The Wall of Defensiveness: 7 Ways to Tear It Down

Submitted by Ari Galper | Category: General Interest | Published on Jan 05, 2005
Have you ever gotten frustrated when you realize that your prospects keep stereotyping you as a salesperson? And because of that, they don't give you the trust and openness that you deserve, and that are essential if you're going to help them solve

Have you ever gotten frustrated when you realize that your prospects keep stereotyping you as a "salesperson"? And because of that, they don't give you the trust and openness that you deserve, and that are essential if you're going to help them solve their problems?

That's what's been happening to Michael, who calls companies to set appointments with decisionmakers. "I have a great product that I'm passionate about," he told me, "but when I call prospects, they immediately start treating me as just another salesperson who's trying to sell them the same type of product that others have tried to sell to them in the past...Is there any way to stop them from pigeonholing me?"

Michael is hitting what I call the "wall of defensiveness" that almost all decisionmakers these days use to protect themselves against sales calls. It tears me apart that he, like so many other salespeople, have to endure this type of personal rejection as he tries to make a living.

And none of the sales training or motivational programs he's been through had helped him to solve this frustrating and debilitating situation.

In our one-on-one sessions, Michael and I discussed 7 key strategies that can break down that wall, and he's been finding that they work for him...maybe they'll work for you, they are...

1. Curb your enthusiasm. This idea always comes as a shock to anyone who's been exposed to the old "sales gurus" who insist, "The more enthusiastic you are about what you are selling, the more people will be attracted to your solution"--but, boy, are they wrong! When you come across as overly enthusiastic, especially when you're on a first call to a new prospect, you immediately trigger sales pressure that tells your prospect, "I'm excited because I just know that you need what I have to offer!" But in any new situation, that's exactly what you don't know--so try cutting out your enthusiasm on initial calls. Otherwise, you're likely to hit the wall.

2. Avoid assuming that you and your prospect are a fit. You may have the "perfect prospect"--someone with the exact criteria and profile of your ideal customer. However, if your words or tone of voice say, "I know you'll benefit from our service because you fit the exact profile of our customer base," you'll inadvertently will set off alarms that will let your prospect associate you with the negative "salesperson" stereotype. Instead, learn to be humble, and avoid making assumptions until after your prospects trust you enough to share their true issues with you. Then the two of you can decide, in a natural evolutionary way, whether you're a match or not.

3. Don't think that you have to have all the answers or you'll "lose" the sale. So many of us work ourselves into a frenzy before we actually pick up the phone to call someone. Why? We're afraid that if we make a mistake or don't deliver our pitch perfectly, we'll be rejected. But it's okay not to have all the answers. Ever see the TV show "Columbo"? Was he perfect? No. He was human, humble, and unassuming, and people trusted him. It's okay not to have all the answers. Needing to have all the answers is a control trip, and when you're with a prospect, you're not in control--the two of you are in a relationship. The more you internalize that realization, the more comfortable and less frenzied you'll feel. And you'll be surprised when your prospect appreciates you for being a just another human being.

4. Don't try to overcome objections. Overcoming objections doesn't build trust. Instead, it only associates you with the negative stereotype of a salesperson who has been trained to move the sales process forward at the prospect's expense. When you hear an objection, diffuse it and re-engage the conversation on your prospect's terms.

5. Learn to diffuse sales pressure. Hidden sales pressure is the root of all sales woes. Diffuse it at the beginning of the relationship, and you'll never have to deal with it again. Shift your mindset and change your language so it reflects you being your most natural self. The most sophisticated sales strategies in the world won't make any difference if you don't know how to diffuse the sales pressure that prospects are only too quick to sense--and back away from--in any buyer-seller relationship.

6. View prospects as potential friends, not as sources of commissions. If you see dollar signs instead of human beings when you're with prospects, they'll sense your attitude and see those dollar signs in your eyes. Keep your conversations human by always viewing your prospects as people who have potential problems that you can solve.

7. Acknowledging the sales game diffuses the pressure. If you find yourself in a sales situation that puts your relationship with your prospect at risk--for example, a prospect promises to call you back but doesn't--call the "game." Call your prospect and say simply and gently that you really don't want the relationship to degenerate into the stereotypical cat-and-mouse sales game. Your message should always be, "Our relationship, not my commission, is my priority."

The bottom line of all this is: You can no longer rely on what you are selling to distinguish yourself, because there's just too much competition out there. Instead, you must focus on how you're selling. That's the only thing that will make you different from everyone else.

About the Author

With a Masters Degree in Instructional Design and over a decade of experience creating breakthrough sales strategies for global companies such as UPS and QUALCOMM, Ari Galper discovered the missing link that people who sell have been seeking for years. His profound discovery of shifting one's mindset to a place of complete integrity, based on new words and phrases grounded in sincerity, has earned him distinction as the world's leading authority on how to build trust in the world of selling. Leading companies such as Gateway, Clear Channel Communications, Brother International and Fidelity National Mortgage have called on Ari to keep them on the leading edge of sales performance. Visit to get his free sales training lessons.


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