“Throw the Skunk on the Table” Early to Win New Sales

If you have been in sales for any length of time you will agree one of the most difficult sales to make is with a customer who had a bad buying experience in the past. Inexperienced salespeople will hope this smelly past buying experience will not permeate the new sales opportunity they are selling. Experienced sales people know to “Throw the Skunk on the Table” early in your new sales process.

I have served a number of industries over the years and it is not uncommon to rely on your current customers to purchase additional products and services as well as new products to hit your revenue targets. It is inevitable you will have a customer (hopefully not too many) who had a bad buying experience in the past. Maybe they ordered a new product that failed to meet the buyer’s requirements or criteria. Maybe your new product launch was late and missed a critical delivery time? Whatever the reason…your buyer was unhappy.

What should you do if you know a buyer you are now trying to sell had a bad past experience?

“Throw the Skunk on the Table Early!”

Inexperienced salespeople will try to act like that smelly past problem is not still lingering with the buyer. They may dance around it, or if it is brought up try to dismiss it and stay focused on the present sale (commissions). As the recent post in Revenue Journal’s blog : Why Do Buyers Agonize? Because Sellers Lie and Minimize shares how buyers are trying hard not to be disappointed. If they have bought product for any length of time people have sold them products or services that did not meet their expectations. Buyers today in particular in what I refer to as a “cautiously optimistic buying environment” are even more careful. They do their on line research, checking the internet for comments posted about a company or product, and they have short memories.

Experienced salespeople know the worst thing to do is ignore the odor of a bad buying experience. Experienced sales people bring up the past experience, briefly discussed what occurred as well as the corrective action then, and since then to insure the buyer is not disappointed again. Failure to acknowledge a bad past experience violates trust. When you ask buyers why they did not buy, it often surprises people to learn “price” is not even on the list. The number one reason is a lack of trust. Specifically that the salesperson did not clearly understand the buyer’s problem and has proposed a solution that will not completely solve it.

If you are meeting with a buyer who was disappointed in the past, throw the skunk on the table early in the sales call and you may just win the new sales opportunity while re-building trust.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. This is the best site for anybody who desires to find out about this subject. You notice so much its almost onerous to argue with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Nice stuff, simply nice!

  2. Mark:
    This is so true and cuts across into other areas as well. As an attorney, a well thought out trial strategy always includes the idea of “getting all demonstrable weaknesses out front immediately.” Translated, honesty assess any weaker or “skunky” parts of your case early on.
    Good advice and keep up the good work.

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