How to Overcome the Fear of Telling Your Client No

There are two kinds of fear. One of these fears prevents you from taking action, while the other fear compels you to take action. Most people fear the wrong danger, the first danger being more detrimental than the second. Here, we will look at two different fears in sales, consultative sales, and especially complex sales.

Fear of Losing the Client

Much of what stops salespeople from taking the actions they should is the fear of doing something that might cause them to lose their client’s business. Because they are afraid, they decide not to act, which can start very early in the sales conversation and grow throughout the process.

Early in the b2b sales conversation, salespeople can fall into the trap of believing that their client is the one who should tell them what they want, what they need, and on what timeline. When they believe these things to be true, they don’t control the process. Instead, they worry that making a strong recommendation will damage their relationship and cause the client to prefer to work with a sniveling, conflict-averse, order-taker. They believe they need to be the kind of salesperson that defers to the client, no matter if the client is doing something that will harm them later.

Here’s the thing about being consultative: you have to provide your client with sound advice and competent counsel, and that advice extends to “how they buy” in addition to “what they buy” and “who they buy from.”

This fear of acting causes salespeople to do nothing when they should sell their clients on their advice. The second fear is appropriate, and it is one that drives action.

Fear of Client Making a Mistake

Your fear of allowing your client or a prospective client to make a mistake that they could have avoided if they took your advice is healthy. Instead of fearing that you are going to lose a deal, you should fear allowing your client to do something that is going to harm them, harm their company, and harm their results. Those who claim to want their clients to consider them to be trusted advisors would do well to understand the responsibility required of them.

You cannot be a trusted advisor when you watch your client harm themselves without protesting and helping them avoid the negative consequences that follow poor decisions. You are no help when you show up after your client has suffered the self-imposed harm, offering the advice that they should have taken a different course of action after it is too late to do anything about it. Unless you have a time machine, you need to intervene.

Your obligation to your clients, something that extends to your prospects, is to give them your best advice, even when they don’t like it, and sometimes when they have already refused to take it. Instead of worrying about losing a deal, worry about your client harming themselves and their results.

Fear of the Pricing Conversation

Of all the things salespeople fear, the phrase “I am going to need you to sharpen your pencil,” is close to the top of the list. Instead of justifying the investment, they offer to go back to their sales manager and ask them what kind of concession they can provide their client. As soon as you fail to justify your price, your contacts can be all but certain they are getting a discount, calling into question the solution’s real value.

The fear that price is going to cost you a deal prevents salespeople from even attempting to justify the price they need to deliver the better outcomes the client is pursuing. This is not to say you should participate in a sales negotiation, which would require you to step through your fear and engage in the conversation about value, investments, outcomes, and risks.

When you let your client underinvest, you remove the investment you need to succeed for and with them, which will cost your client their outcomes and cost you their business.

Fear of Your Client Harming Themselves

The fear of your client underinvesting and not generating the results they need should be greater, causing you to take action to protect your client from mistaking price with cost. Your best advice should extend to your recommendation that your client pays what is necessary to the result they seek, not what they want to pay or the fact that they would prefer to spend less.

Recently, a client shared a story of a client who refused to pay for their solution, choosing the competitor as their partner instead. The difference between the two pricing proposals was nominal, but in the client’s eyes, lower price meant higher value, all things being equal. But all things were not the same, and the new partner cost the client four times what they saved by taking the lower-priced solution. My client failed to convince them otherwise but now has their full attention. The trust they gained came from walking away from the business at a price that would have caused them to fail their client.

Instead of fearing losing a deal, fear failing your clients. This is what is required of a consultative salesperson.

Filed under: Sales

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