I want to start this by painting a picture. You walk into a store looking for a specific item. You aren’t sure where it would be, whether it’s in stock, or even if it’s necessarily the item you need to solve your problem. A helpful and smiling employee asks if they can assist you giving you an easy path to purchase the product and move on with your day. But instead of accepting their help, you simply say, “no thanks, I’m just looking” and proceed to toast 15 minutes of your life.
Nearly all of us have had this experience. We recognize that it’s counterproductive, but most of us just can’t stop ourselves. We become so distrustful of people who try to sell us things that we turn them away even when we obviously need their assistance.
This isn’t just a weird quirk of human behaviour. If you’re a marketer or business executive, it can have serious consequences for your business.
I found that out recently when I decided to make some outbound calls to warm prospects who had previously engaged my company. (Yes, outbound is still a part of our business, even for an inbound firm.) I wasn’t picking names out of the air; these were men and women who had indicated an interest in our services. And yet, before I could even explain who I was and why was calling, a sizeable chunk of them blurted out they “weren’t interested” and simply hung up the phone.
In speaking with a friend with extensive sales experience, he shared that this is not uncommon. In fact, in the sales industry, they even have a term for it: The Reflexive Brush Off, or RBO. Let’s look at how you can address RBO from derailing your lead generation efforts.
What is a Reflexive Brush Off?
The important thing about an RBO is that it’s exactly that: a reflex. When you begin a sales or marketing conversation with a potential client and they push you away quickly, they are acting out of self defense. It’s not much different, emotionally speaking, from jumping out of the street when a truck is fast approaching. You don’t think about it, you just avoid the danger.
Often, marketers try to “overcome” brush offs as if they were objections. But someone saying they aren’t interested at the start of a phone call isn’t the same as them telling you they can’t afford your services when you present your proposal. A brush off can’t be overcome in this way because it doesn’t have any real meaning. It’s not specific to you, your offer, or anything else. It’s simply something your potential clients says to protect their time and money from the unknown.
Now that you know an RBO doesn’t have any substance behind it, you are free to approach it with a new mindset and proven techniques.
How to Get Past a Customer Brush Off
On the one hand, brush offs can be difficult to get past because they are largely unconscious. You can’t talk your way around something a person feels, instinctively.
You’ll definitely want to avoid cheesy, aggressive turnarounds like “of course you’re not interested, I haven’t told you what I’m offering yet.” Those turn people off and can make you feel like taking a shower.
However, when a customer or prospect brushes you off, I don’t want you to give up, either. At least not right away. Instead, you could try a simple tactic that often works.
The first step is to simply keep the conversation going. Just ask a question. You might say something like: “that’s no problem, I understand. Do you know anyone else who might have a need for better quality leads?” Of course, that’s an example from my industry. The point, though, is that you’ve acknowledged the answer you’ve gotten, restated the benefit you’re trying to provide, and asked a question that caused the listener to think for a moment.
When you utilize that technique, one of a few things is likely to happen. It’s possible the person, now “hearing” you a little more carefully, will engage you in that conversation about getting new leads. You’ve broken the trance and they may remember who you are and why they could use your help.
Alternatively, they may actually suggest a name of someone you should talk to. It could turn out they aren’t the right contact in the company you’re trying to get into, or just know of someone who has a more pressing need. In either case you’re going to end up with a warmer introduction for the next opportunity.
Or, the person may actually decline your offer again. Usually, though, they won’t give you another brush off. Now that you’ve broken their thought pattern and given them a moment to think about what you’re saying, they are likelier to give you a real reason they don’t want to take the next step. It could be that they are too busy at the moment, that they won’t be making a decision on a new vendor for a few months, or that they simply don’t have the budget.
Asking this kind of question isn’t a sales cheat code that will open every door and make every interaction with potential clients a success. But it can get you past the first few seconds of an awkward conversation, and stop the person from hanging up on you without ever really hearing what you had to share.
Do You Brush Off Helpful People?
Although the point of this article is to teach marketers and business leaders how to overcome brush offs, it’s worthwhile sharing that there might be another side to this coin. It’s possible you are the one brushing people off when they could help you.
Go back to the example I laid out in the beginning of this article. Now, think about how many hours of your life could be saved each year if you’re willing to simply ask for help when you want it, or just to listen to potentially useful suggestions and proposals.
I’m certainly not telling you to give your time to every salesperson who comes to the door or shows up on your phone. What I will suggest, though, is that you can be more aware of just how often we close doors without thinking about it. By being slightly more intentional in the way we approach our conversations with existing and potential vendors, we have an opportunity to open up our businesses to some much-needed solutions.
Let’s Take Your Marketing to the Next Level Together
At Kayak Marketing in Calgary, we build wonderful websites and lead generation strategies. But so do lots of companies. What sets us apart is a commitment to coaching and empowering our clients so that they can achieve sustainable results, even without engaging us in the future. We do things with them, not for them so they can keep growing over the long term. We are always learning, and we share what we learn with our clients.
Great ideas for you