After having several conversations with a new prospect and his team, we all decided to move forward and get them trained in Buying Facilitation™. As per our agreement, I wrote up a contract and sent it out to “Joe”. Then I got an email from him saying he needed to put the program on hold for six months at least, so that his new hires could prove their value and start earning money.
“How can they start earning money if they won’t get their training for several months? And what skills will you offer them, given they will now be learning Buying Facilitation™ after they’ve already begun selling the conventional way?”
My prospect gave me very short, almost unintelligible responses. Finally, he admitted that the COO called him in as my contract come over his desk, saying that if they were going to spend ‘that kind of money’ on sales training, they had better have a team in place that was worth it and had earned it. Joe was both angry and embarrassed: he had thought he was the decision maker, given it was his own budget, etc. and “Frank” hadn’t exhibited any interest in sales training before this.
For me, what appeared to be a ‘closed’ sale, had just become a money objection from a “C” level executive who had no idea who I was, what I was offering, or how to put a value on it.
Joe and I put our heads together, and decided to have Frank call me to discuss it. We believed that if I could lead Frank through the Buying Facilitation™ Method system, he’d be able to decide for himself.
I knew I’d have to handle both the money objections and the phone objections, as Frank believed that no business could be handled on the phone. I also had to walk an interesting line in re Joe: indeed, Frank was stepping on Joe’s toes and superseding Joe’s authority as a seasoned VP of Sales.
Here is what happened. Here is the call, and I’m including commentary for those times during the call when I had decisions to make. To help you follow along the Buying Facilitation™ Method, the questions are, for the most part, Facilitative Questions, and the summaries are Presumptive Summaries.
As per arrangement, Frank called. His voice was tough, crisp, and in charge.
“I understand you’ve been speaking with Joe about doing some training. I’m OK with that [If he were “OK with that” we wouldn’t be having this conversation.]. He’s got his own budget, but with so many new folks, it’ll have to wait until they prove themselves. And if you want to have a discussion with me about it, you’ll have to come here to visit us (a three hour drive each way). It would probably be a good idea for us to meet anyway. I’m curious to meet someone who charges that much for a training program.”
“Gosh, I hate to drive. Hmmmm. How ‘bout if we meet halfway – we’ll each drive one and one half hours,” I said.
“You want ME to drive??”
“Oh. You hate to drive also. Hmm. I have an idea. Since neither of us want to drive, how ‘bout if we spend a few moments on the phone, and see where we stand. We might end up hating each other and there won’t be any need for either of us to drive.”
“Sounds reasonable,” said Frank.
SDM: I hear you are having thoughts about my prices.
F: Well, they are higher than I’ve ever heard of for sales training. But of course, if we end up getting fair value for it, it would have been worth it.
SDM: Given you don’t know who I am, what I’ve developed, what your folks would learn, what it is about the system that is worth more than conventional training, or how to know upfront if you’d get value from it, you must be uncomfortable.
F: Not uncomfortable, exactly, because I trust Joe’s decision making [He obviously didn’t trust Joe enough!]. But you’re correct. I’m not happy spending that kind of money for something I believe I can get cheaper. [Good for him. He’s put his cards on the table. Shows a certain level of trust.]
SDM: So how would you know that Buying Facilitation™ – the new paradigm selling model I’ve developed and will be teaching Joe’s folks – offers a new set of skills that would actually give you the type of ROI that you’re seeking?
F: I wouldn’t. I’d just have to take Joe’s word for it. [I recognized that he didn’t offer to read or learn anything. That gave me an interesting dilemma: he was leaving me no opening, wasn’t taking Joe’s word, and didn’t offer any opening to change his opinion.]
SDM: I wonder if there is a way that you could get to learn enough about Buying Facilitation™ to give you comfort, get you to recognize its value, and see if it’s the sort of model that would make it possible to get your numbers up to where you want them to be. What would need to happen for us to figure out a way for you to get comfortable here?
F: I suppose I should know something about the Model. Is there something you can send me so I can learn about it? [Ah. An opening.] Obviously if Joe is willing to use his entire training budget to bring this in, it must have value and it would probably be good for me to learn about it. What else would you suggest I do? [I must take care to continue helping his decision making process. If I pitch now, I’ve lost the beginnings of the trust he’s offering because he still doesn’t know how to choose me; giving him information here will be moot.]
SDM: I can send you some essays, and Joe has a copy of my ebook you can read. I hope you enjoy them. I understand that before we move forward, you’d have to figure out what my value is. [I’ve moved the conversation from ‘trusting Joe’ to the real issue: why would he be willing to pay a lot for something he perceived he could get cheaper?] How would you know that my program is worth what I’m charging?
F: I probably wouldn’t know until after the program.
SDM: And then it becomes like a Bungee jump – you won’t know if it’s going to work until after you’ve jumped. And then it’s too late.
We all laughed.
SDM: So, what would you need to understand about Buying Facilitation™ that would help you understand that it would give your people a new set of tools to double their numbers, as you’ve required?
F: You’re saying that it’s a different model from sales? That’s interesting. [I hadn’t told him that, but my Facilitative Question implied it.] I guess if we kept using the same selling model we’d keep getting the same results. Different from sales. Hm. And I’ll be able understand the Model from what I’m going to read? [Although I was absolutely dying to give a pitch somewhere in here, Frank never asked me to explain anything. All of his learning criteria were based on reading something, not hearing something.]
