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Sales People Need to Put the Skunk on the Table

January 17, 2013

I could hear both the elation and the frustration in my son Ben, a young competent attorney in Phoenix, as he shared his story.  Impressed with Ben’s credentials, a prestigious company had approached him to ask about his legal services.  The company, now with a well-known large law firm, was curious about Ben’s abilities and his fees.

Let’s not be naïve; they were also talking with other law firms.

Ben’s frustration resulted from his attempts to gain the trust and confidence in getting the company to deal with his smaller firm when they are used to doing business with a larger firm.

“Put the Skunk on the Table”, I told him.

My suggestion, say,” Let’s be honest.  Mr. Company Person you want a better price, but you are afraid to make a change.  It’s not only price, it’s trust.  So, other than price, what other issues are you encountering that you would like improved, or what problems have you had in your communication with your current firm? 

Many people would not feel comfortable being so upfront, yet as salespeople there are times when we must.

As salespeople,  there are times where we feel that the customer is not responding or our negotiations to complete the sale are not going anywhere.  I have seen many people get that “deer fear” in their eyes, thinking they are going to lose the sale.

Is it a time to back off, or is it a time to be more direct and “Put the skunk on the Table”.

Has this ever happened to you?

You are trying to sell someone your product or service, and they agree with everything, and say they are going to buy, yet never do.

Or, they give you the “Maybe” or “let me think about it”.

You have gone through all the classical sales techniques.  You have cited the problem, shown the benefit, tried some closes, and the customer says “Let me think about it”.

Do you walk out the door, do you ask if it’s all right to call in a week, or do you put the skunk on the table?

What do I mean by “Put the Skunk on the Table”?

Skunks seem to know their power. It’s not as if they’re beckoning us to get closer-they warn us to steer clear.

The skunk: the underlying problem or issue the client is not sharing with you, but is keeping him from buying.

At some point in the process, you must be very direct, steering clear only means the issue (the skunk) has control.  In trying to be nice or to avoid confrontation, many buyers will not be honest with you.  In some cases, the buyers are just insecure about the decision and are delaying.  You have to get to the bottom line by asking more direct questions.

Many salespeople fear being too direct.  They are afraid to lose the sale or are afraid they will offend someone.   Instead they try to start back at the beginning, reselling and restating what has already been said.  This only alienates the prospect more.  It is better for the buyer and the seller to be more direct.

Here are some examples of direct questions to help pull out the underlying issue.

v  What do you really have to think about?

v  On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best, where are you in your decision to buy our product?

v  Tell me what you perceive the benefits and/or concerns to be.

v  What exactly is stopping you from moving forward?

v  What aspects, other than price, would make you comfortable in buying?

How do you face the skunk without getting sprayed?

You can always preface these remarks with comments like:

  • I don’t mean to be rude, or
  • I don’t want you to feel pressured, or
  • I want to make sure that we are on the same track and that I am not wasting any more of your time.
  • My biggest concern is that this is of benefit to you and your business, so I have to ask.

My whole point is that you and your prospect will feel a lot better once you put “The Skunk on the Table”.

Before you know it, you’ll love skunks too.  Your comments are welcome, and if you want to discuss further, please do not hesitate to call or write me an e-mail.

English: Skunk being cuddled Italiano: Una puz...

English: Skunk being cuddled Italiano: Una puzzola coccolata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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