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How to Respond to Difficult Prospects & Close Them on a Deal!

Brian Cristiano Oct 18, 2021

It's every sales rep's least favorite part of the job!  Dealing the prospect who ___ .... 

You fill in the blank!

In all seriousness, dealing with difficult prospects is often the thing that throws salespeople for the biggest loop.  

Not only is it the biggest challenge of their job, but it's also the biggest headache!  

However, it doesn't have to be that way!

In fact, you can learn to not only deal with difficult prospects, but turn their difficulties into positives, ease their stresses, AND close them on a sale.  

Moreover, difficult prospects can be the most rewarding part of the job if you know how to deal with them.

With that said, today we're sharing how to effectively respond to different types of difficult prospects.

In the end, they will walk away with the solution that they need, and you'll walk away knowing you helped solve their problems!

 

The Keys to Dealing With Every Type of Difficult Prospect

 

While many salespeople don’t necessarily enjoy working with difficult prospects, they do love the challenge that comes with it. 

Learning how to manage the difficulties that a prospect presents and still be able to close the deal can actually be one of the most rewarding parts of the job!

There are three key points to dealing with difficult prospects while still staying on track to close the sale, including:

  1. Putting yourself in the prospect’s shoes
  2. Staying focused on serving the prospects
  3. Maintaining control over the sale

First off, when you're dealing with a difficult prospect, put yourself in their shoes.  More likely than not, they're stressed about the challenges they're currently facing in their business.  Hence, why they're there to see you!

If you were in their shoes, wouldn't you be slightly on edge?  When you're stressed out, don't you get a little more challenging to work with?

The point of putting yourself in the prospect's shoes is to form some empathy for them.  They're not acting out towards you, but they're acting out as a result of the difficult situation they are in!  

Never take a difficult prospect as an overall difficult person.  They're just a normal person trying their hardest to handle stress!

Second, once you've formed some empathy for the prospect, focus your mind back on serving them as best as you can.

After all, your sole job as a sales rep is to serve them by helping make their life easier!  If you can do that when they are clearly experiencing stress, then consider yourself among the best of all salespeople!

Lastly and most importantly, when dealing with a difficult prospect, ALWAYS keep control over the sale.  You should control the sale in any circumstance, but it's most important when dealing with difficult prospects.

​If you lose control of the sale, then the prospect's emotions will do the controlling.  And, there's no easier way to lose the sale than when the prospect's emotions take over!

Moreover, if you want to effectively work with a difficult prospect and still stay on track to close the sale, focus on being empathetic towards them, staying service-oriented, and keeping control over the situation!

 

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Here's How to Respond to Difficult Prospects & Secure the Deal

 

Tired of dealing with difficult prospects?  If so, you're not alone!

So many of the top sales professionals struggle to find a way to serve their potential clients while overcoming the challenging barriers that they create.

If that sounds like you, then check out how to respond to these different types of difficult prospects!

Follow these tips, and you will not only overcome the challenging prospect, but make them feel great AND secure the deal for yourself!

 

How to Respond to an Unresponsive Prospect

 

Perhaps the toughest prospect of them all is the one who simply doesn't respond to you.  What makes the situation so horrible is that you are positive that you are the one with the solution to their pain points.

First off and most importantly, if you find yourself in a situation where your prospect isn't responding, don't immediately take it as them trying to ignore you.  While that might be the case, don't assume anything unless you want to make yourself even more frustrated.

Remember, prospects are busy people too.  If you're having trouble finding time every day to answer your email and return phone calls, don't you think your prospect might be in the same position?

Therefore, top sales professionals don't take things personally when they don't get a response from a prospect.  They don't assume that they are being ignored until they know for absolute sure!

With that said, what is a sales rep to do when one of their prospect's doesn't respond to a cold call, cold email, or even a follow-up message after a sales conversation?

If one of your top sales leads isn't responding to you, do one of the following:

  • Email or text them a photo of you along with an upbeat message
  • Send them an upbeat video message over email

Here's the thing: It's really easy for someone to ignore you when they can't see your face.  But, it’s really hard for someone to ignore you straight to your face because it makes them feel guilty doing so.

Therefore, give your unresponsive prospect some face time!  Show them that you are still there for them whenever they are ready to get the conversation going again.

But, what kind of message should you send along with the photo?  Or, what should you say in the video message?

In the message, you need to say a few things:

  1. Let the prospect know that you are there for them
  2. Ask them to set up a formal conversation in the next few days
  3. Let them know that you hold information that could help make their problems go away

If you can show the prospect your face AND incorporate these three points into the message, then it’s only a matter of time for them to get back to you.

Take control of the situation by giving the prospect some face time!  Remember, it’s way harder for them to ignore you when they have to do it to your face.

 

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How to Respond to an Angry Prospect

 

Dealing with an angry prospect isn't very common in sales, but it can happen.  And, when it does happen, it can be scary if you don't know what you're doing. 

