A VP of Sales asked me this week, “What do you do if the prospect created the problem you solve?”

Call her baby ugly, and you’ll insult her.  Avoid the issue, and you’ll do her a disservice by not helping her.

Fortunately, you can try some tactful approaches to help her without insulting her.

Let’s say you’re meeting with a prospect who recently championed and purchased cloud collaboration software.  She told the CEO that this new software is secure.

But you sell security software.  You know that people inside your prospect’s company might share sensitive info with outsiders.  Your software helps mitigate that risk.

How do you help her see the risk and take action to solve her problem without calling “her” system insecure?

Here are 5 techniques to try:

1. Empathize

Acknowledge the potential for embarrassment.

You: “Jane, congratulations on buying CollabraCadabra.  It’s a great system.  You made a great choice.  Your people will be really productive.  (pause)  Now…the system itself is pretty secure.  But what if I were to show you that your users could potentially do some insecure things with it?   Would that be difficult for you to discuss with your CEO?”

Jane: “Yes, I told him it was secure.”

You: “I understand.  I’d feel the same way.  (pause)  But, you don’t want to risk an unpleasant surprise either, right?”

Jane: “I suppose so.”

You: “Can I share some info that’s helped people in your situation?”

2. Use Metaphors

Help them reframe the issue by using a metaphor.

You: “Think about it this way, Jane.  When you buy a new car, it has all these benefits.  It’s fast.  It holds a lot of people.  It saves you money on gas.  It’s an awesome car.  But you still need to buy insurance.  The car runs fine without insurance, but you need it in case there’s an accident.  And if you ever do have an accident, you’ll be glad you bought the insurance.  Insurance is just part of owning a car.  CollabraCadabra is the car.  SecuroSoft is the insurance.  Think of security as just another phase of your ongoing collaboration project.” 

3. Ask Scenario Questions

Help them consider new possibilities.

You: “Just for brainstorming purposes…

  • What would happen if one of your employees shared sensitive info with someone outside the company?
  • How would you find out if someone shared it?
  • What would you do to either correct it or prevent it?”

4. Tell a Story

Help them realize that they are not alone.

You: “Tom Smith at Acme is like you.  He bought CollabraCadabra and sold it to his CEO as ‘secure’.  Then he tried SecuroSoft.  He was able to uncover and mitigate several risks – and he avoided big problems.  Would you like to hear about the details?  Or talk with Tom?”

5. Suggest a Low-Risk Next Step

You: “Jane, why don’t you try a free CollabraCadabra security assessment?  Maybe it reveals that you have zero risks.  But maybe you’ll identify some risks that you can fix before they turn into bigger problems.  What do you say?”

In Conclusion

Don’t call the prospect’s baby ugly.  You won’t get far.  Show some empathy, tact and creativity and maybe they’ll open up.

This is a common and difficult problem in sales.  How would you handle it?  I’d enjoy hearing about your ideas in the comments below.

Happy Selling!

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