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Three Rules for Dealing With Obstacles

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
June 10, 2010

Sometimes the real power resides with a decision-influencer, and that can be darn important to moving the decision-maker. But there is an equally powerful polar opposite to the decision-influencer who views you and your solution favorably. This one views you less favorably: the obstacle.

The obstacle opposes you and/or your solution. It doesn’t matter why; what matter is that you don’t violate the rules for dealing with obstacles.

The First Rule: Don’t Cause Them To Defend

As salespeople, we uncover and build dissatisfaction in order to find ways to create better outcomes for our dream clients. But pressing an obstacle about their dissatisfaction will only cause them to defend their incumbent provider, their present solution, or the status quo. The more you try to find an opening that you can exploit to create the rationale and the motivation to move a potential deal forward, the more elusive they become.

The Second Rule: Let Them Lead

Even without anything to defend, your obstacle is still likely to remind you that she is completely happy with her present situation and that she has no reason to change. In order to find an opening that you may be able to use, you have to let your obstacle lead. You have to allow her the freedom to direct the conversation and to talk. Allow your obstacle to speak long enough, and she may reveal some of the things that might be made better.

Eliciting dissatisfaction from an obstacle means allowing them to share their vision without you trying to sell or present your vision. Even asking your standard needs-analysis questions can cause her to entrench. It’s her dance; let her lead.

The Third Rule: Take It Away

Sometimes to move an obstacle, you have to use the negative sell. This is especially true when they are contrarian. You have to present ideas (especially ideas that your research tells you will be important to them) and then take them back. It sounds like this: “We have succeeded in doing this for a number of clients, but I am not sure it is right for you.” It doesn’t matter what the answer is. If they say your idea won’t work, you have set up the follow up question: “What would work?” If they say it would work, then you follow up with: “How would you see that working?”

Either way, you haven’t forced them to entrench, you haven’t taken away their control and their power, and you are letting them lead. Sometimes this will be enough to move an obstacle.


Decision-influencers can make or break your deal. Dealing with those who would break your deal is a tricky business. But it starts by following three important rules, including not making your obstacle defensive, allowing them to lead with their vision and, occasionally, taking something away.


    1. What effect does trying to elicit dissatisfaction have an obstacle?

    1. How can you keep your obstacle from entrenching himself deeper in his position?

    1. How do you allow your obstacle to lead the conversation and share his vision? How do you identify the openings for value creation?

  1. When is appropriate and/or necessary for you to use a negative sell?

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 10, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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