Add me to mailing list    |           |      Search

Sales Make it Happen

Dealing With Hidden Issues

If you read last week's article you know that Hidden Issues may be the most difficult challenges faced by salespeople. Hidden Issues are negative feelings or perceptions about you, your company, your industry, your proposal and maybe salespeople in general. They also could be something wholly unrelated to business.

Nothing you've been taught about overcoming objections will help you if you encounter a Hidden Issue that stalls your sale. Instead, you are better served to learn to recognize the signals of Hidden Issues - argumentative questioning, hesitation, passive resistance, and failure to commit when commitment is the next, best logical step in the sales process.

When someone telegraphs behavior that indicates a possible underlying Hidden Issue, the salesperson must understand the cause or driver of the issue. Unless the issue is based on some irrational driver - like you remind her of her ex husband - the cause is likely a feeling that she will somehow lose if she does business with you. She may, for example, fear that her superiors will criticize her decision to align with a sole service provider; or she may not want to spend an extra two hours a day away from her family as she works to implement your new internet strategy, though it will clearly benefit her company in the long run.

So, what can a salesperson do when confronted with a Hidden Issue? First, it is imperative to realize that your sale is permanently stalled unless the Hidden Issue is resolved. Wishing and hoping for Hidden Issues to disappear won't move your sale forward, and ignoring Hidden Issues will almost always result in a lost sale. Once you understand that your sale is stalled, it's time to deal with the Hidden Issue.

When you become aware that a Hidden Issue may exist, you must surface the issue if you want your sale to move forward. You can surface the issue by asking a question, or by making a statement. Using our example of the customer who resists your proposal because she doesn't want to spend an extra two hours a day away from her family while implementing your new internet strategy, you could ask her if the time required to complete the project is bothering her. The problem with this direct question approach is the danger that you might put your customer on the defensive. An alternative approach would be simply to make a statement, like "you seem to be uncomfortable with some aspect of the proposal." This type of statement declares the obvious and invites an expansive response from your customer.

However you choose to surface Hidden Issues, it's critical to learn to recognize them and to deal directly them as soon as you suspect they are playing a part in your sale. Once an issue is surfaced, you are in a position to suggest workarounds and alternatives that may help your prospect or customer overcome their resistance.

--- from the desk of a retired, successful leasing company president.