208: Removing the Fear of the Prospect | Master Sales Series

Want to know why you aren’t converting more accounts?

It’s all about removing the fear of the prospect. Learn George’s key strategies that you need to implement if you want to remove the fear from different decision makers and close more deals.


George: It’s another edition of the “Conquer Local Podcast.” I’m George Leith. And coming up, we’re gonna talk about one of the most common mistakes that salespeople are making by trying to understand why they’re not hitting quota. They’re having a hard time in converting deals and getting them across the line.

I have put my finger on this time and time again that it is removing the prospects’ fear. You have not done a good enough job of getting them over that fear that they have saying, “Yes.” We’ll talk about all of that as we continue with the master sales series from the “Conquer Local Podcast” next…

So, you’ve done the needs analysis with the client. You sat down with them, you really started to dig into the challenges. And you came back with a strategy that you thought made a lot of sense for the prospect. In fact, you put extra time into it. You were so committed to solving the problems of that prospect. And you made a great presentation like a 10 out of 10, probably one of your best presentations, and you just can’t get the deal closed.

You can’t get the signature on the piece of paper. And yet, the person will still talk to you, and they return your phone calls. And they answer your emails, your text messages, your carrier pigeons, or ravens, or whatever you send over communicating with that prospect. They’re still talking to you. It’s not like they’ve completely went dark.

I think that you have not done a good enough job of removing the fear of the prospect. Think back to the things that you’ve purchased in your life, you’re like, “Now this is great. This solves all my problems. But, boy, I’m gonna be in a lot of trouble if I spend that money with my significant other. Oh, boy, my boss wants me to keep an eye on the budget. Now, boy, I don’t want to lose my job over this.”

Never Hard Close the Deal

I have been recently involved in a negotiation that’s been going on for quite some time. And we were trying to get the deal across the line. You want to nudge it but you don’t want to push it. You definitely don’t want to hard-close it. I should touch on this a little bit because I think this is another mistake that salespeople make, is hard-closing.

Sales manager yelled at you at the morning stand up, so you better hit your quota this month. So, you go out and you start breaking rules. I don’t mean breaking rules that can get you arrested or fired, I mean, you start breaking the rules of sales. That you have to do proper needs analysis, you have to come up with a strategy that solves a client’s problems, you have to properly set expectations, you gotta put reporting in front of them that shows them that they’re gonna deliver ROI.

Now you may be, you know, tell a little white lie around the expectation side of it to get it across. We’ve all done it, and I’ve done it. But that is the piece when you hard-close that you’re gonna see the churn. And you could pretty much see those coming a mile away. The rep needs one more deal to hit a record. Pretty good chance that thing’s gonna be hard-closed.

They just didn’t do… You know, it’s called rushing it through the pipeline. But we come back to removing fear. I was involved in this presentation. We’ve done a great job and needs analysis. We put the presentation in front of the client. We had influencers and decision makers saying, “Yes, we’re ready to move forward,” but I couldn’t get the signature on a piece of paper.

Talk to the Ultimate Decision Maker

When I look back at it, I think that there were some things that I missed doing to remove the fear of the ultimate decision maker. And this can be a bit of a challenge when you’re dealing with someone that isn’t even the ultimate decision maker. So, one of the things that you can do to really help you in this whole process of removing fear is make sure that you’re talking to the right person. Make sure that you are talking to the ultimate decision maker.

If you have a product or service of value, I think it’s okay to ask for the ultimate decision maker to be in the room when you are doing the value proposition in the presentations, setting the expectations, and showing the client that you’re gonna be there for the long haul, you’re going to be that single throat to choke if anything goes wrong. A lot of times, that’s a piece that separates you from the competitor that’s selling a similar product or service is that you’re the one that they really feel deep down in their heart actually cares about their business and cares about seeing a successful outcome.

Make Your Product or Service a Safe Bet

I had somebody say to me the other day, you know, nobody gets fired for deciding to go with Salesforce. Salesforce is one of the biggest companies in the world, one of the most successful SaaS companies out there. Marc Benioff and his wife just bought Time magazine yesterday for $190 million. No purchasing person, or procurement person, or Chief Revenue Officer, or CEO goes their board and says, “Yeah, we signed up for a contract with Salesforce,” and they look and then they go, “You’re fired.” It doesn’t happen because the product, the service has a track record behind it, it’s a safe bet.

What you need to do is you need to make your product, or service, or whatever it is that you’re selling a safe bet for the buyer. That’s how you’re going to get that signature on the piece of paper.

6 Key Focus Areas

Here’s some of the places that it can go wrong and then you can get to the spot where you can’t get a signature on the contract. And, you know, it starts right at the beginning when you’re doing the needs analysis.

