Client Prospecting: How to Deal with Negative Perception Prospects

An impressive company reputation can grease a closing, making a prospect feel comfortable and know that his business will be in competent hands. What happens, however, when in the midst of client prospecting, you encounter a customer who is cautious or hesitant to engage in negotiations because something has smeared the firm in his eyes?

A bad past experience, poor online reviews or word-of-mouth “disses” from relatives and associates can all create aversion and impede a salesperson’s best closing technique.

Incorporate these five strategies into your sales process whenever you need to salvage your company’s reputation and get the prospect to change a negative perception.

Address the negative opinion.

Some salespeople would prefer not to confront the buyer’s unfavorable view, pretending to be deaf and blind to the off-hand or pointed remarks.

If a buyer drops hints about something she heard about the company or narrates a horrendous past buyer experience, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and brush it aside.  It’s disingenuous and may cause the prospect to develop a negative perception of you, compounding the problem.

Instead, address the matter directly so that you can be in control of reshaping the company’s image.

Validate the Client’s Emotion.

The first step in restoring the company’s reputation is to let the prospect know that you understand his anger, disappointment or fears — and that such emotions are valid for a customer who feels he might not be valued or treated properly.

You don’t have to agree that any real transgression happened (unless you have proof); the point is to earn customers’ trust by accepting their emotions and expressing concern and compassion.  Adding this technique to your sales process can decrease the prospect’s hostility and make him more open.

Agree with the Prospect in Some Aspect

Continue building the prospect’s trust by finding some aspect with which to agree. For example, you can echo the need to put customers first, improve customer service or to maintain high quality when it comes to products. Such goals show commitment to excellence, not failure.

If you are aware of a particular situation where the prospect was wronged, fully agree that the matter was handled inappropriately and not according to company protocol.  Shape the experience as an anomaly or a past situation that has been corrected with new leadership, upgraded goods or better-trained staff.


Persuade the customer to list a positive about the company

Once you’ve agreed with the customer, it’s the perfect time to get her to agree with you on a positive aspect of the company.  Once a prospect affirms a few great things, she’s already begun admitting that her vision of the company is changing and moving in the right direction.

Refer the prospect to people with positive experiences

Successful client prospecting often requires the input of third parties. Selling is after all about networking and relationships. Feel free to take out your contact list and introduce the prospect to customers who’ve had wonderful experiences with your company.

Either ask these handpicked customers to give the prospect a call or, with permission, give the prospect the contact information. Fellow customers in the prospect’s own industry or peer group can allay any residual fears.

No matter the company, client prospecting will inevitably bring salespeople into contact with someone who despises the firm. That doesn’t mean the sales process is doomed and that a close is impossible. A wise salesperson knows how to discuss negative opinions and use them to his advantage.


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