Within 30 minutes this morning, two things happened. First, a good friend called ranting and raving about a prospecting call that went wrong. Then I saw Todd Schnick’s brilliant post on the same issue.

Let me backtrack a little. My friend called very upset about a prospecting call yesterday. It was an important prospect, he’d managed to get agreement from the VP of Sales for a conversation, so he called. A few things happened initially, that put the call on a bad track. Something had come up with the VP and it wasn’t the most convenient time, but my friend was so focused on his goal, he pressed on.

The conversation went into a death spiral after that, with both politely (and unpolitely) claiming “I’m right and you’re wrong!” You can guess how the call ended.

Todd describes a similar situation, but handled far better. Be sure to read his post.

It’s actually not that uncommon–and, honestly, every once in a while I find myself in a shouting match, I mean conversation. It’s easy to see how these things happen. We’re passionate about what we do and what we sell. We probably have strong opinions. It’s human nature to have a “fight” response when we encounter people who disagree with us. (I won’t waste time on the flight response–we can never be successful if that’s what we do.)

So when a prospect starts pushing back, disagreeing, perhaps a little aggressively, it’s natural to want to push back a little harder. But that’s when things go south. Pretty soon we lose sight of our objective, things go back and forth, we are pissed off, the prospect is pissed off–possibly to the point they will never talk to you again, and we’ve squandered a tremendous opportunity.

What really happens in these situations?

What we’ve done is we’ve actually started engaging a prospect. The fact they have an opinion and are taking the time to express it, even negatively, means they are paying attention, thinking about what is going on and offering the opportunity to be engaged.

Too often, when confronted with someone who disagrees with us, we start sparring. I know in my mind, my immediate reaction is, “Who the f**k do they think they are?” I’ve learned to take a few deep breaths, count to 100 (very quickly). I’ve learned the best response is to start asking questions, to start understanding their point of view, to understand why they may have the opinion they expressed.

It’s a tremendous opportunity to engage them. To get them talking, to learn more about their point of view. The more we understand where they are coming from, why they hold the views they do, the better we are able to position our own views to them.

When someone disagrees, when they push back hard, when they get you pissed off because they don’t understand or don’t agree. Revel in that opportunity. It means they care and they are getting engaged. Your job is not to be right, your job is to get them engaged and to continue the conversation.

Later on you will have the information you need and the relationship where you can start to explore options and shift opinions.