sales Resistance

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Sales resistance is a fact of life for most sales people. We encounter sales resistance in 5 specific areas. In any sales transaction we must negotiate these 5 barriers. They can be real and permanent, which means no sale. Or they may merely represent perceptions that the prospect currently entertains through lack of knowledge. These perceptions can be changed through the sales process resulting in a sale.

The 5 barriers are:

1. No need: the prospect is not aware of any problem and how the type of product or service you provide can be of benefit.

2. No help: the prospect accepts the problem, but does not see why your particular product or service is the best solution.

3. No hurry: the prospect is not aware of any urgency in solving the problem.

4. No trust: the prospect is not sure that you are the right person to deal with.

5. No money: the prospect is not capable of funding the purchase.

The key to eliminating sales resistance is to quickly identify whether these barriers are real and permanent or if they are only a temporary condition. Selling is often made unnecessarily difficult by the method used by the sales person, especially when they use a "push" selling model. The traditional "push" method of selling actually increases resistance because it often does not recognise these barriers in the sales transaction. With the push approach, sales people waste much time and effort either trying to make a sale where these barriers are permanent or by using methods which increase resistance when the barriers are temporary. There is a better way ? the pull (attraction) model.

The Push Sales Model

The steps of the old model look like this:

Advertise product → presentation → proposal → overcome objections → close sale.

In the push model you advertise your product (or service) to get a particular response that provides the opportunity for a sales presentation. During the presentation, you detail the features of your product and tell the customer the price and payment terms. Then you ask them to buy. Usually they will have some resistance or hesitation about going ahead (sales people call these "objections"). Then comes a negotiation phase when you try to overcome objections and "close" the sale. The prospect either says yes to your product after a bit of a battle, or tries to get you to reduce your price to the point where you don't make a profit, or says they need to think about it. Rarely do they actually say, "No thanks."

A number of factors make this model ineffective:

1. We suffer from information overload. It is estimated that on average we receive approximately 3,000 marketing messages daily. With so much coming at us, people are screening out advertising, making it much harder to get your message through.

2. Today's market is more knowledgeable and there is greater choice than in the past. There is an inbuilt resistance because the customer will want to research other options before accepting your proposal.

3. The "push" approach creates resistance. I remember from school, one of Newton's laws was "every action creates an equal and opposite reaction." This is true in selling. When we push the reaction is resistance.

4. This resistance is even greater because people are more suspicious of sales people these days. The consequence of unethical advertising and sales practices of the past is that the market is now very wary of what advertisers and sales people say.

5. The push approach is product focused. Unfortunately, people are generally not interested in your product until they discover a need your product will satisfy. Salespeople who push the product make hard work of selling.

6. In the push approach sales people spend a lot of time trying to sell to people who have not discovered a need. They try to sell to anyone who could possibly be a prospect. This makes the job of selling very difficult and increases the level of resistance that sales people face every day.

The Attraction Model

With the pull or attraction model, there is very little need to "sell," as selling is normally understood. In the attraction approach, the focus is on the customer rather than the product. This approach recognises that no one is interested in your product until they have identified a need. The main focus of marketing is to first highlight and identify needs, rather than inform about products. Most of the sales conversation is about the customer and their circumstances. Your job as a sales person is to identify a need, before you present your solution. You also view the customer as a long term client of your business, rather than a sales prospect who may buy today and never come back.

There are a number of clear steps in the attraction model which eliminate much of the resistance that the push approach suffers. The model looks like this:

Lead generation advertising identifying prospects with need → build credibility → fact finding → solution → clarification → agreement → open ongoing relationship.

1. Rather than marketing to everyone, we gain permission to concentrate our marketing on the people who are most likely to buy ? those who need our product. It is more effective to break the sales process down into two distinct steps, lead generation and lead conversion. Our first aim in lead generation, is to eliminate non-qualified buyers from our attention. The push model tries to sell to everybody. This is expensive and wasteful. Lead generation focuses on finding prospects with a need and gets them to indicate they want to find a solution.

2. Our "lead generation" offer needs to educate the prospect about the benefits of our product and show how the product solves the problem or meets the need. This approach means that prospects can find out more about a possible solution with very low commitment. This breaks down resistance. A free sample or trial will help, as will free information about your solution. The valuable information you provide will also build credibility and help establish trust. It also eliminates prospects who do not have capacity to fund a purchase.

3. After attracting qualified leads, we can concentrate on converting them into customers. The fact finding process is the critical element of this model. The temptation when someone responds to our lead generation advertising is to try to "sell" them. We need to resist this urge. We need to do some fact finding, some probing of the customer's circumstances to find out the extent of the customer's problem. Because of our focus on the customer at this point, there is very little resistance. The customer feels our genuine care to find the best solution for them. This attention to the customer also builds credibility and trust. They don't feel like they are "being sold." They feel respected and cared for.

4. When the exact nature of the problem is identified, the sales person, who is now regarded as a knowledgeable adviser, is able to make a proposal about the best solution to the customer's problem. If you have done your marketing well, the solution will be your product.

5. Rather than objections, if the customer has any hesitation at this point, it is normally just in the area of needing clarification of something to do with the product or payment terms, warranties etc. These queries are not difficult to answer. All you need to do is restate the details and benefits relating to the query and check that the customer understands what that means. With the attraction model you don't need 50 different closing techniques to trick the customer into saying yes. All you need do is to check that your customer agrees that the solution you have proposed is acceptable and ask them how they want to pay.

6. In the attraction model, the focus is not on selling, or closing sales. The focus is on creating customers and opening a relationship that provides ongoing mutual benefits to both parties. This recognises that a customer has a long term value to your business, both through the initial sale and from additional sales to that customer as well as from the referrals that satisfied customer provides.


Which sales model does your business use? If you are struggling, finding the market is resistant, why not develop a sales model based on the attraction approach. The attraction approach makes life easier for customers and sales people, because it is a partnership approach rather than a confrontational approach. Sales resistance is minimised, you spend more time working with interested, motivated buyers than difficult customers. You make more sales in less time with less stress.

? 2004 Greg Roworth.
Greg is managing director of Progressive Business Solutions Limited, a business consultancy operating in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand, specialising in business growth and strategic development. Greg is a qualified MBA and Chartered Accountant with over 25 years management experience. Greg is also the author of "The 7 Keys to Unlock Your Business Profit Potential," a vital book for business owners that shows how to develop a highly profitable business that runs on autopilot, freeing the business owner to enjoy the rewards the business provides. Purchase "The 7 Keys" online at or check out our list of useful resources on our Free Resources page.

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