1. Identify Client Needs

You’ve got to ask the right questions. You’ve got to find out what their real need is, what’s the real problem that they’re trying to solve, and what is the state of the business. I was recently involved in a contract negotiation with a client that was going through a bit of a restructuring. I was dealing with a number of different people in the organization. And one of the people I spent a lot of time with was the CFO. I’ve learned over the years that I have to play nice with CFO. Number one, to get my expense account approved. And number two, to get a raise. And number three, to get a contract signed.

Because the CFO, or the controller, or the accountants, the person that is signing the check is a really important person to have on your side. And what they do, when you put a presentation in front of them, is they look for every reason to say no. In fact, they’ve already said no in their head.

You’ve got to really give them a compelling reason to say yes. And removing the fear of the CFO was key to it because they’re all about risk management. It’s deeply ingrained into their DNA. Now, when you sit across the table with somebody like me, and I get excited and I just want to buy, all you gotta do is push the right buttons and I just want to buy.

Now, I’m Scottish and I’m a little bit cheap, so I’m always looking for a deal. And I like to brag about the great deals that I got because that’s just part of my DNA. But if you can get me excited enough, that’s why I have a hard time going into clothing stores. If it’s really good sales guy at men’s clothing store, I could take a one suit purchase and turned into five grand in a heartbeat because if it’s a good sales guy, it’ll just make you feel good.

2. Identify Different Personalities

So identifying, first off, the client’s needs. And then, identifying the personalities that you’re dealing with in the room and going directly to those various personalities and removing the fear from each of them. So, if you were dealing with me and my type A personality, you’re gonna want to come over and get me excited. You’re gonna show me how you’re gonna hit my sales budget with your solution. You’re gonna show me how I’m gonna get my bonus. You’re gonna show me how I’m going to look like a legend.

See, that’s things that type A personalities are all about. Now, if the CFO is sitting beside me, he’s going to be going, “All that stuff is bullshit.” I could see right through that because they can’t sell those people. You need to give them data, you need to give them reasons. And some of the times, if you could show them how you could save the money and give them a comparable product or service, they’re all about that. That is why they get paid.

I remember meeting this one CFO one day and I asked him, “You know, you’ve been very successful in your career. Tell me one of the things you’ve been most successful at.” And he went on to quote where he had saved his organization $85 million by clamping down on rampant expense accounts.

So, I took the two expense claims that I had into that CFO. And I took them back and redid them all, made sure that all the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. But he was very proud of that. And you should be very proud of that. That is an amazing claim to fame. But it does speak to that personality that you’re dealing with.

So, when we’re talking to a prospect, we’re gonna have a number of different personalities in the room. We’re gonna have people that are driver personalities that are trying to hit a goal. And what you need to do with those folks is remove their fear that if they go with that solution that you’re presenting, that you’re going to help them reach their goal. If you’ve got the data-driven CFO, numbers-driven, you got to remove their fear.

If you’ve got the person that just wants everybody to like them, just a likeable person, you’ve got to say, “Oh, the vast majority of people love this solution and you’re gonna really fit in.” So, there’s a number of different types of personalities now whether it’s disc or it’s Myers Briggs, or the Lloyd Scott one out there, there’s a number of these different personality presentations you can go through.

You take a bit of a test and you answer all the questions and it comes back and tells you what type of person you are. And usually, they’re pretty close. But each one of those different personalities requires a different tactic to remove their fear. That’s just in their personality, by the way.

3. Become a Student of the Prospect

Now we’ve got to dig into the business case and where the businesses are. Did the person that was in the position of the buyer, the time before getting fired for making a bad decision? They’re going to be gun shy, like right out of the gate. So, it doesn’t matter how good your presentation is. You may have to go back multiple times with multiple case studies and multiple stories.

So, you really need to become a student if you’re going to be successful in sales. Is it great presentation skills? Yeah, that’s pretty important. Is it great research? Yeah, not as important as you might think. I think sometimes people get really bogged down in research. I think you need to become a student of people, you need to become a student of their personalities, and you need to become someone that they can trust to share what really is the thing that they’re trying to solve and what may be the blocker.

You know, I’ve always found that the prospect that is the hardest to deal with is the one that gives you nothing, they don’t give you an objection. It’s like presenting to a Sphinx. You get nothing back on the other end. I can’t do anything with that because I’m not getting anything from you. There’s no personality, there’s no nothing coming back.

And that’s why presenting over the phone is a really challenging industry to be in. And, you know, I know some people who do it really, really well but they’re good at dragging out of that prospect on the other end of the line what really is their challenge, their problem they’re trying to solve, remove the fear. They’re good at asking those leading questions.

