How to Handle Drifting Receptivity
You are a middle manager at a health & fitness distribution company, and you have an idea for a process change that will save your company up to $100,000 a year.
You are ready to present your idea to your boss, Adrian. Adrian’s style is fast-paced, hard-working, and demanding. He is always interested in proposals that will contribute to the bottom line.
All Your Ducks in a Row
To ensure high receptivity, you schedule your presentation at an opportune time. You prepare carefully, with a clear presentation and support materials to help Adrian understand your concept.
Your presentation begins well, and you can see that Adrian is attentive. He asks questions that show enagement. At one point, he asks a cost question that you were ready for. He says, “Good, you’ve got the numbers!”
Well . . . Almost!
However, a bit later, when he asks where the company will get the two additional people who are needed to make the plan work, you say, “I thought they could come from our other location.” He reacts strongly. “No, no, we’re not getting involved with our other location. If it hinges on that, I don’t know . . . .”
Adrian’s receptivity has taken a visible hit. How should you proceed?
The Q4 Answer
Smoothing over an objection in order to keep your momentum going may feel good as you’re doing it, but several things come into play. In terms of receptivity, you may be leaving Adrian behind. He may have a history with the manager of your other distribution center, and the last thing he wants is to ask for a favor or help. Whatever his reason, you need to get his attention back. Also, if you don’t take time to deal with his objection, you may be painting yourself into a corner. What if you don’t have an alternative? Maybe you should get his input (which could provide a solution), rather than finish out your presentation (which will have to be changed anyway).
This is a better solution than A. No matter what, you may have to go back and figure out an alternative your boss will support. However, you miss a real opportunity to learn valuable information about what your boss is thinking if you do not probe his objection. The two of you may even solve it right on the spot. Answer C gives suggestions on how that can be accomplished.
In our Q4 selling workshop, we advise that you should deal with an objection when it occurs, not just soldier on. Why? Loss of receptivity. Adrian is the internal customer you have to sell, and it’s hard to sell when his interest in your proposal has plunged. Sure, you want to stay on track, but since this solution has turned off your boss, probe right away to learn more. That’s a Q4 collaborative influencing skill.
Acknowledging his strong reaction with a reflective probe is a good starting point: “Okay, I see the idea of pulling two people from our other location doesn’t sit well with you at all.” This may help him feel more inclined to explain, which gives you valuable information on how to generate an acceptable alternative. If he doesn’t elaborate, some open-end probes might bring out his reasons for ruling out your idea. Obviously, if he says he’s made his decision and there’s no point in discussing it, you move on. But try probing to raise receptivity and to gain information for hitting a bull’s-eye in spite of a change in plans.