Sales Quiz: Handling "I Have a Friend in the Business"

SCENARIO: You're at the beginning of a sales cycle and starting to discuss the products and services your firm offers. The prospect surfaces the following objection:
"I have a friend in the business"
Here are three possible responses. Pick the best one.
  • RESPONSE #1: "There's an old saying that sometimes friendship and business don't mix. If you bought from a friend you might not say anything if you weren't happy with the purchase, but with me you can get on my case until you get what you want."
  • RESPONSE #2: "That's great. Who does he/she work for? Has he/she quoted you a price? What benefits do they offer in that package?" (Continue to sound out the situation, then position your offering competitively.)
  • RESPONSE #3: "That's fine, but if your friend says that he can get you a better deal that what I can offer, he's dead wrong. My company offers an unconditional guarantee..." (Continue to tout the advantages of working with your firm.)

CLICK for the correct answer »

The correct answer is RESPONSE #1 (An old saying...). Here's why.
  • RESPONSE #2 (Gather information) sounds like a good idea, but it begs the question. All things being equal (and even not so equal), most people prefer to buy from people they like. And what are you going to do with the data you gather? If you use it to position your product competitively, you're just setting up to execute RESPONSE #3.
  • RESPONSE #3 (Disqualify the competition) is a disaster, because you're essentially accusing the prospect of having a friend who is either stupid or a liar. This point is best understood by considering the other variation of this objection, which is "I have a relative in the business." Here's a rule for life in general: Never, ever criticize somebody's friends or family.
  • RESPONSE #1 (An old saying...) response assumes that the friend/relative has the prospect's best interest at heart, but that the PROSPECT might feel uncomfortable making demands. It says that the friend is a good guy and prospect is a good guy, and that's they might not want to do business together because it might strain the friendship. This respects the friendship, but turns that respect into a reason to buy from you!
NOTE: Response #1 is culturally specific to the U.S., where business relationships between friends and family are considered troublesome. That's not the case in other regions, like China, where such relationships are much preferred. In China, assume that "I have a friend in the business" means "you aren't going to make this sale."

The above is based on some one-on-one coaching I got from the great Tom Hopkins, arguably the world's most famous sales trainer.