Sales Tips for the Reluctant Salesperson – Be SHARPE

Editor’s Note: Sales coach Brian Sullivan spends most of his time working with salespeople and sales executives from medical products manufacturers and distributors. But he’s got something to say to contracting professionals as well.

Has a department head, colleague or associate come to you with a concern lately? Did you rack your brain trying to come up with the perfect solution or response, only to get nowhere? Well, Dan Burris knows why you can’t solve the problem. It’s because you are solving the wrong one! You’re focusing too much on the words used to describe the problem and not enough time on the meaning behind them.

Let’s say you or your GPO has signed a contract with a new company with innovative products. You do a presentation to a department head and are feeling good about gaining his commitment. Your prospect then says, “You know … I have a problem. I have never heard of that company before and that concerns me a bit.” At this point, the average, non-problem-solver contracting executive launches into a response loaded with meaningless corporate information that doesn’t address the real problem. You, on the other hand, are a SHARPE problem solver. And to be SHARPE, you know you must do the following:

Stop: When you are presented a problem, concern or objection, stop everything you are doing and don’t interrupt. Don’t assume you already know what they are going to say.

Hear: Listen intently and don’t think about what you are going to say next. If your ears shut down too early, you may miss the clues behind the words.

Ask: This is the tool to uncovering the real problem. You may have to keep asking until you get four or five layers deep. The real problem is often revealed only after you ask them to tell you in more detail what they mean, or what really concerns them.

Respond: What will you say when you finally get to the real problem through your detailed questioning? Be prepared by verbally practicing common responses to common problems. The way you respond will tell them a lot about your ability to overcome the real problem.

Pack It: How do you know you solved the real problem or answered the real objection? By packing it with agreement with a question like, “So does that answer your concerns? Great.” Too many assume their response was acceptable when in fact it didn’t solve the problem.

Exit: Get away from that problem as quick as you can with a transition like, “Oh, and I was wondering…” or “By the way….” Remember; don’t ever say, “Do you have any other concerns or problems?” Because if you ask, they often feel like the need to come up with another problem, whether one exists or not.

So, are you wondering about that department head who had concerns that he had never heard of that new company? Well don’t worry. Because by being SHARPE, you realized that he really wasn’t concerned about the newness of the company. He just wanted to know you would support him and his department should problems arise in the future. By isolating his real concern, you were able to solve it.

About the Author

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan, CSP teaches salespeople and leaders how to influence more people in his PRECISE Business Development Programs. Sign up for a FREE Online Training Module on How to Become a Master Questioner by going to Or visit him at
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