Whether the prospect is angry about their pain points, their current situation, or, worst of all, you, you can still control the situation and come out victorious in the end.

With that said, how do you deal with angry prospects?

When dealing with an angry prospect, you need to do three things:

  1. Keep your cool
  2. Mirror the prospect's emotional level in a positive way
  3. Transfer the prospect's energy into your solution

First off, the only thing worse than an angry prospect is an angry salesperson.  Even though your prospect’s anger might make you want to explode, don't let them get to you!

Understand that their anger is not personal to you.  You getting angry only makes the situation worse.  So, if your prospect is angry, the first thing to do is keep a handle on your emotions.

Second, nothing makes an angry person even more angry than when the person they are talking to appears totally calm.  In their eyes, they think that the other person doesn’t care about whatever is triggering them.  As a result, they become more angry.

Therefore, while you absolutely must not get angry yourself, you do need to get on the same energy level as your prospects.  More specifically, you need to try and mirror your prospect's emotions BUT in a positive way.

Mirroring the prospect's emotions shows them that you care about whatever is triggering them.  It doesn't mean that you become angry yourself.  Instead, you’re just reflecting their energy level in a positive way to show that you care.

For example, if your prospect is angry about the current state of their business, instead of just coldly staring back at them, get hyped up yourself!  Show energy in your voice and body language.  But, just keep the energy positive!  When you get on their level, they will see that you care about them.

Lastly, once you are on the same energy level with your prospect, transfer their emotions over to your solution.

Remember, anger is just negative energy.  And, that energy can easily be transferred into another form.  Just when they are at their peak emotional level, bring up your solution to try and transfer their energy into it.

In the end, the prospect will have all of their energy invested into your solution.  Then as a result, you win!

 

How to Respond to a Prospect Who Is Not Interested

 

Let's say you make a sales call, get the prospect on the phone, and then they immediately hit you with "We're not interested".  If this has never happened to you before, consider yourself lucky because it's pretty soul-crushing.

Here's the thing: If your prospect says they are not interested, the first thing to do is ask yourself whether or not you qualified them well enough.  Are they a qualified prospect that is just acting like a difficult customer, or are they seriously not going to benefit from your solution?

If you do believe that this prospect truly is a qualified customer, then continue on!

When dealing with an uninterested prospect who you know has a problem you can solve, you need to get to the core of why they are saying they aren't interested.

You know that they have a problem that needs solving, so why would they tell you they don’t want it solved?  Uncovering that hidden reason is your job!

Here is exactly what you need to do when a prospect tells you they aren't interested:

  1. Mirror back with "You're not interested?"
  2. Mirror their response
  3. Summarize what they have to say

The goal with these three steps is to initiate a conversation with the prospect so that they don’t hang up on you AND so they reveal the real reason why they are saying they’re uninterested.

First off, immediately after a prospect tells you that they aren't interested, mirror that back to them by asking, "You're not interested?".

This is another way of putting the mirroring tactic to work, and it gives you instant access to the prospect’s subconscious mind.  After asking the question, the prospect should start to reveal the reason why they are saying they’re uninterested.

Second, once the prospect responds to your "You're not interested?" question, use the mirroring tactic again to reflect their response.

For example, if the prospect says "We have too much going on right now" you respond with "Too much going on right now?".  Just like they did with the first mirror question, the prospect will again reveal more information on why they are saying they’re uninterested.

Third, when the prospect answers your second mirror question, summarize all of the information they have revealed to you!

For example, if the prospect says, "Yes, we are currently bogged down by difficult questions from our customers related to the pandemic".

You respond with something along the lines of: "Wow, it sounds like you have a lot going on right now!  Having to answer tough questions is a pressing situation!"

Notice how starting a conversation with the prospect using mirroring revealed the true reason why they are saying they are uninterested?  

It’s not that they don’t want you, it’s just that they are overwhelmed with other issues at the moment.

From there, you can slide your solution into the conversation to help get a sales call set up.

Always remember that, just because someone says they aren’t interested doesn’t mean that it’s true!

 

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How to Respond to a Prospect Who Is In a Hurry

 

Got the key decision-maker on the line but they say that they don't have enough time to talk to you?

No problem!  All you need to do is take control of the situation so that the prospect doesn’t slip out of your hands.

You can easily take control by:

  1. Offering to set up a formal conversation with them the next day
  2. Letting them know you have some valuable information about their business that they ought to know 

First off, when the prospect says that they are in a hurry, don’t question it.  Like we mentioned above, prospects are crazy busy people, just like you!  

Therefore, when they say that they are too busy, accept it and don’t try to force a sales conversation then and there.  Trying to force something will only hurt their overall customer experience and make them want to shun you.

Instead of trying to force the conversation, say "Okay, no problem! Why don't we set up a short ten minute call for tomorrow morning or afternoon?".

The key is to try to set up the next conversation before letting them off the phone!  If you hang up without setting up the next call, then consider the prospect gone.  

