By Paul Reilly

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Muhammad Ali is referring to the everyday distractions that take us off course—those little setbacks that wear us out. His observation holds for salespeople as well. It’s not the challenging climb that wears you out. Great challenges inspire greater motivation. It’s the minor, unexpected, and annoying setbacks that impede progress. In the ground-breaking book The Progress Principle, researchers found that small losses impede progress more than small wins generate progress.

While training a group of motivated sellers, one shared a small loss impeding his progress.

Let me know if this sounds familiar. He’s pursuing an opportunity, and everything is falling into place. His solution aligns perfectly with their needs. The key decision-makers agree the solution is a great fit. He’s on the cusp of securing the deal…and then one detractor stalls the deal.

This detractor is the annoying pebble stuck in your shoe—the sediment of impediment. They wear you out.

These preventers of progress challenge sellers everywhere. These sales saboteurs work against your effort, delaying your progress. Enthusiasm for your solution starts to waver. Buyers believe change is no longer worth it—the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

So, what’s the best way to remove this pebble?

Begin with the all-important question…Why? Why are they pushing back? Why are they attempting to sabotage this solution? Use the following questions to accurately understand the root-cause of their reluctance.

Were they part of the initial discovery?

People are more likely to change when the change emanates from within. Ensure all stakeholders are involved early in the process. Early involvement provides stakeholders with a choice to change versus a mandate to change.

This involves a deeper understanding of who’s involved. It’s critical to ask, “Who has ultimate authority?” And it’s equally important to ask, “Who is ultimately affected?” Early involvement can turn those adversaries into advocates.

Do they understand the need to change?

People change when they recognize the compelling need to change. Late-stage pushback is a symptom of a more significant issue—failing to expose the need to change. Needs exist along multiple levels within an organization. For example, a solution could make good business sense, but engineering could perceive the solution as too risky. Identify the individuals’ needs, then shape your solution to their specific needs and desired outcomes. An early understanding helps you align the value-added impact to their definition of value.

How are they personally impacted?

Be prepared for pushback if your solution creates more work, risk, or headaches for the impacted individuals. On paper, some solutions look great. The potential impact aligns with their desired outcomes. Everyone seems excited to make it happen except for the person who must do all the legwork. Consider how you can unburden this individual. Make it ridiculously easy for them to implement your solution. How can you make their life easier and mitigate risk? If you cannot answer this question, prepare for pushback.

It’s easier to remove the pebble when you understand why it’s there. Remove the sediment of impediment and push forward.

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