Talking a Prospect Out of a Purchase

For decades sales trainers and managers pushed the notion of the sales process as a battle between the sales person and the prospect with only one emerging as the “winner” 😬. While most sales pros today are much more enlightened and see the value of a win/win approach how many would actually talk a potential buyer out of a big sale?

True Story: As a sales rep for a company that manufactured wastewater pollution control systems I had an existing customer GM tell me he wanted to buy a $20,000 system — a large sum in 1985 . I replied, “Why do you feel you need another system?” He said, “The two we have from your company are at capacity”. To which I replied, “Let me do a volume and efficiency audit of your current systems and review it with our engineers before you make the investment.” He agreed and I returned a week later and said, “I appreciate your confidence in us and would love the sale but our analysis says you don’t need a new system. We can do some basic maintenance and tweaking for under $2,000”.

He was surprised and grateful but that’s not the end of the story. Months later at a trade show he came up to our booth and told our CEO “This is the guy that talked me out of making a $20,000 purchase with your company.” 😳. Then he continued, “I’ve never had a sales person turn down an order and I even had budget approval to buy another system but you know I trust Frank completely and know I can count on him for honest advice. I will never buy from another company”

Obviously I was happy to get that praise, and in front of our CEO!, but this story is not about me bragging. It is an invitation to all sales professionals that read this to take the long view in your sales career and build trust-based relationships as a problem solver and asset to your clients, even if means talking them out of a purchase.


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Frank Manfre

Business & career coach w/ 35 years experience in leadership roles in for profit and nonprofit organizations focused on developing leaders & org health