How to Sell to the Devils Advocate
There is a car commercial running were a husband is sitting in a car with the salesperson. The wife is standing outside the vehicle looking in on her husband, but unable to hear the conversation inside. Though the husband has a "I'm beating up the sales guy for the best deal" look on his face, he's nicely asking the salesman to just "play along" to make his wife think he's working the salesman over in order to get a great deal on the car.
This commercial is a great example of how people THINK they are supposed to behave in sales situations or when negotiating a deal - especially men. Guys are more used to this type of adversarial behavior and don't take any of it personally. We ladies, however, aren't as good at separating our emotions from the situation at hand and therfore, we often feel attacked in these situations.
I often receive questions from women in sales revolving around dealing with difficult decision makers - specifically when selling to a partnership or group.
For example, a wedding coordinator is called by a future blushing bride to set up a sales meeting, then feels verbally "attacked" by the soon-to-be-groom during the meeting.
Or, the head of a committee contacts a leadership expert to meet to discuss a training program for his association. During the sales call, a committee member zings overly harsh questions at the leadership expert seemingly trying to "stump" her.
Or, perhaps, a communication consultant is brought in by the department head of a large corporation and is grilled by another department head throught the meeting.
These are all situations which have happened, and will continue to happen as long as there are sales meetings.
However, there is not need to panic if you don't like being verbally beaten up during a sales call. You don't have to enjoy it, but you do need to learn how to handle it if you want to keep closing deals.
Here are five things to consider if this happens to you:
1) Don't see the person with all the questions as attacking you. Keep in mind, he feels it's his job to question you - and perhaps even to "stump" you with his questions. Many people - mostly men - learn from early on that you have to "break down" the "opponent" in order to "win." He's not really out to get YOU personally, he simply believes it is his duty to squeeze you for every ounce of information in order to get the best deal. Even when he agrees with everything you say, he'll point out an opposing view just to make sure he's "covered all his bases."
2) The "Devil's Advocate" is usually always the person who questions everything, so don't think for a minute you are the only one he's questioned. If the other committee people have worked with this guy before, they're used to his questioning tactics and therefore, it won't reflect badly on you. In fact, most Devil's Advocate types don't even realize how "attacking" they can be. They think they're just effectively doing their due diligence.
3) Learn to welcome his questions, or at least appreciate his underlying motive. Thank him for his interest in what you do and answer his questions without getting upset. Again, he is not out to get you personally - he just feels this is how business is done. If you don't fall apart or act like you are being attacked and simply answer his questions he will eventually stop.
4) Ask him questions. "What are his chief concerns about hiring a wedding planner?" "What other questions does he have?" "Is there anything else he needs in order to make a decision?"
5) Realize that the Devil's Advocate may turn out to be your biggest advocate. Once he feels satisfied that he has left no stone unturned and you are indeed the correct person for the project, he will fully support your hiring and be right behind you throughout the project.
So, keep in mind these five items when selling your next Devil's Advocate. You might even learn to ENJOY working with this type of person!