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  • Kalani Thomas

Saddling the Elephant in the Room

In every communications I’ve been in professionally, one thing rang true nearly every time.

There was always an elephant in the room.

Now this could be the elephant of a salesperson, eager to close a deal because of a quota, bonus or SPIF (Sales Performance Incentive Fund). It could be the elephant of a decision maker, who knows already it’s too expensive or won’t be a viable option for some reason unknown to the salesperson. Even that dear-in-the-headlights stare of a person that is being asked to do something, but has no clue what the first step is, much less the finish…but won’t say anything and will struggle through the task.

No matter the reason, you should look at the elephant in the room, and call it what it is. My favorite part of teaching this metaphor to people, is I now get calls about elephants that were holding up progress, elephants that were causing distractions, and my favorite, elephants that never needed to be elephants.

As a salesperson, and now coach, I always looked at the elephant in the room as a reason to bond and build rapport.

Take a salesperson and a decision maker. Both, in this scenario, have an elephant. The salesperson, broke, struggling, needs to make a sale. The decision maker, broke, struggling, needs to avoid the salesperson because they can’t or won’t buy something right now anyways. This usually plays out in a very immediate scene that all salespeople are familiar with.

Salesperson: “Hello, Mr. Jones, My name is…..”

(Before the whole sentence can even come out)

Decision maker: “Look kid, I appreciate the call, but I’m not interested”

Most salespeople hear this so often in a day that it becomes traumatizing. I’ve literally seen some leave for lunch and never come back for this exact reason. Half the sales people I know, come back with this doozy of a line;

Salesperson: “What is it that you aren’t interested in? You haven’t even heard my company’s name or what we do, much less our prices.”

If this is you, congratulations, you have just pissed off your potential, now unlikely to be, customer; and have backed yourself into a corner. As soon as they say…

“I am not interested in talking to you or buying anything”

….You have lost the power.

You have to take this from them in a more commanding way, be a salesperson and control the call. A better response;

Salesperson: “Usually when people say that to me, it’s for one of 2 reasons. Either they don’t want to talk to a salesperson, or they don’t think my product has any value. Would you say you are guilty of that as well?”

You have now just gotten them to stop and buy what you are selling: Salespeople are annoying and have little value to most of their customers.

Even if this is not true, it is an easy “sell” when the call has already started out hostile. The decision maker almost always responds;


Now you can continue with your call, and educate them on why you or your company is different. This is actually a great time to look at using a “Quick Pitch”, kind of like an elevator speech. I’ve attached the link here to show you how to build and use one in this scenario.

This was a tougher one, talking about a cold relationship with a few elephants in the room.

What about the hardest way to call out an elephant? A personal relationship where only one person has an elephant, and it isn’t you?

Personal relationships require a little more finesse. If it is you with the elephant, just do what you can to discuss it. If you can’t be vulnerable with a more personal relationship, than it probably wasn’t that personal to begin with.

If it is the other person, and they won’t mention it, you should try to mention it for them. Take for example, the salesperson and the decision maker. A decision maker will not always come right out and say no. Sometimes they do it well at the end of the process, after everything has been discussed and paperwork lingers to be signed. How do you get them back on the same page with you? Call out the elephant. Here something simple has happened…You’ve spent time together in a capacity explaining each other’s value and abilities to each other. A little, I can get that done conversation. Now that the dust has settled, something has happened when you weren’t around, and an elephant has walked in the room and stepped on your contract.

I will actually call the decision maker back and say something like this;

“I know you and I have discussed a lot of details and things always change when the contract is dropped off. I want you to know what we discussed was based on the information we both had then, and if that changes I’m happy to re-evaluate how our relationship looks moving forward.”

Even just this on a voicemail will usually garner a quick call back, and an eagerness to discuss why the holdup has taken place.

You won’t always get a positive reaction or conversation out of someone, but all you can do is put in your part of the effort and go from there.