Last week I had a meeting with a client who told me of his frustration at being asked in to pitch to a client where he felt he’d lost the war before fighting the battle, as he could tell two factions in the room were at loggerheads. He said, “I knew half the room was on my side and the other half had no intention of getting on board. Under the circumstances, it was difficult to know who to, and how to, sell.”
Can you relate?
In these circumstances my best advice is to acknowledge what’s occurring before you begin to pitch. Will that be tricky? Yes. Will it be worth it? If handled skillfully, absolutely. Here’s the script I recommend:
“Before I begin, I think it’s important to get a better understanding of both the reasons for enthusiasm—and the reservations—I believe are in play.
If my understanding is correct X, you like our product because we offer X, Y, and Z.
However, Y, you believe you will do better going with Q supplier/keeping this operation in house/spending your budget elsewhere.
Is that correct?”
The beauty of this opening is that it inserts you into their dialogue without being confrontational.
After that, I recommend tackling the reservations. So,
“Why don’t I start by addressing some of your concerns– because I don’t want to sell you something you don’t need.”
There—you said it—you addressed the elephant in the room. In the nicest possible way, you acknowledged that half the people in the meeting thought they were wasting their time.
At this point, you’ve gone from being the guest to the host: a far stronger bargaining position.
Frances Cole Jones