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On Seemingly Adversarial Questions

The contact sitting across from you appears to be adversarial. She’s asking the toughest of tough questions. She’s incredulous when you respond, even though you are giving her the pure, unadulterated truth. When you explain your answers further, clarifying your responses, she jumps to the next question.

You have to be fast on your feet, and it feels like a battle of wills, a test. Your temperature rises, and you feel pressured. In the end, your prospect agrees to take the next step with you, and you feel very different.

Your contact is testing you. She is a sophisticated, educated buyer. It isn’t her first rodeo, and you aren’t the first salesperson she’s challenged in this way.

She’s testing you to see if you have the ideas that will help her get the results she needs. She’s testing you to see how committed you are to your answers. She’s pushing back on your answers to see if there are any cracks, any weak points, any soft spots, any vulnerabilities. Do you back pedal and change your answers? Do you stick to your guns?

Your contact may not really be adversarial. She may have been burned by salespeople in the past. She may also have strong ideas about what will–and what won’t–work inside her organization. And she knows something about what she needs.

If you have the chops to hang with her, you will distinguish yourself as a salesperson worth doing business with. If you avoid greeting her adversarial approach with an equally adversarial approach, if you avoid being defensive, you prove you aren’t threatened by tough questions. If you tell the truth, even when she may not like the answer, you prove that you can be trusted.

Without the chops, you’ll get run over. If you are defensive you prove that you have weaknesses you would rather hide. If you change your responses to please her, she’ll recognize you aren’t being truthful, that you are more interested in winning than helping her get what she needs.

You’ve left this call before, haven’t you? You’ve succeeded wildly and it felt great didn’t it? It may have been one person firing tough questions at you, or it may have been fourteen, but you left energized by the engagement.

You remember why you love this great game of sales, now don’t you?


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