SDM: Correct. And it seems that prior to moving forward, you would like to understand the Model, who I am, and what the material will do for you. [I was pushing a bit here so I could name his apparent criteria for him, since he just gave me a bit of leverage.]
F: You’re right. But I bet Joe did his homework already, and has this under control?[His level of trust was now pretty high for both me and Joe. But he evaded my question again, so I had to let him off the hook to stay in rapport.]
SDM: I think we all hope you’re right.
We all laughed again.
SDM: What would need to happen for you to get comfortable enough for us to move forward in the time frame that best suits your company given the revenue increases you’re seeking for next year?
F: Tell you what. I’ll read whatever you send me. If it’s as good as I assume it must be for Joe to go out on a limb like this, given that he’s had to do some hard thinking to figure out how to meet the objectives I’ve given him, I’ll give Joe a tacit agreement to move forward when he thinks it would suit him best. [It seems I’ve proven myself, and the money objection is gone.] But I’d like to call you with questions if you don’t mind. And, when we’re ready to sign the contract, let’s do it over lunch – my treat – and we’ll drive up and meet you half way.
Joe and I burst out laughing. After a moment Frank starting laughing too.
F: I suppose you just used the model on me, right?? You haven’t sold me a thing – no pitch, no presentation. You just helped me decide how to choose you. And I’m hoping this is what you’re going to teach my folks. Not only did I not want to sign the contract when I began, but I didn’t believe it was possible to use the phone for anything more than getting an appointment. This conversation will also get me to reconsider my predisposition to using the phone only for making appointments. Thanks, Sharon-Drew. I’m excited. And I’ll even pay for lunch when we meet.
Objections happen only when someone’s criteria are being pushed; money objections occur when folks don’t understand value. And telling them what the value is by pitching, handling objections, or presenting, doesn’t help.
When two things appear equal, the only differential is money. When value is understood, money is not the criteria.
In this conversation, I had to deal with several things: 1. Frank’s fear of spending ‘that kind of money’ on something he understood to cost a lot less, over-rode his trust in a senior executive; 2. because Frank couldn’t say that he didn’t trust Joe, he used the excuse of working with a ‘proven’ team and moved the training forward several months – and we know what would happen then, given they’d be using the same sales skills they used when they weren’t getting the success he wanted; 3. he hated doing business on the phone; 4. he had no idea who I was, and was so confident in his understanding of the necessary criteria (i.e. ‘sales training’ cost X) that had no criteria around figuring out why I might be worth it.
If you go back to the conversation, you’ll note that I never made a pitch, that I kept going back into the issues and making Frank make his own decisions that would lead him to figuring out for himself how to choose me and my material. And although I never made a pitch, the way I worded my Presumptive Summaries and my Facilitative Questions led him to understand what I was selling, and my value as a Partner.
Also, it was a very ‘pushy’ dialogue. The conversation might appear at first glance to be soft, but indeed it was very controlled and relentless: I kept leading him into making the decisions he needed to make.
At no point did I defend my price or change it – we never had to get into that. Note that if I started pitching product, and defended price, the conversation wouldn’t have gotten very far. Price wasn’t the issue: it was his discomfort not knowing how to spend ‘that sort of money’ for something that was new to him.
I just lead Frank to all of the decisions he’d need to make to justify my price to himself. He had to recognize his own criteria – which he never really shared – and make a quick, internal, judgment call as to whether or not it was being met. I had no way of knowing if he successfully did this except by hearing how he eventually accepted my agreements with Joe. It was all hidden from me, and even if I understood what was going on for him, it wouldn’t have mattered. HE needed to understand, and make some sense of it all. And he did.
Once he found a route through, he could go back to trusting Joe’s decision. All I did was to facilitate his decision. I didn’t sell a thing.
In terms of the parts of Buying Facilitation™ that I used, I did a lot of Presumptive Summaries that showed Frank his unspoken beliefs, and then led him to the decisions he had to make to trust me and Joe. And most importantly, I taught him how to decide what ‘value’ he might get, even though he had no content to work from.
I operated out of the following assumptions:
- that any COO wants what’s best for his/her company;
- that Frank would have preferred to trust his VP, all else being equal;
- that money is an objection only when a product seems the same as other products in the same category and there is no means to differentiate;
- that if I could get Frank to figure out for himself how he needed to figure it out, he’d make the best decision (and telling him what I thought he needed to know to figure it out wouldn’t get either of us very far); that no matter where it went, I had to work with it: it wasn’t about my product, my price, or my delivery.
- Frank was smart. He figured it out. I didn’t pitch, present or propose. I didn’t have to handle objections or prove my value. I used the phone to help him make a six figure decision and didn’t have to meet him in person. All I did was lead him through his own decision criteria to his own best decision.
That is our new job as sellers: help our buyers make their own best decisions, using their own criteria, and use our Facilitative Questions to help them position our product as their own solution. It’s ethical, based on win-win, truly supportive of a collaborative Partnership, and uses no manipulation or influencing strategies. Ultimately, it trusts that the Buyer will come up with his/her own best answers, and if me and my product fit into the Buyer’s solution, I’ll be chosen.
Would you rather sell? Or have someone buy.