Not only that, but make sure to set up the call for as soon as possible!  The more time in-between setting up the call and the actual call, the greater the odds that the prospect ghosts you.

Second, after proposing a time for the next call, tell the prospect that you have some valuable information about their business that you'd like to share with them.

When you tell the prospect that you have something of value, then they are more likely to want to speak with you further.

Just think about it from their shoes... Why would they want to give up their time to speak with you when they don't know if they will actually get something valuable out of it?

Therefore, be sure to let the prospect know that you've got something that you think they ought to know about.  Telling them that creates a sense of urgency so that they genuinely want to show up to the call!

Prospect is busy?  No problem!  Keep control over the sales process to keep them in the palm of your hand.

 

How to Respond to a Prospect That Wants to Negotiate

 

Picture this: You and your sales team are at the final sales pitch, and have done an excellent job up to this point.  You've qualified perfect leads, asked the right sales questions, made it through the initial sales calls, and now you're finally at the last sales pitch.  Even better, the sales pitch is going fantastic so far!  That is, at least, until you put the price of your deliverable on the table.  Immediately, the prospects sit back deeper into their chairs, and the energy in the room obviously changes.  Then, their head decision-maker says, "let's negotiate".

This exact scenario is every salesperson's worst nightmare.  To make it all the way to the end of the sales process just to negotiate price is nothing short of horrible.

However, you can absolutely still close on the prospect at your original price without ruffling any feathers if you use the right negotiation tactics.  

Not sure where to look for the right tactics?  No problem!  Just follow our complete guide to sales negotiation!  Follow these tactics, and you can consider the deal yours.

The key to getting what you want out of a negotiation is to have complete confidence in yourself, your business, and your price tag.

When you are confident that the value of what you have to offer is reflected in your price tag, your prospects will feel it as you negotiate with them!  In the end, not only will you walk away happy, but so will the prospects!

In a perfect world, no sales team would ever get to this scenario in the first place because they showed impeccable confidence throughout the entire sales process.  But, that isn't reality for most.

Thankfully, if you can show genuine confidence in response to the prospect's objection AND use the right negotiation tactics, you can still secure the deal at your original price.

 

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How to Respond to a Prospect Who Says ‘No’ To You

 

Finally, we've made it to addressing everyone's favorite prospect!  The one that everyone loves to hate the most... It's the prospect who hits you with a flat-out 'no'!

While nobody wants to deal with a ‘no' prospect, there is some good news about them: Whether they respond to your cold email with a 'no', your cold call with a 'no', or even your formal pitch with a 'no', just know that 'no' doesn't always mean 'no'!

When faced with a ‘no’ prospect, the key is to step back and look at the bigger picture.  By that, we mean realizing that a 'no' in that exact moment doesn't mean that it will be a 'no' next week, tomorrow, or even an hour!

With that said, when a prospect tells you 'no', don't push them.  Pushing the prospect will create obvious tension and make them want to run for the hills.

Instead, maintain your control over the situation by:

  1. Breaking up the silence with follow-up questions
  2. Connecting with them on social media
  3. Sending them a 'break-up' message

First off, when you've done everything you possibly can and the prospect still says 'no', there is likely to be a long and awkward pause.  The awkwardness is so palpable that you could bottle it up!

Instead of letting that pause go on, break up the silence by asking a few basic follow-up questions, such as "I understand, but is there anything else I can do for you?".  

Whatever questions you ask, make sure that they are ones that are intended to help further serve the prospect!

Second, connect with your prospects on LinkedIn as a way of saying 'I still care about your success even though you didn't pick me!".

Connecting with them helps you form a relationship with them in case that they do end up giving you a 'yes' later down the road!

Lastly and most importantly, send your prospect a break-up message.  This tactic is particularly helpful for when your prospect tells you 'no' over an email.

A break-up message is your last-ditch effort to get the prospect to change their mind.  In the message, you say something along the lines of "I'm so sorry to see you go, I hope you've made the right choice for your business!".

You wouldn't believe how effective the break-up message can be!  In many cases, it helps the prospect realize that you really are the person to help them.

Remember, a 'no' might mean 'no' in one second. But, there are 86,400 total seconds in the day.  

Don't let a single no in a single second deter you.  Set yourself up for a 'yes' down the line by asking follow-up, connecting on social media, and sending the all-important break-up message!

 

Final Thoughts on Dealing w/ Difficult Prospects & Getting Them to Buy!

 

Remember, if you have to deal with difficult prospects, focus on the three keys to success, empathy, service, and control, if you want to both ease the prospect's difficulties and stay on track to close the sale.

Handling difficult prospects doesn't need to be the death of you.  In fact, learning how to respond to them effectively and still being able to close can be one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

Top sales professionals stay on track to close the sale, regardless of how challenging their prospect is!

Never let a difficult prospect be the thing that stands in your way of closing a deal!