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Did you know that the IRS was once thought a marvelous excuse to get out of meetings in the 1980s?


Recently, I picked up a business book with a copyright of 1988. (I enjoy old used books. Don’t judge me.) By the time I got to chapter four, the IRS was used as a scapegoat in multiple scenarios. Usually to stall, interrupt, or change the flow of a meeting. The author used it no less than 8 times in 40 pages! It's doubtful the IRS could be used as an excuse in this decade, but the concepts are still the same. Sales-professionals need strategies to interrupt and redirect the flow of a meeting or interaction.

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve arrived at a meeting, even set your up-front contract for how the meeting will go, and suddenly your prospect has hijacked the meeting. Ugh! Now you are discussing things you never agreed to, and frankly, the discussion has nothing to do with the meeting at hand. (“Yes, I love sushi. No, I haven’t been to that store.”)

This is a strategy employed by buyers, sometimes intentionally, other times not, to derail the conversation and take up your time. The hope is that you, the sales professional, will become distracted and agree to something you would not normally agree to. Other times this strategy is to simply run out the clock. Maybe they are never going to buy from you or maybe they have no authority to make decisions. Whatever the reason the result is you are not moving the needle on this sale.

How do you turn the conversation back to what both parties have agreed to?

If it were still 1988 you could look at your watch, feign surprise at the time, then interrupt by saying “excuse me, this is the time I was supposed to call the man back from the IRS.” What happened was the sales professional was able to politely interrupt the conversation and upon returning to the meeting could redirect the conversation back to the up-front contract. Apparently, no one would question the validity of a call to the IRS.

Would this excuse work for sellers now? Not at all. But finding an excuse to interrupt and redirect a conversation is exactly what you need to change the direction of the meeting that’s gone off the rails.

Back in 1988, when the seller left to call the IRS, the buyer was forced to stop steering the conversation where they wanted it to go. The buyer lost their momentum. In 2021 you need a strategy that does the same thing. Stop the wandering conversation and move it back to the topic at hand. Restate your up-front contract, take the reins and steer the conversation where you need it to go. Then close the sale or close the file.

What method will you use to interrupt and redirect?

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