I was working in sales for a major computer manufacturer. We had all types of sales people working out of our local office – people with different styles and personalities. However, there were two sales people that worked on one of our major accounts as a team that couldn’t be more different.
The first rep, Ken Smith, called himself a “peddler”. He cut every corner – pushed every limit. His style put the local used car salesman to shame and it was clear than Ken only cared about one person – Ken. His partner on the account was Lloyd Jones. Lloyd was the ultimate professional. He handled himself with class and was viewed as a team player by the customer and his co-workers. Ken and Lloyd were the opposite ends of one another.
As it turns out, Ken was asked to transition a division of this major account over to Lloyd. To aid in that transition, Ken was encouraged to set up a “transition” call with his key customer contact, Larry Harvey. Ken did as he was told and secured a meeting with himself, Lloyd and the customer. Ken was excited about the meeting. He assured Lloyd that he would be a hero. That there was an order for a large computer system imminent and that Lloyd would take ownership of the division at a perfect time. Ken had even convinced Lloyd that a great sales call was about to happen.
The great day arrived. Ken and Lloyd showed up at the customer facility and were escorted into Mr. Harvey’s office. After the normal greetings and handshakes, all three people were seated around a small conference table. Ken started out the meeting by explaining that the purpose of the call was to transition the sales responsibility of the division from Ken to Lloyd. At this point, the customer rose out of his seat. He looked at Lloyd and said in a loud voice, “Mr. Jones, because of this man (pointing his finger at Ken) I will never, ever buy another piece of computer equipment from your company again.” Still a little red in the face, he then sat down.
Now you have to admit, that’s a pretty powerful objection right out of the gate. However, Lloyd was a professional – a well trained professional. He understood it was imperative that he got immediately on the customer’s side of this issue. What did he do? He showed empathy. Something the customer didn’t expect. Lloyd’s response went something like this, “Mr. Harvey, I understand how you feel. Many of Ken’s customers have felt the same way. Let me share with you what they found when I started managing the business”. You see this wasn’t Lloyd first rodeo. He had followed Ken into accounts before. Although the ferocity of Mr. Harvey’s objection took him a little off guard, he had heard the objection before. He knew what to do. You wanted Mr. Harvey to know that he was in good company and that he had personal experience successfully working this type of situation. He showed empathy for the customer and gave himself a chance to tell successful stories of how he interacts and supports his customers using references from the very same account. He explained that, what he did for these other executives in the account, he could do for Mr. Harvey. It worked. He bought himself a trial period with the customer and, in a short amount time, Lloyd and our company were in good standing with this division.
Now did Lloyd throw Ken “under the bus”? Sure. But that was he only chance to get on the customer’s side. He had to react quickly and his training paid off. Remember, when you get an objection – it’s not you versus the customer. It’s you and the customer working together to resolve the issue. If you take that approach, you will act less defensive and use the objection as a “stepping stone” toward a customer commitment.
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