Monday Mornings with Madison



Let’s face it: sometimes customers are not completely honest with salespeople.  What’s difficult is that salespeople are limited in what they can do about it.  Unless you don’t plan on doing business with that customer again, you can’t exactly point out that the customer just told a whopper.  With that in mind, it might be useful to identify the most common untruths customers tell – and some advice on how to get to the truth.

Falsehood #10 – We don’t have the budget.
How often is this actually true?  About 25 percent of the time.
Why do they say it?  This is shorthand for “we have budget money assigned to other projects that are considered higher priority.”
Best response: Through questioning and conversation, gather information about where money is currently being spent.  Once you’ve discovered what’s funded and why, reposition your offering and the value it provides so it becomes a higher priority than the budget items that are currently funded.

Falsehood #9 – I promise to read your brochure.
How often is this actually true?  Never.  Ask yourself, when is the last time you read a vendor’s brochure?  Exactly.
Why do they say it?  They’re either trying to get rid of you, or they’re being nice.  The only time anybody will ever read your brochure is when somebody wants to sell you his “brochure re-writing” service or when your competitor is trying to determine how your company positions itself.
Best response: Stop depending on brochures for anything other than a physical proof that your company is reputable.  You need a brochure so your firm looks serious, but that doesn’t mean anybody will ever read it.

Falsehood #8 – I am the sole decision-maker.
How often is this actually true?  In anything other than “mom-and-pop” operations, almost never.  Even then, mom probably has veto power over pop and vice versa.
Why do they say it?  The customer contact wants to hide the fact that he really can’t make a decision without consulting others.  Or they are playing gatekeeper to keep salespeople from inundating the decision-makers with sales calls.
Best response: Ask about the specific reporting structure and gently probe to find out the “stakeholders” who will “influence” the decision.  Read between the lines and you’ll probably be able to figure out which people actually have to be “sold” in order for a deal to go through.

Falsehood #7 – Your competition is much cheaper.
How often is this actually true? About 50 percent of the time.
Why do they say it?  To get you to drop your prices.
Best response: First, make sure you know your competitor’s pricing.  Shop your competition.  Then, do the same as you would if the competitor actual WERE cheaper.  You position your offering, and the privilege of working with your company, as being of massively higher value than working with your competitor.

Falsehood #6 – We always get a big discount.
How often is this actually true?  Never.
Why do they say it?  Same as #7.  They’re trying to get you to drop your prices.
Best response: Stand firm.  Demands for discounts, especially at the end of a sales cycle, are usually just the customer testing to see if they’ve gotten the “best deal.”  If you drop your price in response to a demand for an automatic discount, you’ll lose credibility and end up cutting a non-profitable deal.  Should you need to cut your price, ask for something in return so that the perceived value is not diminished.

Falsehood #5 – I’m sorry I missed our meeting.
How often is this actually true?  If it happens more than once, there’s a 90% chance it is not true.
Why do they say this?  They’re trying to gloss over the fact that they blew you off.  They may not be very interested in your product / service.
Best response: Let it go. But remember, the customer now owes you one, whether he realizes it consciously or not.

Falsehood #4 – He / She’s not in the office.
How often is this actually true?  Assuming it’s a cold-call, probably 10 percent of the time.
Why do they say it?  The admin is protecting the decision-maker from contact with sales reps, usually because the real decision-maker is either too busy for sales calls or a pushover when it comes to sales.
Best response: Treat it as if it were true.  Ask when would be a good time to call.  You may need to sell the admin on the idea that your call is important enough to put through.

Falsehood #3 – Hi! I’m away from my desk right now…
How often is this actually true?  For most office-bound executives, about 25 percent of the time.
Why do they say it?  They’re screening their calls so they can get some real work done.
Best response: Call very early in the morning, or try several times over the weekend. Most executives work extra hours and they often take their own calls when the office is empty.

Falsehood #2 – Our bidding process is fair.
How often is this actually true?  Most of the time.  But rigged bidding is pretty common in some industries.
Why do they say it?  They’re hiding the fact that a competitor – probably for irrational or illegal reasons – has the inside track.
Best response:  If you’re certain it’s not true, cut off all contact with the customer.  The business that they’d give you isn’t worth the hassle.  Trust me on this one.

Falsehood #1 – The check is in the mail.
How often is this actually true?  If the check is more than five days late, almost never.
How can you tell if it is really not true?  If this is the second time you’ve heard the statement, the check is definitely NOT in the mail.
Best response: Explain that mailboxes are frequently vandalized.  Insist that they cancel the outstanding check and send you a new one, using package tracking.  That way there will always be a record of any check sent to you.  If they are a big enough customer, offer to pay for the package tracking yourself.


“Adversity is the first path to truth.” Lord Byron

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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