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Selling To People That Cannot Say Yes

One of the biggest frustrations sales professional face is that they are often spending a lot of time and energy selling to people that can’t make final decisions. The problem with selling to these people is they can only give you 2 answers, “No” and “Maybe”. The one answer they cannot give you is a definitive “Yes”. They are influencers, not decision makers, and salespeople in almost every industry are faced with the task of spending considerable time with these people. In today’s business environment, there are usually several people involved in a sales decision and you typically have to convert “champions” for your service or product that will perform behind the scenes work for you with the real decision makers. I believe the key to selling in this environment is in the four areas listed below. Nothing will work every time or all the time, but I think the thoughts below could be of some help if you put them to use. Try using some of these techniques and see how they work.

Find out the decision process and the key influencers and ask specific questions that demand specific answers. This is most effective after you have created a “Champion” for your product. A key employee who really wants to see something happen. Ask questions such as, “Who else, besides yourself, will be involved in making this decision?” If you ask them if THEY make the decision, they will often say they do and overstate their authority - it is human nature to do so. “What exactly is the process from this point?” “For larger purchases like this in the past, what was the process and timeline? What were the key factors in saying yes?” “Who are the key people who will influence this decision the most? What do they like to see?” “If you recommend this to the decision maker(s) and they say NO, what are you going to do then?” (Will they fight for you? Often, just having them state out loud that they “won’t take no for an answer” prepares them for the situation if it happens and steels their resolve.”) “When you recommend this solution, what specific benefits are you going to emphasize with the decision maker?” (Find out if they are missing something – help them sell – do whatever you can to get them ready. Prepare them for the objections they may get.)

NEVER let a situation occur in which you are told “Let me take this to the owner(s)/boss and see what he/they say.”

Ask questions to find out what is going to happen. “Are you going to recommend this?” “What do you think they will say?” “How sold are YOU on this solution?”

Ask the Magic Question – “If this were your decision to make, would you go ahead with this right now?”

If yes – “Well then, what do we need to do together to make this happen as quickly as possible.”“What are the hot buttons?” “What is it going to take?” If no or maybe, we need to re-sell the product and our program by asking specific questions!!! If you don’t have a Champion – you don’t have a sale.“What would be your hesitation in going ahead?”“What things do you NOT like about the product, program, proposal?”“What would it take to get YOU to say yes?”

Time Frame. Time Frame. Time Frame.

“How soon would you want to implement?”“We will need to do this, that and this to accomplish.”“In order for us to meet this timetable, we will need to get an ok prior to this date.” “When are you meeting with owner?”“Let’s set 15 minutes aside to talk on Wednesday after you speak to owner. I will call you.”

Use higher authority to talk to higher authority

Often times the owner or higher authorities in an organization have large egos or think of themselves “above a situation” and will respond better to the opportunity to negotiate or talk directly with the “Higher Authority” of your Company. Once you have a “Champion”, it is often a great strategy to say something like “The VP of Sales of our company and I were talking about your situation and he would like the opportunity to talk with Mr. Bigshot. He asked me to set this up for him. How can we set this up?” Often times, people in ownership or higher authority positions will simply be more likely to talk to a higher authority from our company and more prone to speak “owner to owner” about things they simply won’t tell a salesperson. Use all the tools at your disposal. It is a fact of life in sales that owners and higher ups have the tendency to want to talk to people that they feel are of equal stature in the hierarchy of companies and a lot of times just do not want to talk to salespeople.

Selling to people that can only say “NO” or “MAYBE” is a fact of life in many sales situations. How you handle this can make the difference between success and failure.

Jeff Zellmer has been in sales, sales training and sales management for over 18 years and currently is President of LinkServ Golf.

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