Jane was having problems uncovering accurate information during her discussions with prospects. Her conversations during sales calls tended to be unfocused, and she spent a lot of time pursuing options that her prospects ended up rejecting. Her manager suggested she try something called Negative Reversing.
Negative Reversing is a “reverse psychology” selling technique. It helps you steer a conversation in a particular direction to explore another avenue or test a prospect’s reaction to a particular aspect of your product or service.
If the prospect responds favorably, you continue to explore the topic. If the prospect is cool to the topic or reacts unfavorably, you move to another topic.
A Negative Reverse is a question preceded by a softening statement such as “Hmm” or “I see” or Good point.” However, the question is posed in the negative, or expressed in a manner opposite to the position you want to establish or the direction you want to steer the conversation. So, for instance, if you want to speak to Jim for ten minutes, and you reach him on the phone, you might ask, “I don’t suppose you have ten minutes to talk, do you?”
This strategy allows you to test the prospect’s reaction to an idea – it could be the possibility of talking for ten minutes, or it could be some aspect of your product or service. Technically, the question takes the conversation in one direction. The prospect’s answer, however, may take it in the opposite direction (one favorable to you, your product or service). In any event, you’re likely to get an honest read on whatever idea you’ve presented.
NEGATIVE REVERSE EXAMPLE
Here’s an example that shows how Jane put Negative Reversing into action once she had practiced the technique during role-plays with her manager:
Prospect: Can we take delivery in 30 to 45 days?
Jane: Hmm . . . You don’t want it sooner?
Prospect: No. Actually, a delivery any sooner than 30 days would create a warehousing problem.
Jane: I see. We’ll have no problem scheduling you for a 30- to 45-day delivery.
To be an effective salesperson, you must be an effective communicator. You must be able to decode your prospects’ statements and explanations and cut through ambiguous (or even misleading) language. By asking good questions, you will keep prospects talking, exploring, and explaining their thinking and feelings – and focused on the topic at hand and moving the conversation in the direction you want it to go. One of the most important questioning strategies is the Negative Reverse, because it helps you discern, in a subtle way, the prospect’s favorable or unfavorable disposition toward a particular topic or course of action. Jane used the Negative Reverse to learn more about her prospects, save time, keep her discussions focused, and improve her closing ration. You can, too!