The Best Ways to Address Conflict in a Sales Culture
Conflict is an inevitable part of life and sales. In our interactions with others, there are two different people involved with different goals, agendas, and priorities. We’re pulling in different directions that don’t always intersect and align. We see this each day in the conflicts and challenges we run into with our spouses over money and how to raise the kids, our kids with getting them to eat their vegetables, our family on who will host the next holiday event, or with co-workers on getting things done to hit deadlines, etc.
In sales, conflict tends to show up with your people and prospects or clients when the following occurs:
- Your people get objections or pushback from a prospect or client.
- The prospect or client puts up resistance early in the sales process.
- The prospect or client is skeptical of your people and how your product or service can help them.
- The prospect or client agrees to a next step with your people and then doesn’t do it or does something different.
- The prospect or client gets upset at your people and blames them for being upset.
The impact of these conflicts on your people’s sales and closing more business can be big if it is not dealt with when it happens. You see, their deals get delayed and extending as prospects and clients don’t make decisions to get help for their problems and don’t take actions. They begin ghosting your people and start playing games with them. As you look at your pipeline of sales opportunities, you see it is bloated with unrealistic opportunities and becomes difficult to predict your incoming revenue and you lost trust in your sales team and the information that they’re giving you.
But why does conflict happen in sales in the first place? It’s a result of mismanagement of goals, expectations, and outcomes between the two people involved. The prospect or client wants to be helped and led to solve their problem, but also doesn’t want to “feel sold” or that the situation is “salesy” and is balancing getting this taken care of with other priorities in their life at that time. The salesperson wants to help them, but also wants to hit their sales goals, get the commission from the sale, and feel accomplished by closing the sale. As you can see, the two people’s goals and focuses are already at conflict. Because of this, the salesperson unintentionally puts pressure on the prospect or client to decide and the prospect or client retracts and puts up their walls and defenses. It also occurs because the salesperson is so emotionally involved in getting the sale that they don’t see the reality of the situation. They only look for and hear the things that the prospect or client is saying that point towards them buying, and don’t see the resistance or lack of commitment to buy that’s coming from them. This ultimately results in the salesperson making the prospect or client feel like they’re being sold instead of that the salesperson is helping them to solve their problems and guiding them towards a solution that will benefit them.
So, how can you help your people fix this? The place where it starts is with you and your people taking responsibility for being a part of the conflict occurring. If your people are seeing conflict happen and feeling pressure with prospects and clients in selling situations, it’s because they are bringing it to the situation in some way. There are two parties involved in the transaction and each has a part to play in it.
Once responsibility has been accepted, get your people to put themselves in the prospect or client’s shoes and think of what concerns, challenges, resistance that they might be thinking or experiencing. Have them look at the situation from the prospect or client’s point of view and what your salesperson can do to help them work through these things.
If there are certain things that they may talk through with prospects or clients regularly that can cause conflict (i.e., Talking about money, getting them to agree to and decide, talking about other decision makers that may be involved, etc.), have them talk through these things early and diffuse the situations before they occur. For example, if they talk through and agree on a potential decision to be made with a prospect or client earlier in the sales process, it will take the pressure off the decision being made later. If they get into a conflict with a prospect or client, it’s not a bad thing. This is a good time for your salesperson to acknowledge the conflict and address it then so that it doesn’t become a bigger problem later.
The biggest thing that will help with conflict is if your people just focus on what’s important to the prospect and client and how can they help them get to that. If they do this consistently in their sales process, a lot of conflict will get resolved or not get started in the first place.