Deal With, Overcome, Address…
Why are they called sales objections? Why do we object to objections? What makes them so objectionable? Literally, they are a reason for disagreement. And in reality, they are the customer’s objections, not necessarily objections to the sale itself. In other words, nobody disputes the need for the purchase, but the terms and issues around the sale are preventing closure.
In business and in life, sales objections are a barrier to a sale whether you’re selling a mass spectrometer, a software application, or an idea. Dealing with, overcoming, and addressing sales objections are all big business. Check the internet, and you’ll find that there are (at least) 40 ways to deal with objections — more ways than a dish of Skyline Chili!
Sales objections seem easy to quantify and solve in theory but are not so simple in face-to-face sales situations. Initially you have to determine if the objection is real, or if it is a negotiation technique being used by the customer.
Objecting as a Negotiating Technique
Depending on where you are in the sales process, your customer may come to you with a list of objections in order to negotiate a better price, better terms, or simply a better deal (whatever that involves). The red flag is the list of objections, but there is an easy way to deal with it. As in all negotiations, remain calm. Objections are part of the sales process. In fact, they can be buying signs, so you should be prepared to deal with them.
Listen to the customer, then listen to the customer some more. Take notes and make sure you understand what the objections are by repeating them back to the customer. Let them do the talking. Let go of any tendency to go on the defensive. You may find that customers actually talk themselves into the sale during your conversation.
Your customer will appreciate your listening skills and the fact that you are taking the time to understand their position. If they have a list, you must prioritize it with the customer so you can understand their most important objection. If you can address the biggest objection, the rest can often be mitigated or negotiated.
Depending on the specifics of the primary objection, some thought and consideration may be required, so don’t commit to an immediate decision. Unless you are under a deadline, take the time to consult with your peers or your manager and determine how to address the biggest objection.
Common Sales Objections and Prospective Remedies
Assuming you are at the purchase decision point in the sale, price should not be an objection. Price or cost should be understood early in the sales process as part of the qualification of the customer. If price is raised as an objection at the decision point, probe for the cause, but don’t overreact. If they truly do not have the budget, you have to acknowledge that you didn’t qualify your prospect properly, and move on.
If the motivation behind the objection is fear of making a decision, it is time to reframe the conversation to one about value and your value proposition. Remind the customer of the consequence of inaction. Help them compare the cost of allowing their problem to remain unsolved to the benefits they will derive from your solution.
If the motivation behind the objection is a negotiating tactic, look for ways to satisfy the prospect without changing the price. Look for a value-add that helps the customer feel and look good without eating into your margin.
You may decide that the prospect is a strategic or tactical necessity, and you are justified in lowering the price. Nonetheless, ask for something in return. For example, ask for a longer term commitment for a service contract (e.g., one year vs. monthly), a larger order, or a faster, time-bound decision (such as a price contingent on a contract or P.O. that day).
Performance or Service
Every purchase of something new involves risk. Whether it’s a new vendor, formula, product, design, or software, there’s an opportunity for failure as well as glory. If the customer raises concerns about your company’s ability or your product’s ability to perform, your job is to de-risk it with testimonials, proof of performance, or guarantees.
Trust is a sensitive issue, and in most cases, your customer is representing a company that is trusting both you and the company you represent in the purchase of your product or service. This is why brands work hard to build brand equity and strive to maintain a good image — this is the brand promise. To address brand trust, your company must invest in brand building and brand awareness marketing campaigns. Among other things, this requires collateral that positions your company as an industry thought leader and educator.
You also have to manage your personal relationship with the customer. In order to build trust, engage with your prospects in a trustworthy way. Do not waste their time. Always offer the prospect or customer something useful when you contact them — even if it’s just industry information they can use (though it may be unrelated to your company’s product or service). Keep your commitments. Be on time for meetings and provide follow-up information promptly. Be honest if you realize that you can’t help solve their problem. Offer to make an introduction to someone who can.
There is always the risk that your competitor will be bidding against you for a sale. Knowledge is power, so make sure you know your competitors’ weak points so you are able to convey the relative strengths of your product or service to your customer. Never — ever — badmouth a competitor, because it reflects badly on you. Compare and contrast your products or services to your competitors and remind your customer of the ways your product’s or service’s strengths uniquely satisfy their needs. Make sure to address the key concerns of the customer.
People often fear making a decision, get distracted, or reprioritize a purchase. If your prospect stalls or stops returning calls, you have a problem. Objections can only be overcome if you can address them, but if you can’t, you have to move on. Stay in touch with the customer and put them back into an earlier stage of the buyer’s journey in your CRM system. Make sure they are fed and nurtured with information appropriate to the sales stage — and stay in touch. The challenge of a stalled customer is that you never know when they will start moving again unless you stay in touch. And you don’t want to miss the opportunity.
Cost of Conversion
Cost of conversion is a difficult objection to overcome, and it is generally revealed early in the sales process. Frequently, a customer will “standardize” on a specific vendor for a particular product or software, and the cost of converting their processes would include rewriting manuals, requalifying processes, retraining personnel, etc.
The best way to deal with this is to quantify the cost of conversion early in the sales process. Share your findings with the customer and see if the budget will accommodate the total cost of ownership, including conversion costs. In the end, you may not get the sale, but you will save yourself a disappointment, and your customer will appreciate your understanding of their situation. Many times, a customer will have already considered the costs and will move forward anyway if the current product is underperforming.
Approvals are another difficult objection to overcome. Often, products, software or services are “validated” and approved for use by other departments or auditors. Manuals and protocols dictate approved vendors and products. Objections to approvals can be addressed by providing external approvals from recognized third parties. Frequently, internal auditors will accept third-party approvals as equivalent to internal requirements and allow new vendors or products to be purchased.
Not all sales objections can be overcome, but they can all be understood. By coming to a common understanding of sales objections, the customer relationship can be maintained, irrespective of a sale. Choose your customers wisely!
If you need help with dealing with sales objections or sales training, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.