Why So Defensive?

By Tibor Shanto

While sales people would have you believe they are a confident lot, able to get others to see their view and follow them with comfort.  But when you watch them in play, on the sales field with the buyer, their behaviour comes across quiet differently.  For the most part, they behave with great insecurity and defensiveness often not experiences since grade school.

Watch how sellers respond to objections; any objections, while prospecting, during discovery, or at the end of the cycle.  The average sales person falls apart at the sign or even hint of an objection.  Even before the buyer completes their thought, sellers jump in to defend their position.  Because nothing says, “I am seeking to understand you, your requirements and objectives”; than a seller jumping on their sentence, not hearing their full thought, and throwing up a canned defense of something the prospect didn’t really mention.

You Find What You Seek

One problem is that sales people are so wound for objections, they often see one where it really doesn’t exist, and the only thing making it bad is the sellers defensive posture.  When one is afraid of something, one sees it everywhere, just like little kids see the boogie man in the dark.  The real question is why are they so wound?  Do they lack confidence in their ability to understand the buyer’s objectives, the buyer’s goals, do they lack an understanding of their product, where they add value to their buyers’, what do they fear they lack?

A contributing factor is that despite all the talk of “solutions”, and such, most sales conversations stay tightly tethered to product.  If they were more tied to outcomes and or objectives reached, any questions, observations, vocalized musings and the like, would not immediately be seen as objections that have to be countered or defended, but instead, as opportunities to expand and steer the conversation to how my offering will help meet objectives. In that light, feature differences or absence fall behind the only question that counts: “Can we get you there?”, how is secondary.

If we set out to deal with objections rather than resolving scenarios, we’ll see every comment, unless it is the most positive, as an objection we have to defend.  Instead, look at these as an opportunity to help educate the buyer, focusing on outcomes, and how as a Subject Matter Expert, you are in the position to help them understand, deal with, and achieve those outcomes.

It’s Discovery Not Defence

They call it discovery for a reason, and that reason runs both ways.  Meaning that you as the seller, also have an opportunity to learn and discover.  This is easier if you are indeed a Subject Matter Expert, not just a product expert.  By learning about how what they are saying, aligns to their objectives rather than the features of your product, or the only thing that you do, you will learn about how they think about and view things.  With that understanding, you can better position what you will do for them, with less emphasis on the how.

Decisions Based On Outcomes

One other benefit to not worrying about objectives, and instead using them to inform and improve your selling, is in how it helps you understand people’s role in a decision.  People hung up on features, and unwilling to evolve their view based on possibilities, are less likely to be decision makers.  They are stuck in a groove that gives them little latitude to think beyond their understanding as a user, not an economical beneficiary.  An economical beneficiary will focus on results and outcomes, and how those impact their business.  This allows them to be much more agile in how they choose to get there.  Your discussions with these people, more likely decision makers, will be marked by the fact that you and the buyer are not framing the discussion as being wither right or wrong, but as a means of gaining a mutual understanding.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

steven rosen Reply

Tibor, Very interesting article. I agree with your diagnosis that salespeople who are defensive lack confidence and may not hold that their sales role in high regard. The best salespeople feel that they have a purpose and are confident in asking good questions as a means of helping the customer.

Look forward to other thought-provoking blogs in 2018!

    Tibor Shanto Reply


    I agree, sellers who see themselves as subject matter experts, ask more direct questions, get better answers, and build from there.

    Thank for the feedback, Tibor

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