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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  November 12, 2012

2 Ways to Talk Scared Prospects off the Ledge and Continue with the Project

Originally published for RainToday.com

The process was off to a good start.  Initial conversations showed a good fit with a prospect who is excited about working with you.  You’re working on the details, and then all of a sudden your prospect gets scared–very scared.  The person is on the ledge, ready to abort mission.  What do you do to get the process back on track?

Once we get past the “is this a good fit?” and towards the nitty-gritty of “how will we work together?” the project starts to get real.  And when that reality gets scary, common sense flies out the window.  There’s no rational obstacle here–the buyer just makes up ridiculous excuses out of fear.  Here are two ways to get past the silliness and have a logical conversation with illogical people.

1.  You Can Do It–and Here’s Why

You’ve met them:  the visionaries who talk a big game about all their big plans.  They are excited and raring to go–until they aren’t.  The problem:  they want to get to the next level, but they are scared to fail.

This conversation is for prospects whose brain has been invaded by those little seeds of doubt.  They were sincerely confident at first, but now that it’s time to start the journey, the hidden fear emerges.  To mask that concern, the buyer could accuse you of creating false hope to get the sale, especially if you have encouraged their ideas from the beginning.

There’s a grain of truth here–purveyors of those “magic pill” learning systems puff up potential all the time with their “anyone can do this” marketing.  There is a justifiable concern.  Your next best step is to get specific.

When prospects ask me why I think they can compete in a more lucrative market, I give them no less than three reasons why in their individual situation.  I tell them what market dynamic they are not taking advantage of and what is missing.  And I tell them specifically why I think they have potential and others don’t.  The key is to keep it real.  This is not the time to spin or lay it on thick.  Stick to the facts and why you believe in the potential.

To drive the point home, I compare them to big players already competing in that market segment.  Then I ask, “If they’ve already done it with less, why can’t you?”

2.  Stop and Think

Have you ever had a buyer who was excited to work with you until they talked to their colleagues?  They didn’t talk about you specifically but about the idea of getting to the next level.  This happens a lot, either with those hallway conversations or on social media.  A few conversations, a few posts and all of a sudden what once seemed like a great idea is now impossible to do.  The prospect starts to question the feasibility of what they want to do.  It’s not about them; it’s about the “environment” or “current market conditions”.  It starts to feel like tilting at windmills.

What really went down:  the buyer assumes what happens to others will happen to them.  When enough folks share their experience and their interpretation of what’s going on “out there”, prospects question the possibilities.  A common example in the speaking industry is that there are no more high-fee opportunities due to the economy.  When someone says that, what they really mean is “I used to get high fees and can’t anymore; therefore, it is impossible for anyone else to get those fees, too.”

Many well-meaning people say things like that to “protect” your prospect from failure — and to protect themselves.  Think about it:  if your buyer makes a bold move and pulls it off, what does that say about the rest of the community?  It kind of bursts some bubbles, doesn’t it?

My favorite response in that type of situation is to say, “Their experience is not your experience.”  Then use what they’ve heard as a teaching tool–how conventional wisdom isn’t true in all situations.  Again, include specific details.  If you know the back story, tell it without making the other person look like an idiot.  I had to sit a client down one time and explain why a prominent person was getting only half her fee (it was self-induced).  My response:  “This poor person didn’t know the market well enough.  This won’t happen to you because you now know what she didn’t.”

Seeds of Doubt

Behind every stalled sale are seeds of doubt.  The prospect’s personal doubts or doubts about their environment can magnify the smallest issue into an insurmountable objection.  It is your job to look past the stories and remind folks that their goals are worth fighting through the fear.

These conversations combine both cheerleading and tough love to help buyers push past their anxiety and stay on track.  Apply a little bit of logic and a bit of reassurance, and they’ll regain their focus on what you will accomplish together.


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.