Where do we draw the line between persistence and hassling?

Guest article – By Lahat Tzvi

272520_l_srgb_s_gl-300x199We learn early on in our careers that persistence is a trait that pays off.  We know not to give up too soon, or surrender to problems the first time they appear. So, where is the line between assertive stick-to-it behavior and unwelcome stubbornness and nagging? At what point is the client being pushed too hard, and the sale lost? When does persistence become harassment?

First, you should know that persistence is a necessary trait in sales (it is the positive aspect of stubbornness). Rejection is an automatic, expected, and common experience in sales. The customer expresses concern, and the salesperson must help the customer by showing the assets of the product or service being offered and leading the customer to make a decision that is right for him or herself.

We are all customers at some time, and certainly, more than once, we have faced a situation in which the salesperson has created unnecessary pressure to close a deal, or persistently tried to counter our objections. A question arises: Why would a salesperson do something that might dissolve the sale?

Why would he make a move that might label him as annoying and unpleasant? Why would a salesperson want to create a situation in which the client wants to end the meeting?

The answer is that he wouldn’t want that, and he certainly wouldn’t create that situation consciously.

The salesperson that makes this mistake is lacking the basic skills to understand that his actions create distance and contribute to the termination of the meeting and the customer not buying the product.

Three key reasons a sense of annoying stubbornness might be created:

  1. Instinctive and unprofessional responses
  2. Excessive repetition of a resistance treatment technique
  3. Low emotional intelligence, i.e., the lack of ability to read and decode overt and covert signs. 

Instinctive and Unprofessional Responses 

When a customer presents objections, the body is filled with adrenaline, and our natural tendency is to respond to the resistance.

The salesperson has heard the objection in the past; in some cases, her planned answer has turned the client, so she assumes it will work this time as well.

The problem is that the salesperson doesn’t know why the customer started resisting. What is the source of the resistance? What is the customer’s concern? Is it real, or just a “smoke screen”?

In many cases, an instinctive response, or “pulling an answer from the hat” can worsen the situation.

The customer can tell that his concerns don’t interest the salesperson; what the salesperson probably really cares about is the commission that he will get from the deal.

At worst, salespeople may be drawn into unnecessary arguments with customers and explain to them why they are wrong, why “you aren’t feeling what you think you’re feeling,” why the customer doesn’t understand, why he should listen to “expert advice.” In this case, the salesperson can win the battle, but lose the war.

Using an incorrect technique or method will lead to a dead end in the sales process. When it comes to handling objections, there is a set method, and there are proven techniques to use (nine integrated techniques, actually) even before providing the client with an answer.

A non-professional salesperson would probably skip all of these steps and choose the easy and incorrect solution. This is an instinctive and unprofessional response.

So, how can you deal with customer objections? Learning the answers to the objections is not enough. Learn the methods and steps of dealing with objections, rather than just popping in with an answer (even if it’s correct) when a objection arises. The customer goes through an emotional process, and you can’t treat it lightly by simply throwing the answer in his face. This process requires empathy, giving the customer legitimacy to resist and identifying the source of the objection, determining whether it’s an actual objection that distances the customer from making a decision at the moment or not. Provide an answer, and then immediately ask for feedback, in order to ensure that the answer has met the customer’s concerns.

Excessive Repetition of a Resistance Treatment Technique

Suppose that the salesperson knows the methods and techniques required for dealing with objections. That’s great, but you can’t make excessive use of techniques or try to pressure the customer by repeating the same argument over and over. Such attempts create a sense of stress and hassle.

The recommendation is to repeat a specific technique no more than twice in a row, and in general, if after two or three (professional) attempts, the client is not going along, you may want to act differently and change the dynamic. In this case, the right thing to do is to break the situation, and change the atmosphere.

The salesperson who controls objection treatment techniques has the knowledge to combine several similar techniques to create a greater effect (e.g., a combination of the FFF technique and the “It’s a common mistake” technique).This salesperson has the knowledge to ask for feedback from the customer, in order to make sure that the answer meets the client’s concerns, and the salesperson certainly has the knowledge to isolate the objection, in order to make sure that he/she is battling the real issue.

How can objections be dealt with? Learning the methods for dealing with objections is important. More importantly, learning when to use each technique is critical to being a successful salesperson. Each step in the sales process has its appropriate technique. It is not advisable to use the types of techniques in the wrong stages of the sales process, as this can create an escalation of the problem.

Low Emotional Intelligence

The salesperson’s ability to be sensitive and detect changes in the customer’s response – whether it’s a face to face meeting or a phone call – indicates the salesperson’s emotional intelligence. An indication of dissatisfaction using body language – a short pause, a change of tone, or a long pause in conversation – is sufficient to communicate that the customer feels uncomfortable. In that case, it’s not always right to ignore the signs. Instead, the right thing to do is to tell the customer, “I’m feeling that you are not completely sure of your decision. Can you share your concerns with me?” or “I can see you’re still hesitating, and I don’t want you to make a decision that doesn’t serve your goals. Share your concerns with me, and I will be happy to help. I’m on your side.” It would be a mistake to create pressure to close a deal or continue running a monologue in front of the customer about the benefits of the product/service when there is noticeable objection from the client toward moving forward in the process.

How can this be dealt with? Learn the major indicators in body language. Be aware of the signs when meeting and talking with the client; be present, and show empathy. Listen, and don’t stop being interested and asking relevant questions to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Surprisingly, the three major mistakes originate from the salesperson, and as such, all of them can be handled by her.

We mustn’t forget that once a salesperson is perceived as a annoyance or a hassler, the customer’s natural tendency will be to get rid of that salesperson as soon as possible.

Even if the customer was intending to make a purchase, the objections will automatically become personal against the salesperson, and it’s likely that the meeting will end with one result – rejection!

So, if you recognize in yourself – or in any of your team members – the symptoms of hassling or extreme stubbornness, locate the source according to one of the three steps (it can also be a combination of the symptoms), and treat it. It’s definitely worth your while!


Lahat TzviLahat Tzvi of Israel is a leading authority on sales and strategy. He helps companies, management and salespeople achieve and exceed their goals by changing their business games. His expertise and success in twelve different industries in the complex B2B sales field have given him a reputation for excellence as a pro sales leader. Lahat’s company, Tfisot Group, is the first choice of companies and executive management when it’s come to sales performance. He can be reached at: http://tfisot.comLinkedIn, and Twitter.


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