Dealing with a difficult prospects is a frequent event in sales.
Often these prospects claim to not have any time and they need to speed up the process. “Just send me over the pricing, I’ll read through it when I’m ready”.
These prospects may genuinely be time poor, but sending over pricing kills the deal. It will never close because control has been lost.
Other prospects may be annoyed or agitated, but deep down are qualified buyers.
How do you handle difficult prospects?
When handling difficult prospects it’s important to not let their energy impact your state of mind. Keeping a calm presence is critical. Address their concerns, and giving them clarity on where you can help. Highlight that you’ve noticed their individual situation and remind them the value you’ll give by the end of the call.
When approaching a difficult prospect in this way, you’ll improve your chances of closing the deal.
Of course, difficult prospects can present themselves in various ways. Let’s look at this scenario in more detail.
What Causes Difficult Prospects?
Difficult prospects can present themselves in various states.
Often they are annoyed, angry or inpatient and this is what causes them to become difficult to handle.
Of course – you don’t find this out until they hop on a call with you!
Sometimes prospects are strapped for time. Ordinarily they wouldn’t be someone who would be difficult to manage, but their current situations governs their actions.
On the other spectrum are CEO’s or Executives where they are always busy, and this shapes their tone to be one that is very direct. This can be difficult to manage in itself.
One thing to understand though, is that underlying each of these scenarios is the need for control.
Control is what governs a prospects difficulty to manage.
In each scenario whether the prospect be annoyed, rushed, or just likes to speak very directly – they are wanting to maintain control.
The truth is they are wanting to get the sales call out of the way as soon as possible, get the information they need, and move onto their next task. The problem is, just sending information or having a shortened call never facilitates a constructive deal – this drastically decreases the chances of a deal closing.
Understanding that control is what makes prospects difficult to handle, let’s look at some of the strategies we can do to put these people at ease.
1. Having a Call Agenda
Having a strong call structure is a preventative measure that can ensure a prospect doesn’t become difficult to handle in the first place.
This is because when they do become difficult it’s often due to feeling like you can’t help their situation. So, as a way to speed up getting information from you they try and gain control of the call.
Being firm at the top of the conversation sets the boundaries and expectations for what will be achieved on the call – and this puts the prospect at ease.
Using a call agenda gives them an idea as to what they can expect from the call, and if that doesn’t meet their needs it gives them an opportunity to raise their concerns and for you to address them on the spot. And this again decreases any angst they have around taking the call.
More information around the core structure check out this blog.
Here is an effective template you can put to use an a call agenda:
A = Appreciate
“Hi Tom, appreciate your taking the time for the call today”.
Prospect may reply
C = Check
“Just want to check with you that we are still all set for the 45 minutes you had booked in?”
Prospect may reply
E = Expectations
“So what we expect to achieve at the end of this call is “XYZ” and “123”, how does that sound on your end?
2. Maintain a Firm, but Calm Stance
It may be hard, but when the prospect is rude to you or is trying to hijack the conversation – just relax. The key reason for keeping calm is because you don’t want to stoke the flame of the prospect.
Try to think about their situation…
What could be causing them to be so rude?
Perhaps they have something going on in their life, or their boss is on their back about this project. Coming from a place of empathy can help maintain the level of calm required.
We know the prospect wants to take control of the situation, but we can’t give them that.
However – we can acknowledge their scenario and show a level of calm that disrupts the energy they’re introducing into the conversation.
You’ll find that over the course of 5-10 minutes, if you can maintain your calm the prospect will start to calm down with you.
It’s important to note that you don’t want to be too nice to the prospect whilst doing this.
Being too nice will trigger an internal mechanism inside the prospect where they will double-down on taking control. In direct terms, they’ll sense weakness and their predatory instincts will kick in to take advantage of that.
At the end of the day, remember you have genuine value to provide. Having this mentality will help you maintain the firm stance required.
3. Provide Value on the Call
Once you get through the initial effort of the prospect trying to take control, you will be in a position to navigate the call where you want.
This is where you can capitalise on reinstating the reason for the call. You want to position yourself as a person aiming to provide value to them.
Make sure that they come out of the conversation with some meaningful action points achieved. Adhere to the call agenda you set out, and make sure those points are covered in a way that will help them get closer to their goals.
When done correctly, you’ll find that even those who gave a hard stoppage of 5 minutes, will stay on the phone for 30 minutes! Permitted they are getting value from the call.
If the prospect starts to try and take control again. Either quickly cover off the main points you want to go through, or reinstate the purpose of the call and the need to run through the key points.
At the core, it’s important the prospect comes away feeling positive about their interaction with you. That way you’ll have an easier time getting them to commit to a follow up meeting.
4. Call Them Out
The way you go about this will depend on how difficult the prospect is being.
The idea behind it is creating a new frame of reference in the conversation. With a difficult prospect they control the conversation – so calling them out is a technique used to regain that control.
For a mildly difficult prospect go for a talk pattern like this:
“Hi Tom, It looks like you’re in a hurry today and want to be quick on this call. I totally understand that. I want to help make this an efficient as possible, so do you mind if I ask some questions first to make sure I can give as much value to you as possible?”
For a very difficult prospect go for a talk pattern like this:
“Hi Tom, I can see you’re very busy, but if we hurry this conversation you’re going to have to spend more time later on understanding our solution. I really want to help your situation so I am just going to ask a few questions to help give as much value as possible. Give me 15 minutes of your time and we can move on”.
In this situation you are a lot more authoritative and direct. Please be aware that this shouldn’t be used in all circumstances. It actually has a chance of breaking rapport with the prospect, but should be used if you can’t get control of the conversation.
Handling difficult prospects can be easily managed with the right strategy.
It’s critical to maintain a firm, but emphatic stance with the prospect if things start to go south.
Often times diverting back to a place of value is enough to steer the conversation back into a productive position.
Understanding the strategies available gives the power back into your hands.