A Prospect’s Early Resistance: Real and Imagined

by Kacey Larsen

You have a lead. The prospect is eager to get a price and have someone look at the project. Your expectations are good, and you are now
at the door of the prospect.

Often, you will be met with some early resistance when you arrive for the appointment. Unfortunately, early resistance is usually misunderstood and mishandled by contractors and their salespeople.

Improper response to early resistance can set the appointment on the wrong path and cause the homeowner to decide they will not do business with you. Research reveals that homeowners often decide “not to buy” earlier in the process than salespeople imagine.  Salespeople often confuse nice people and friendly responses as buying signs when, in fact, this may be an effort to avoid a confrontation or an unpleasant experience.

The derailing process can start early—as soon as the prospect voices anything that is perceived as negative. Statements such as, “We’re not going to buy anything today,” “We’re getting several estimates,” “We’re just getting information,” or “We don’t need a long presentation; we just need a price” are common.

Because these are not the responses that salespeople want to hear, their brain immediately does them a disservice by processing the information as negative and likely an inhibitor to the sale. At that point, the salesperson may believe that “no sale” will be the outcome. As a result, salespeople often take a course of action that is not in their best interest and one that will confirm their early determination. The result is a “no-sale,”  thus validating their early perception. But, what if the salesperson had been trained and understood what early resistance really is and why it exists?

Salespeople really don’t want to hear negative statements, but they will if they stay in the sales field. However, if they know what may be coming, it may be easier to be prepared. (That’s a concept for success.) Preparation is the first step in becoming a highly productive salesperson who earns substantial income consistently.

Early resistance statements have to be understood for what they are: They are defensive statements used to keep the salesperson from trying to sell. When examining why consumers feel compelled to make such statements, we discover that “previous unpleasant experiences” tend to drive future behavior in similar situations. This distancing behavior and defensive statements are more easily understood when considering that most people want to avoid perceived unpleasant or uncomfortable situations. In other words, it is completely natural and normal for people to put up early resistance, and it should not be feared and should not put the salesperson on a path to a missed sale.

The issue of early resistance can easily be resolved. First, understand why it exists and, second, have a well-planned response that will defuse the early resistance. Here’s an example of a response to a resistance statement.

 “Mr. Jones, I understand, and let me put you at ease. I’m here with the understanding that you are looking for some ideas and a price, and that you may or may not be ready to do anything right away. (pause)

And if you’re like most people, two of your concerns might be to avoid an uncomfortable experience with a salesperson and to avoid paying more than is needed. Is that correct? 

Mr. Jones, it’s my hope to provide you with a service that’s valuable enough that when you are ready to get started, my company will be the first company you call to complete your project. Fair enough? 

By the way, what did the office tell you I would be doing for you, today?” — (They reply, give us a price/estimate/guess.)

“Well I’m going to take it one step further. The office asked me to provide you with a thorough inspection and evaluation of your (name your product) to understand two important things. First, what you need for your home and what you want for your home. Mr. Jones, after we inspect your project with you, we will be better prepared to identify your needs.

Now assuming we can help you, I will show you what’s available, including samples; we will discuss all of your options; explain what you can expect from the installation process; and help you create something that you would hopefully love for your home. 

If you like what you see, I will create a proposal of exactly what your investment will be, and the best part is we will guarantee your price for one full year. Does that sound helpful? Great, I also have a copy of our current promotions, and it looks like more than one may apply to your project; so if we get that far, I will explain those to you before I leave, OK?  Great. Let’s start by looking at the condition, which prompted you to contact our company.”

Those words may be some of the most important and valuable words you will ever learn to present. To have a plan that perfects the conversation will definitely be realized in increased interest and increased sales. This is the importance of understanding why early resistance is a natural occurrence, and how to overcome it.

After you overcome the early resistance, earn your prospect’s respect and trust your approach, you can demonstrate you are there for their benefit, not yours, meaning you are there to be of help to them. Immediately start the inspection process and uncover their problems and issues, which cause pain. Then ask them to sit down … they will usually see your request as a step for their benefit, not for yours.

Meet and greet—Agenda Commitment. Never be afraid to state the obvious.

You either will or will not be met with early resistance. Let’s assume that you are not met with resistance to being at the home.

The process starts by explaining the agenda and “The Agenda Commitment.”  Since the homeowner does not know what to expect from you, expect anticipation based on previous experiences. Therefore, it is essential in building early rapport to provide an agenda. The agenda conversation (what they can expect) sets the stage for the entire visit. It clarifies the process and presents you as someone who is there to help them, not sell them. It also suggests that your visit may not be like others they may have experienced. When presented well, you are seen more as a knowledgeable expert, a consultant even, who is there to understand their problems, concerns, worries and fears.  They may also perceive that you will be focused on making recommendations that will be helpful to them. (And that you are concerned with them and not purely motivated to making the sale.)

The most important point to understand about the Agenda Commitment is that it’s about them, not you. When that comes across, you and the prospect both win.

Agenda Commitment

After the Agenda Commitment, you are going to do one of two things. You will either suggest that you sit down for a few minutes together so you can ask a few questions that allow you to better understand their specific situation and needs, and as a result you will be able to save them some time on the       visit. If this is your protocol, you will sit down and complete a client needs assessment form, followed by the thorough inspection and evaluation of their project, as was promised in the Agenda Commitment. Then begin to ask the needs assessment questions as you walk through the home together.

Remember, closing the sale is based on the satisfactory completion of each step in a sound sales methodology. Responding to early resistance is part of the sales cycle. | QR

Joe Talmon is a senior account executive with Dave Yoho Associates. His background includes 31 years of experience with “in-home” sales and sales management. He is featured at the 2018 Home Improvement Economic Summit, May 17 and 18 in Chicago (hipsummit.com). Contact Joe at admin@daveyoho.com.

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