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Sales Presentations-5 Tips for Handling Hostile Questions

Hostile questions can quickly derail your sales presentation or demo. These questions occur for any number of reasons including:

  • The questioner has a chip on their shoulder
  • The person wants to feel superior and raise their status in the group
  • They like the competition’s product or service
  • Your product or service threatens them or their job
  • They want to show that they know more than you do

I’m sure you can think of lots more.

Hostile questions can cost you the sale–or at the very least waste valuable selling time.

So, what can we do to handle hostile questions before they create problems?

Here’s 5 tips:

1) Avoid hostile questions in the first place – Know your audience, if someone on the team is against you, try to add points to your presentation that will preempt their objection.

2) Stay focused on their issues – Keep your presentation focused on the issues your prospects care about. Bring up a topic that’s not relevant, and you run the risk of hostile questions and comments.

3) Look for common ground – You may have a valid difference of opinion with your prospect, that’s OK if you try to find areas where you agree.

Let’s say they don’t agree with a new process that you are advocating. Find common ground by reminding them that they’re unhappy with the existing process and, while not without flaws, your process may help.

4) Defer to power – Often, if someone is hijacking the meeting, it’s bad for the prospect as well.

One technique that I often use is to ask the highest ranking manager if you should continue on this thread or in the interest of time, handle it off-line. The ball is now in the managers court. If they want to continue, hang in there. More often than not, if the questions are off topic or too hostile, the manager will help you get back on topic.

5) Defer to the audience – If you don’t know who has the power, you can ask the group as a whole if they want to continue on a thread or cover it off-line. Often they will be on your side and you’ll be asked to table the topic for later.

Here is another great post on handling tough questions from Steve Martin at Heavy Hitter Sales

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