Learn how to uncover, confirm, and address objections that kill deals and waste your time.
While we all love it when sales opportunities sail smoothly through our sales pipeline from lead, to prospect, to active customer, we all know that is pretty rare. Unfortunately, sales opportunities often stagnate for a variety of reasons. We refer to any reason the customer is not advancing through the sales process as an “objection” and it is critical we learn how to deal with them.
Sometimes a prospect’s objections are regarding things within our power to control (e.g. perceived skills, misinformation, deliverables, price, terms, etc.) and sometimes they are out of our control (e.g. need, budget, priorities, etc.).
To further complicate matters, prospects often cannot, or even worse, will not, tell us what their real objections are. Sales people must develop the ability to uncover a prospect’s objections, overcome those that are within their control, and not waste time on those that are outside their control.
You will uncover your prospect’s objections when you attempt to move them toward a purchase decision and they resist your efforts.
Some prospects will tell you their objections directly. These prospects are a blessing, as they save you the time required to uncover and confirm their objections.
Those prospects that are indirect communicators will stop taking actions you need them to in order to advance the sale (i.e. returning calls, collecting information, or reading proposals).
When prospects won’t tell you what their objection is, first try just asking them, “I have provided your with all of the information you have requested, but you still have not made a decision to move forward. Can you tell me what else is holding you back from making this purchase?”
The worst is when prospects give you false objections. They tell you one thing, but they are really too embarrassed to tell you the real reason they are not buying. For example, a customer may say they are concerned you have not executed a project in their local market or industry, when the real issue is that they don’t have the money to pull the project off.
If you suspect a prospect is giving you a false objection or they simply won’t tell you why, you can sometimes determine the real objection other sources. You may read in a news article that they have recently been hit with a big lawsuit, you may discover in a credit rating database that the company has financial trouble, or you may learn from another industry participant such as an architect, accountant, or non-competitive supplier that the project is delayed for some reason.
Whether you find a valid reason for the delay or not, don’t waste your time on unresponsive prospects. Just set a follow up call in the future and move on.
Once the customer has told you, or you have successfully uncovered, an objection, you should use the following 4-step process to determine its validity: 1) Acknowledge, 2) Assess, 3) Address, 4) Advance.
Begin by acknowledging their objection. Try re-stating it in your own words, and ask if you have understood them correctly. Taking time to re-state the objection you heard will show them that you care enough to listen thoughtfully to their concern. It will also prevent you from handling the wrong objection if you somehow didn’t hear them correctly.
Next, you need to probe more deeply to assess the true nature of the objection. Salespeople often get in trouble by assuming they fully understand an objection.
For example, if someone says, “I have a problem with your setup fee,” the sales person may be quick to assume that the customer wants to negotiate to reduce the amount of the setup fee. This would be a mistake. Rather than assume anything it is best to first assess the objection by simply asking the customer, “Exactly what is your concern about the setup fee?” They may learn that instead of wanting to reduce the setup fee the prospect was only looking to spread it out over several months. Can you see the benefit of assessing rather than assuming?
If you I want to get really good at this, ask a few more questions to understand the objection even more completely. You might ask, “Why is that important to you right now?” Doing this you may uncover some opportunities to create customized win-win solutions that your customer will really appreciate.
Once you completely assess an objection, you can often address the objection and try to advance the sale one simple step. In continuing the prior example,. you might say, “We might be willing to spread the setup fee over 3 months, but before we agree to that, we need to know if is there anything else that would prevent you from moving forward today?” This will flush out any remaining objections, and if there are none, they have tacitly agreed to give you the order.
- When have you misunderstood an objection, and what were the consequences?
- How do you handle objections?
- Always confirm that you heard the objection correctly.
- Ask questions about the exact nature of the objection.
- Address the objection and suggest a win-win solution.
- Advance the sale by asking the customer to take the next step if your solution is acceptable.