Whatever you do, don’t do this (sales roleplay)

Dec 7, 2023

Ever had a truly horrendous sales interaction?

Let me clear the air first: I respect salespeople. I do.

They have a hard job and at the end of the day they are just trying to feed their families like you and me.

And of course, we are also salespeople! So there’s nothing wrong with selling or sales at all.

But there’s a right way and many wrong ways to do this. And the window sales guy who came to my house the other gave a great illustration of a wrong way I want to pass along to you.

My wife answers the door (she’s meaner than me, so better for dealing with salespeople 🤣) and proceeds to have a conversation with this guy (I’m watching on the Ring camera).

What he didn’t know — but found out promptly — is that we just had new windows installed a couple of months ago. And we have a deal with our current provider (whom we’re extremely pleased with) that locks in a terrific price for when we’re ready to get the windows replaced.

So naturally, Tiffany tells him that, expecting him to go along his merry way.

Wrong. He did not go. And he was not merry.

At this point he basically started to badger my wife with questions:

  • Are you SURE it was (competitor company)?
  • Wait, did they do THIS test?
  • No, they couldn’t have, that’s our test.
  • Did they jump on the windows?
  • Well would you consider having us quote the rest of the windows?
  • And on and on it went.

This guy did not like the answer Tiffany gave him. And he got defensive.

When you get defensive, you are in a weak position, and everybody knows it.

Based on that one interaction, we will definitely never use that company for anything in the future. We surely won’t tell anyone about them. And if someone asks about them, all we have to share is our negative experience.

Was this guy just doing his job? Of course. He needs to make sales.

Handling objections — including the “we already work with a competitor” objection — is part of the game.

But at no point in the game should you ever get defensive, interrogate your potential customer, or make them feel uncomfortable.

So how might I have responded if I was in the sales guy’s shoes? Up for a little role play?

Me (as sales guy): “Hey there, our team is in the area doing some window installs today and I wanted to check and see if you were in the market for new windows any time soon?”

Customer: “Well, actually, we just had a few of our windows replaced by another company and we’re under contract with them to replace the others soon.”

Me (as sales guy): “Really! So I showed up just a little late, huh? Well I understand that and I’ll let you get back to your family. Hey, before I leave, would you mind if I asked you one question about your experience with them?”

NOTE: This is NOT a fake question. You’re asking for permission to continue. 99% of the time you’ll get a yes. If they say no, you thank them for their time, honor their request, and leave. This question places the customer in the driver’s seat (at least it makes them feel that way.)

Customer: “Um, sure, that’d be fine.”

Me (as sales guy): “Great! Well to be honest, I was just wondering what you found most impressive about them that ultimately made you decide to go with them? And if you don’t mind answering further, I’d also like to know whether you felt the installation process went smoothly?”

NOTE: Ok — what I am doing here is gathering information. As a window sales guy who can CLEARLY see there are some brand new windows in the house along with some old ones, I’ve got zero reason to distrust the customer’s answer. I already know I’m not making this sale. So I can either leave or use this as a strategic opportunity to gather intel on what the other company is doing. In the real life example, the sales guy badgered my wife by telling her how great HIS sales presentation would be if she’d let him give it. But that wasn’t going to happen and he should have seen that a mile away. Always gather intel.

Customer: “Of course! Well, the guy with spoke with was very friendly and he actually spent about six hours with us helping us make an informed decision. It was no pressure and he made us feel comfortable throughout the process. Plus I feel like we got a great deal. The installation took a few hours and was entirely painless on our end. We feel really good about it.”

Me (as sales guy): “That’s really awesome. I’m so happy for you. Last question, I promise, if you have time?”

Customer: Sure thing.

Me (as sales guy): “Great. Well, I was just wondering whether there was one, two, or three things about the experience you felt could have gone better?”

NOTE: Ok, three things. First, notice I did not start with the “negative” question. I let the customer share their positive feelings first to lower their defenses. And of course we can learn from those things too. Now second, if they’re willing, I want them to share negative experiences. This can be an awkward question, and if you over-explain or hedge it will be even worse. State the question succinctly and shut your mouth. Also notice I did not ask IF there were things about the experience. I asked WHETHER there was one, two, or three things about it. The IF question would get an immediate “no.” The WHETHER question (with numbers to follow) automatically makes their mind search for at least one, but perhaps up to three things so they can answer your question (now that rapport has been established). Finally, notice I did not ask them to share what they didn’t like about it, parts of it that were negative, etc. I’m simply asking “What could’ve gone better?” That’s going to (1) broaden the range of responses they are willing to give me and (2) feel like a more unassuming question (you’re not assuming they had a negative experience; there’s ALWAYS things that could go better).

Customer: “Well, as a matter of fact, there was one thing. I was a little turned off that the confirmation call to schedule the actual sales appointment said the process would take about an hour. And the guy ended up being here for six. I feel like they just said that so we wouldn’t say no, because we probably would not have said yes to a six hour sales appointment that took until 11:30pm. We didn’t even get to eat dinner until then.”

Me (as sales guy): “Oh man. Yeah, that’s frustrating. Was there anything else?”

NOTE: “And” is a powerful word in sales. This is a variation. I want to make sure they didn’t forget something.

Customer: “No… really, everything else was great.”

Me (as sales guy): “Ok! Well listen, I truly appreciate your time and willingness to answer those questions. Obviously you don’t need help with windows, but we do a lot more too. If I may, I’d like to leave my card with you in case you should need any help with these items in the future. Would that be alright?”

Customer: “Sure thing.”

Me (as sales guy): “Have a great evening!”

OK, so, at this point (this conversation in practice would have probably taken the same amount or maybe less time than the actual one) there has been no pressure and no badgering. The salesperson has gained valuable intel about his competition to use in future interactions. A card has been left.

And most importantly, a bad taste in the customer’s mouth has not been left.

Will the customer ever call? Who knows! But the brand image has been preserved, contact info left, and intel has been acquired. Pretty good for a “lost cause” sale!

I think in the scenario described, the customer would walk inside saying, “You know, that guy was pretty nice.” And file them away as a potential option when work is needed around the house.

Not bad.

Want to have a more specific conversation about beefing up your sales game? We talked about some sales conversation tactics in both of our most recent member calls.

It comes up often and will continue too as more and more of my students find themselves in sales conversations.

May I help with yours too?

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