In a Battle of Wills, Lose and Try Again Later

Even though there is no reason to create unnecessary conflict with your prospective client or client, there tends to be the opportunity for conflict when asking for commitments. There can be conflict even in the simple ask for time, a meeting, or when your prospective client says no to your request and you attempt to overcome their objections.

There can be conflict around whether the client should change what they’re doing, when they should change, and around how they should change, including the solution. There is often conflict around what the process of moving from the current state to a better future state. Often, they would like the outcome they want without having to agree to the commitments they need to make, including investing more money than they’re spending now.

For some, this becomes a battle of wills. The salesperson makes an ask and the client says no. The salesperson attempts to overcome an objection (which should really be treated as real concern and resolved as such), and the client again responds in the negative. The third attempt now indicates that the salesperson may be tone deaf and not really interested in listening to their prospective client. They want what they want, and they’re going to push to get it.

Force is the tool of those who are unwilling to learn to be more influential or persuasive.

There are two ways to lose a contest over a commitment you are asking the client to make. The first way to lose is to lose while giving up the opportunity to try again. One of the choices that is helpful in making sure that you don’t give up the right to continue to pursue your dream client is to limit the number of attempts to overcome an objection or resolve a concern. When you continue to push, you are limiting your ability to try again later and you’re making what is a “no” into something other than a “not now” and something more like “never.” The game doesn’t have to end here, but trying to force a decision in your favor can do just that.

The other way to lose a request for a commitment you need is to do so while retaining the right to try again. It may take you more than one attempt to get your dream client to meet with you. It may take more than a few attempts to have your client engaged deeply enough with you in discovery that they become a collaborator and build something uniquely suited to them and their company. As it pertains to building consensus, you may have to ask multiple times before your coach or power sponsor or champion or mobilizer agrees to bring in the other people who are going to be necessary to any decision to move forward.

And then there is the money. You might be able to make a case for your client to invest more in a single sitting because you’re so effective at justifying the delta. But it is more likely it’s going to take time and multiple requests.

I would never suggest that you should not try to help your client make the decision that produces the best results for them. Nor would I ever suggest you give up, give in, and go home. What I would suggest is that when you recognize that you are pushing for a commitment your client isn’t willing to give you, you are forcing them to entrench themselves in the defense of their no. This means you’ve gone too far and you should’ve backed off in time to protect the right to try again later.

Remember that sales is about developing a preference to work with you, and while it is okay to engage in necessary constructive conflict, it’s also necessary that you are a combative diplomat, knowing when to move forward, and knowing when to accept the no and try again another time.

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