How to Overcome Resistance to Buy…Embrace It

Mark Frasco - President


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Overcome – verb

  • To defeat someone or something
  • To get the better of

Antonym: to lose

We’ve been taught the wrong thing for decades now. Listen for buyer objections and be prepared to overcome those objections. Manuals have been written. Flow charts have been developed. Sales people have been drilled with techniques to overcome resistance to buy. Do buyers really have a natural resistance to sellers of products and services?

Let’s start with resistance to buy. This is nothing more than resistance to change. What buyers resist is change for the sake of change – as they should. I’ve always felt that resistance in buying systems is the most important discovery for a salesperson: an important building block that leads to acceptance.

Let’s make it easy. Acceptance to buy means the buyer is comfortable with, and in fact, wants or needs change. This is change from what they are currently doing, to something better. I believe deeply that this is actually what buyers accept: something better. If buyers consistently resist your offerings, what you’re offering is not better or not needed… right now.

From 2001, until her death in 2003, I had the honor of working with Kathleen Dannemiller. Kathie was a pioneer in the study of organizational change. With her partner, Chuck Tyson, Kathie was one of the first female consultants to work at the highest levels of Ford Motor Company. It was the 1970s. She was introducing a new way of thinking about organizational alignment and change.

In fact, she refined a formula that revolutionized the way we think about work and the workings of organizations.

This formula is equally useful in the endeavors of buyers and sellers. It helps describe resistance in human systems.

Here it is with a twist for those in the sales profession:

D x V x F > R

A model that describes conditions necessary to overcome resistance to buy

  • D = Shared Dissatisfaction or concern about current state
  • V = Shared Vision of a future state that is better
  • F = First steps, committing to action in the direction of the vision
  • R = Resistance to buy

As with any multiplication problem, if any value in the formula is zero, the product is zero; therefore, overcoming resistance to buy would be impossible. So, let’s break this down a bit. There are some important points that need to be understood by the selling professional:

First, let’s talk about the “shared” element of the first two factors, D and V. To accomplish meaningful, sustainable change, a broadly shared idea of the current state and a broadly shared idea of some future state that is better are needed. This means that the professional salesperson needs to identify the various buying influences, gather their collective feelings about their current state, and help them build a shared idea of the future that is better with her product or service being installed. Without the “shared” elements understood and described, change in the buying system is impossible to accomplish.

Back in the day, we used teach our salespeople to look for the “pain” in the buying system. I prefer to think of the first element as some shared dissatisfaction about the current state in the buying organization. It could be that they are not getting the features they need, or their supplier is not servicing them as well as they should, or they are growing and their current capacity to serve their market is in jeopardy. The key is to find that shared dissatisfaction of their current state, helping them identify and describe it.

What about this shared vision? This isn’t easy stuff. Many inexperienced salespeople struggle with helping their prospects see a future that is better with their product or service installed. Many sales losses and many delays happen here.

First, the salesperson must be competent. They need to not only know how their product or service functions, but they need to be able to help the buying system see the future with their company serving them. They need to be able to communicate the dramatic difference their company will make on the buying system’s future, help them see the implications and payoff. Don’t forget – doing this with one person in the buying system is not sufficient. They must help the buying system develop a shared vision of the future with their product or service installed.

We now have our shared dissatisfaction and vision in place. We have a collective understanding of where we are and a better place we would like to go.

Now, we must help the buying system understand the steps that are required to make the change. Selling systems need to have a highly-refined process map outlining how they propose, engage and supply their services so that the buying system never feels unsure about the next step; that includes the most important first steps. It is important for the selling organization to have this in place to avoid being completely controlled by the buying system. Lacking a deliberate selling system, sales professionals often find themselves frustrated by buying systems that aren’t necessarily designed to feature the value add features of the selling system’s delivery system.

Overcoming resistance to buy isn’t the goal in my mind. Professional salespeople today are business leaders who understand human behavior and how to apply their products and services in a way that positively disrupts the buying systems’ mindset about the possibilities of working together.

Note: This article was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated and revised for relevance.  

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com