Sales objections aren’t always what they seem. A lack of immediate agreement to buy does not automatically mean “No”.
It might mean “I have another question you’ve not answered yet” Learning to embrace sales objections rather than fear them can make all the difference to whether you win a sale or let an opportunity slip from your grasp.
Objections or responses show up in many guises during sales conversations. And you’ll be quick to add your own silent not-so-happy-endings to them as you reinforce the perceived rejection…
“Let me have a think about it and get back to you”
Kicked into the long grass…
“It’s more than I expected”
The sound of a death knell…
“That sounds really complicated”
The clanging chimes of doom…
“I need to present this to my boss”
So long and thanks for all the fish…
Responding to a potential objection
Learning to embrace customer responses rather than dreading them means learning to respond rather than react:
- To pause,
- To listen,
- To breathe and think…and only then respond…
- With a great question.
It also means not flinging discount around in the random hope that it will secure a yes.
An objection is a response to something you’ve said during your sales conversation. It’s telling you that your proposal has gone awry somewhere. Maybe you overlooked an important question or answer. Maybe you did too much telling and not enough asking.
It’s also an indication that your customer is listening and engaged. Much better they hear something they want to explore further or don’t like; than they sit passively letting your proposal sail by their ears unmoved and disinterested.
And, it’s an opportunity to put things right and progress. Even if that ends up with a decision not to buy from you today; but with a relationship intact.
Sales closings are only as good as openings
Handling objections begins much earlier in your sales process. Long before you’ve been asked for a proposal or a quote. Right at the beginning of your sales conversation in how you introduce yourself and your business.
Can you answer with conviction, consistency and finesse…
- “What do you sell?”
- “What makes you different?”
- “What makes you better than your competition?”
- “What makes you good value?” (especially where you’re not the cheapest)
- “How what I offer can help my clients” and
- “How what I offer has helped other clients”
Stumbling your way through any of these answers almost ensures you’ll be creating confusion or further room for objections later in the conversation or sale. Particularly with prospective new customers; with whom you have no track record.
If others in your business also look after customers, compare their answers to yours. If you’re all consistent and have passion in your voices, great. If not, have a conversation about how you can align your answers whilst avoiding the “computer says no” automated reply.
Anything you can do to avoid accidentally jeopardising your own success has got to be worth 15 minutes of thinking and perhaps an arm-wrestle.
Objections that aren’t
Your reaction can also make the situation worse rather than better. Instinctively a response to a perceived objection would be to jump in and defend your proposal or position. Or to assume it’s all about the price and proactively offer discount.
That would be a mistake.
So, if it’s not an objection what might it be instead?
Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding – something you’ve not been clear about in your descriptions or answers. Too much jargon used. A disjointed story maybe.
It could be nothing more than a request for more information. Some people will make far-reaching decisions on scant detail; whilst others will require far more detail or proof to entice them in. If you’ve pitched it at the wrong level, then an objection may be just about telling them more.
Imagine if you jumped straight in with a 15% discount only to find that at the heart of this objection was a need for two further pieces of detail. Discount squandered and detail still required!
Objections that are
Or maybe there’s insufficient value in what you’re offering. That might be unfair or untrue. But if it’s missed the mark with your customer, expect a dragging of heels towards any commitment. This may not be about the actual cost of your offer, but about needing more explanation about the value being offered or the problem being solved.
Of course, not everyone is ever going to tell you everything. Baring souls isn’t a compulsory rule of the sales conversation. If what you’re proposing hasn’t addressed the real need of the person opposite you, regardless of whether they’ve told you what it is or not; then expect push back or inertia.
Maybe your solution has the unexpected and unwelcome potential to reduce that person’s own role, span of control, influence or power. Maybe it will make their job more complex, more challenging or just annoyingly different.
Either way, they are unlikely to declare this to you, particularly if you’re new to them and there’s little trust established. Until you address these personal concerns, resist counting your chickens.
Perhaps their situation has changed since last time you met or maybe they aren’t yet persuaded of your credentials or ability to fulfil this promise.
What’s your client’s perceived need?
A customer’s perception of their situation also contributes to whether objections appear. Someone is only going to buy from you if there’s a gap between their reality and their desired state.
Either they want more growth than they’re currently achieving (regardless of how successful they are right now) or they perceive trouble and need something fixed. Again, this is regardless of how their business is actually performing. If a business has grown dramatically but is now struggling to honour lead times and order accuracy, then you might still hear this described as being a problem.
If there’s a perceived crisis looming, then the chances of that person acting is high. Not necessarily on your offer, but they will act. Trouble always trumps growth!
If there’s no gap or no perceived gap and your questions have failed to tease out or create a desire for something different, then expect inertia.
And just maybe the person who has been indicating all along that they have the budget, the final decision and the ultimate authority to say yes… doesn’t. Nothing you can say or do will change that. All you can do is make a note to ask more probing questions about the decision-making and budget earlier next time and do your best to find out who actually does own the gold in this sale.
Responses can also differ depending upon your relationship with customers:
- What are new customers about the have their first experiences with you likely to be concerned about?
- What about those you already do business with but for whom you represent only a small piece of their overall spend?
- What about established long-term customers who are giving you a significant piece of their total business already?
Handling responses effectively
Step 1: Pause, breathe and keep schtum! (No snappy comebacks or instant concessions)
Step 2: Identify the real issue using curious open questions e.g.“What causes you to say that?”“Why that amount?”
Step 3: Acknowledge the issue as a valid concern. No brush-offs or half-hearted reassurances. Talk it through openly and honestly. Share how you’ve resolved this concern for other clients
Step 4: Resolve the issue together. And this includes reaching an agreement not to do business today.
An outright “No”?
Then you have nothing to lose by asking “What went wrong?”
At least you’ll know and perhaps the answer will offer a glimmer of salvation if you loop back carefully into questioning needs.
Sales Objections you encounter
- What are the most common objections or responses other than “yes” that I receive?
- How do I typically respond to them?
- Which work, and what’s my evidence?
- Which responses don’t, and what’s my evidence?
- How well am I using questions to explore and understand a customer response?
- How well am I distinguishing between an objection that is and one that is something else?
- How well do I consider the implications of offering discount before I agree to it?
- How well do I understand how much more I must sell in order to recover lost margins when I do give discount?
Food for thought
If you’re pushed for discount always offer enhanced value first – something with perceived high value to your client and low cost to you. Leaving the price where it is.
If you really have to lower your prices, ensure your offer is reduced appropriately to reflect this. Negotiate rather than capitulate.
If you’re held to ransom for a lower price but a retained offering, be very careful how you assess this and respond.
This should be a strategic or tactical decision rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
You should understand the longer-term implications for:
- Your profit.
- The contribution the reduced revenues might make towards any fixed costs you have in your business.
- Your ability to leverage future price increases.
- Their commitment to volume or value or longevity of the relationship and
- How much more you will have to sell in order just to retain the profit margins that your original proposal would have generated for you – versus…
- The implications of not winning the business.
Great questions that ensure your answer is great for your business too!