Turning a Negative into a Positive

Sometimes in sales you have to reframe a situation and add value to a negative viewpoint.

By Carole Mahoney

How do you add value to a conversation? If value is in the eye of the beholder, and you aren’t a mind reader, how do you do accomplish the art of adding value?

And when your conversation centers on sales, this can be made more difficult by the fact oftentimes buyers have a negative viewpoint going into the conversation—making it even more difficult to communicate value to them.

This is called the “Theory of Reasoned Action,” where people behave according to attitudes and beliefs. This means they will reject your ideas, products, and services with responses like, “It costs too much.”

So, what do you do in that situation to add value and help those buyers make the best decision?

How to Reframe Any Sales Conversation

“Cognitive reframing” is a psychological technique that helps people gain new perspectives by identifying and disputing irrational or negative thoughts and changing how they view things to a positive alternative.

This means there is a framework we can use to help our buyers think differently about their problems and gain a new perspective, which research shows is what buyers value most in salespeople they want to work with.

First validate the buyer’s perspective, then offer them a positive perspective.

It is also something I do several times a day when I am coaching clients. The biggest part of a sales coach’s job is to help someone gain new perspectives on themselves and circumstances to help them change their behaviors.

How can you do with your buyers what I do with salespeople every day? There are three basic frameworks I use. Each of the three involves these two steps.

  1. Validate their perspective.
  2. Offer a positive perspective to their negative one.

Three Reframing Examples

This is not about lying or spinning the truth, far from it. Reframing is a technique therapists use with trauma patients. It doesn’t change their circumstances, but rather their outlook on it.

You can shift any negative to a positive. Again, first validate the buyer’s perspective, then offer them a positive perspective. Here are a few examples of how you might reframe someone who is saying, “It’s too expensive.”

Reframe 1. Compare and contextualize options.

What could they do and how will that impact the future? And remember that doing nothing is always an option and the one that is most likely to happen!

Option: “Yes, this is a significant investment in cost and time. You could delay the decision, but based on what you said about how poor water is impacting your health and the way your appliances are running, a $500 investment now to eliminate the elements in your water that are causing buildup will save you several thousand dollars later because you won’t have to replace appliances like your washing machine
and dishwasher every five or six years. Would you rather pay $3000 every few years, or $500 now to ensure you have the best water possible? Not to mention you won’t need to buy bottled water anymore.”

Reframe 2. Cost of consequences.

What is their desired gain and fear of loss?

Option: “Yes, you are right; this is an investment. So, what if you don’t make this investment? You can continue to use the old parts, and they might work for a year or two, but what if they fail in the middle of summer when you need water the most? What if the water isn’t as clean and you and your family get sick?”

Reframe 3. Content alignment.

What do they believe about their goals and how can you align to them?

Option: “I understand this is a large investment to you. You shared that you want to have the cleanest water with the strongest flow because you can’t handle carrying the large containers of bottled water anymore, and you need to be able to fill your hot tub quickly. But more importantly, you said that you have family visit often and don’t want the sulfur smell. This solution is proven to help clean the water and give you the flow rate you need for the household and the hot tub.”

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Whether or not you will be able to reframe your buyer’s negative perception into a positive one will depend on how strong your sales fundamentals are.

For example, if you struggle with keeping your emotions in control, it will be difficult to recognize when you need to reframe what someone else is saying. You will be too busy trying to think up what to say to refute their objection. If you have a need for approval, you won’t want to risk pushing back at them because of how they might think of you.

If and when that happens, the best thing you can do is pause, take a breath, and put yourself in their shoes. This allows you to reflect on what they shared with you and think of the questions to ask to prompt a different response in their minds.

Like the title of this column says: You’ve got to eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive.

Mahoney Offers Tips on YouTube for Sales Leaders and Sellers
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney provides tips for sales leaders and sellers on YouTube. Past topics have included how to get over fears and have better conversations, how to become a top salesperson, and cognitive behavioral tips to sell on value. To watch these videos and future ones, visit Mahoney’s Linktree webpage and click “YouTube” in the drop-down menu.
Have a Sales or Marketing Question for Mahoney? Let Us Know!
Is there a sales or marketing issue that you have wondered about for a long time? Do you wish you or your team had a technique for better closing sales or promoting your business and its products and services? Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney can help. Email WWJ Editor Thad Plumley at tplumley@ngwa.org and he will arrange for Mahoney to answer your question in a video at www.WaterWellJournal.com.

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at www.unboundgrowth.com.