How Negative Selling Techniques Can Bring Positive Results

You’re having a sales conversation with a new prospect who is dithering about whether or not to sign on the dotted line.  You’ve both talked at length and had an engaging dialogue, but still there’s no movement because he or she is reluctant to commit.  So what are you going to do?  How about telling the prospect that your solution might not be suitable for their needs?

What! That’s heresy, I here you say.  What salesperson in their right mind is going to tell a prospect that their product or service is not for them?  Well don’t worry, you won’t get struck down by a bolt of lightning, because this negative selling as it is called could be your shrewdest gambit.

lost my dollars

Imagine the following conversation:

Prospect: “I listen to what you are saying, and like what I hear, but I’m still not sure.”

You: “Well, based on our conversation so far, it sounds to me like our product may not fully suit your needs. We helped to increase company x’s turnover by 25% last year, but you may want more.”

Some prospects welcome this approach because it is the opposite of what they expect to hear from a salesperson.  And that is a barrage of facts, figures and statistics about why your offering is the best thing since chocolate covered strawberries.

Instead of defending your product, you have backed away a little.  This lets the other person think more deeply about how your solution could work for them. Most people do not like to be sold at, but negative selling puts them in the driver’s seat.  It is a way for prospects to move themselves naturally toward the close to discover how well a solution can work for them.

In Close the Deal: 120 Checklists for Sales Success, the authors Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman provide a great analogy for negative selling.  They make a comparison with fishing, pointing out that a novice fisherman on feeling a bite yanks the line in immediately.  But more often than not there’s nothing at the end of it because the fish was just taking a nibble, testing the waters so to speak.  An experienced fishermen will have more slack on the line so that the fish pulls the bait deeper into the water, and on feeling safe takes a bite.  That’s when to reel it in.  Negative selling works in the same way they say because instead of moving in immediately for the close, you back away gently and let the buyer move to the close, not you.

When to Use Negative Selling

There is an art to negative selling and when to deploy it.  Using it as your opening manoeuvre is probably not going to be the smartest strategy.  Furthermore, it may not work in every situation, so don’t rely on it all the time.  Keep it in your arsenal of selling techniques and use when it feels right to do so.

After all, no matter how persuasive the salesperson, people are sometimes better at selling themselves on an idea.

For more insights into selling, keep checking our blog and take a look at our free resources.

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