4. Leverage the Knowledge of Others

The other thing that you could do to remove fear is to get some information from other people who may be selling. So, you know, I learned this a long time ago. We’re in the waiting room, we’re waiting to deal with an auto dealer one day, there’s another sales guy there. He was selling the auto dealer cleaning supplies, I was selling radio ads.

Why would I want to have a conversation with the guy selling cleaning supplies? Number one, I learned very early on that you learn from any great salesmen out there, you learn everything that you most possibly can. But those are the types of people that are dealing with that organization that might want to offer up some advice, especially if you’re likeable, and be like, “Hey, how long you been dealing with these guys?” “Oh, I’m not yet I just put a presentation in front of them were in trying right amount of marketing campaign. Did you know that Susan actually is the one that makes the buy it’s not Tom?”

It took me six months to figure that out. This is coming from the cleaning supply guy that was… You know what I mean? There are other people that may be able to help you in doing your research and that’s why I’m doing that research can always be done online. And I’m a very big believer in building partnerships with other organizations that can help you along the line.

I was just recently on The Voice of America radio show with Kimberly Lewis. We’re talking about leadership beyond borders. And we talked all about partnerships. And we’re going to do an entire edition of the master sales training around building partnerships and just a few episodes to help you understand how important that is. So, removing fear, it’s a really interesting way of looking at sales.

5. You’ve Gotta Want to Win for the Customer

A lot of people are, “Well, George you’re type A personality, you just crush it. You kill it. you close deals. You do all…” No, it’s not really like that. You got to have a drive, and you got to want to help people, and you’ve got to want to make the calls. And you can’t just sit on your hands and not dial a phone or not answer your email.

You gotta want to win, but you gotta want to win for the customer. And part of winning for the customer sometimes is just helping them over that hump of something that they’re fearful for. Now, you better bloody deliver when you do that. It’s a really important piece of the puzzle. And I think that a lot of it is is just being very compelling when you’re having the conversation.

I remember I had this prospect one day, I never forget about this meeting. It was in the Wynn in Las Vegas. We’re meeting in the lounge. That’s where all the meetings were happening. So, it wasn’t just that we were in the lounge at 11 o’clock in the morning, I was having a coffee. The prospect, it was two people, a very nice young lady, and a very nice gentleman.

And the prospect, the young lady who was on her phone, texting most of the meeting, leaned across the table, and she said, “Why should I buy this from you, and not your competitor?” And I said, “Because you get me, and I’m going to look after you, and I’m going to be there after the sale. And be there week after week after week to make sure that everything that we promise comes through and then some.”

And we got the contract on the spot. “Yup, that’s good enough for me. That is a compelling reason.” So, removing fear, really, at the end of the day is digging deep. You’ve got to do your needs analysis, you’ve got to do your research, you’ve got to become a student of the prospect. You’ve got to really dig and find those partnerships that can help you to understand what’s going on with that client.

6. Just Keep Trying

And then there’s one final piece, you have to keep trying. Sales cycles are getting longer and longer and longer because solutions are getting more complex. So, if there’s a lot of fear around making just a buying decision on while we’re videotaping this, as well as recording it, a buying decision, a computer monitor, “Oh, I got a lot of fear. Am I buying the right one? Is it gonna last? Is it gonna break down like my last one? Am I gonna yell out when I get home because I spent too much money? Will the boss approve the expense? Do I have enough budget to pay for it?”

Now, all just around buying a bloody computer monitor. Imagine the fear around buying a complex solution like digital marketing. With a bunch of things that are really tough to explain, much less show the ROI on. You’re going to really need to be a student of the prospect. So, next time you’re out, you’re looking at your pipeline, you’re wondering why that great opportunity that you have, that you made a killer presentation, design a perfect strategy for is not coming across the line. Think about removing the fear of the prospect.


It’s a pleasure to be with you for the master sales training program. I tell you, I have been getting comments day after day when we first started putting this thing together. You know, producer Brock is with me and our sound engineer tBone is with me. And I know we were talking to the team about how we’re going to do this thing called Master Sales training. It’s just going to be these 15 minutes snippets. It’s going to talk about basic things that salespeople need to remember.

And I kind of got some eye rolls in the room from the people, it’s like, “No, we want those really cool interviews with those experts.” But I got more comments back about the master sales series and from people that are experienced sales reps saying, “Thanks for reminding me about that one thing that I hadn’t been doing.”

And I find this in my own listening that I do. I do some cardio every morning and I’m riding the bike. And I’ve got podcasts galore. And I’ve got audiobooks. And some of them, really basic stuff, just reminding me of things that I may have forgotten. That’s what we’re trying to do here on the master sales training program.

We welcome your comments. The best place to reach me is at LinkedIn or you can always email me at gleithvandaster.com. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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