What’s Your Prospect’s Comfort Zone?



All sales professionals encounter resistance in one form or another from their prospects. Some people resist simply for the sake of resisting. However, most people resist because what you are proposing is beyond their comfort zone… and you haven’t given them a good enough reason to venture beyond that comfort zone.

Let’s say your prospect is reluctant to endorse an expense-reducing upgrade because the savings are not guaranteed. The risk that projected savings will not materialize puts the approval outside your prospect’s comfort zone.

What if you reframed the situation and positioned not doing the upgrade as something that might undermine your prospect’s standing in his/her organization? What if you offered evidence that his/her competitors were already successfully applying your solutions? Reframing the situation in this manner would likely give your prospect the incentive to venture beyond his/her comfort zone, because doing nothing has the potential for generating more criticism than approving your project after an appropriate amount of due diligence.

What did you do when you last encountered resistance? Did you take the time to understand the source of the resistance? Did the prospect have a suboptimal experience with your product (or a product like it)? And is your prospect certain that the product was the culprit? Could it have been the way the product was applied? I once heard a building manager vow that he’d never use occupancy sensors to control his restrooms’ lighting. When pressed for a reason, he said that more than a decade earlier, a (very poorly placed) occupancy sensor left him sitting in his stall in the dark, and he had to toss a roll of bathroom tissue to get the lights to turn on again! Do you really think the sensor was to blame?

By the way, services get black eyes as well. Your prospect may be soured on the whole energy-management theme because a decade ago her company hired an energy auditor who failed to find anything that could be remedied with a payback period of less than a year, and she incurred the wrath of her manager for wasting money on an audit that didn’t produce any savings.

Overcoming resistance in this case might involve asking to see the original audit report (check the qualifications of the auditor and see how robust the findings were) or revisiting each recommendation (perhaps the intersection of more affordable technologies and rising energy prices would make the upgrade more cost-effective today). Alternatively, you might help the prospect leave the “comfort zone” of a one-year payback and embrace better financial yardsticks (think life-cycle cost or savings-to-investment ratio).

Whether your prospect’s reluctance to proceed is rooted in fact or fiction, the goal is to make your prospect feel more comfortable. If they are out of their comfort zone, they'll let you know. First, discover the boundaries of your prospect’s comfort zone. Then either sell within those boundaries or convince your prospect that it is worth venturing beyond them.

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Posted by Mark Jewell