Recovery from a Sales Drought

By Patrick T. Malone
July, 2013

How a new mindset and approach can help you turnaround customer objections

There are a number of articles in this edition that provide solutions or ideas that will help you, your clients and producers recover from the drought conditions that have plagued the industry far too long. Distributor sales reps often face droughts in the form of objections, “No’s,” and what are respectfully referred to as “difficult” people.

One of the key differentiators between the most successful reps and others is their ability to recover from these situations. And, this is not just an opportunity within the veterinary medicine industry.

At the beginning of our sales leadership development sessions, when I ask the participants what they would like to accomplish, these challenges are by far the most consistent responses. Many salespeople seem programmed to think if they can overcome, handle or minimize the customer’s negative points of view that their customer will drop their resistance, and the salesperson’s goals will be achieved. In other words, the belief seems to be “if I prove my point, you will you drop yours.”

Dean Rusk, secretary of state under President John Kennedy exposed the futility of that logic when he said, “to me, the silliest argument in the world is, ‘if you knew what I know, you would agree with me.’”

So, how do you manage resistance and answer objections? You can meet resistance with resistance, but the winner only gets a loser who remembers it forever. Given the objective of leadership is to obtain wholehearted followers for a given course of action, you need to create a whole new mindset when it comes to managing resistance and answering objections.

Start by thinking of resistance as your client saying, “I cannot catch up with your confidence. This (the point of resistance) is standing in the way. Can you help me?” Any resistance now is seen as the client asking for your help, and that should change your entire approach.

Next, keep in mind resistance or objections come in only five flavors or attitudes:

• Indifference

• Troubled

• Risk adverse

• Hostile

• Skeptical

Recovery from each involves respecting the other person’s point of view – proving that you do – and following the appropriate logic path dictated by their attitude. So, let’s consider how that might work with each attitude and provide you with some broad strategic approaches you can easily customize to your specific situation.


While some may consider apathy to be a lack of caring, in today’s fast-paced society it is most often someone saying “that isn’t my priority at this moment.” Proving respect for that point of view might sound like “if that isn’t important right now, help me understand what is the current priority.” You may not write an order for the product you were presenting at the time, but that discussion of the current priorities often opens up the possibilities of other products or services that are more relevant at this moment.


This client is waving a flag that says “help me.” Again, prove respect upfront by saying “sounds serious.” Then, create a logic path that uses your products or services to help solve the problem or at least reduce, or eliminate, the impact.

A word of caution – the problem belongs to your client. Your job is to provide suggested solutions and not take ownership of the issue. You have enough of your own challenges without taking ownership of your customer’s problems.

Risk adverse

Often, the decisions we request from our customers appear risky to them. So proving respect involves acknowledging the perceived risk and creating a logic path that mitigates, or eliminates, that risk.

Notice I said “perceived” risk. You may not see it as risky, but if your customer does, that becomes their reality. We need to respect their point of view at that moment in the conversation.


This doesn’t necessarily imply anger. Hostile, generally, means opposed. The best way to respect this point of view is stop selling and find out more about the opposition. Once you understand it from your customer’s perspective, you will find it relatively easy to fix, prevent or eliminate the issue that has created the opposition. For some, this is the most difficult attitude to face. It becomes simpler if you consider your customer is actually saying “no, not that way” or “no for now.”


These people are regularly seeking proof and assurances. Good acknowledgement might be “skepticism at this point is understandable,” leading into the proof source they find believable.

Skeptics often become your biggest proponents once their need for proof and/or assurance has been satisfied.

Interestingly, the more you are able to help your clients manage the problems preventing them from reaching confidence, the more you will be seen as a trusted adviser and less of just another distributor sales representative. By the way, in most clinics, trusted advisers usually end up with the vast majority of a clinic’s distribution purchases, while vendors are relegated to secondary or tertiary positions. So the trusted adviser role is good for both your psyche and your pocket book.

Remember, first change your mindset – see resistance or objections as your customer saying “I cannot reach confidence, can you help me?” Then, change your approach by probing to understand the situation from your customer’s perspective. Many times the NIQCL (Need?, Importance?, Quantify?, Consequences? and Look/Listen?) probing sequence will aid you in asking the right questions. However, remember to acknowledge the answers before asking the next question so that you create a conversation and not an interrogation.

Aligning comes next, and you will be surprised to see the resistance and objection dissolve right before your eyes as you influence the conversation back on the road to recovery.


1 Thing:

Even with widespread challenges from drought and other economic factors, modern farming and ranching practices can help limit effects most Americans feel in their everyday life. 1. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates U.S. retail food prices will only increase between 3 to 4 percent in 2013 as a result of the drought.



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