In the world of selling techniques success in sales is often seen as being able to pitch, counter or overcome objections and then close. Of course, as I have discussed, what your customer says during the sales process is more important that what you do. Also, what happens before you even begin to present is more important than what happens afterwards. What I am alluding is the fact that you need to establish a fit with your customer and then connect with them around solving a need of theirs. There is no such thing as a "magic" canned presentation that you can show to people and they automatically start buying from you (at least, that is not how most sales and marketing is done). Overcoming objections in sales is often blown out of proportion in both difficulty and importance. In this article I am first going to deal with those "high level" aspects of countering sales objections which eliminate the majority of objections altogether if they are in place. I will then talk about techniques and strategies for overcoming and rebutted both real and "fluff" sales objections
As with all selling techniques, you cannot and should not isolate countering sales objections and apply it independently of the other elements of the sales process. The key requisite for the successful use of sales objection countering techniques is that you have qualified that your product or service is the right solution for your customer. You need to be able to know enough about your customer's situation to have a dialogue with them based on their current problems and needs. You cannot simply show up and start giving them reasons to buy from you without having listened to them talk about what they want. On the other hand, once you have done your homework with opening and qualifying, you have done the "grunt work" of the sale and can then rely on successful countering and closing to win your deal. A lot of objection countering is simply overcoming people's natural resistance to a sale or change
Before applying any selling techniques objection countering you need to first understand whether or not the objection you are hearing is real or not. Oftentimes customers will say anything to get you off the phone, especially early on in the sales process. If you have not had a chance to explain yourself then you can be pretty sure that the customers is simply trying to get rid of you with their objection. They may say things like, "I am too busy right now", "just send me some information", "right now is a not a good time" or "we don't have any more right now". The reality of the situation is that the first time you call on a customer you are simply looking for an opportunity to connect and not necessarily sell anything. Even in a progressed sales discussion, you are usually looking to close that one next step and not a deal. In any case, there are basically only 3 things that have to be present for someone to buy from you:
Price is important in sales but not as important as people think. It is true that value trumps price and that if you can demonstrate to a customer that you are going to solve their problems and better their situation, a high price becomes relative at that point. In terms of creating trust, this is in fact a big part of a good qualification process. By spending time asking questions first, you demonstrate that you are interested in the customer's wellbeing and perspective first and foremost. So if they need what you have, can afford it and trust you then what is to stop them from buying at that point? Nothing. When you spend time making sure that these key components to a sale are in place, you pre-empt "fluff objections" which is what the vast majority of objections that salespeople hear are. Those objections occur because you have not had an opportunity to properly engage a customer and have not had an opportunity to Price is important in sales but not as important as people think. It is true that value trumps price and that if you can demonstrate to a customer that you are going to solve their problems and better their situation, a high price becomes relative at that point. In terms of creating trust, this is in fact a big part of a good qualification process. By spending time asking questions first, you demonstrate that you are interested in the customer's wellbeing and perspective first and foremost. So if they need what you have, can afford it and trust you then what is to stop them from buying at that point? Nothing. When you spend time making sure that these key components to a sale are in place, you pre-empt "fluff objections" which is what the vast majority of objections that salespeople hear are. Those objections occur because you have not had an opportunity to properly engage a customer and have not had an opportunity to listen to and qualify them. Countering sales techniques are useless with fluff objections because these are not real objections. Real objections can only occur if you are truly engaged with your customer
There is a school of thought that you can close every sale and win a deal every time you speak with a customer. This is the line of thinking that makes pronouncements like, "There is a sale made with every call: either you sold your customer or they sold you." This is the line of sales and marketing thinking that believes that you can force people into buying something or that you can manipulate their minds with super-psychology and things like that. I do not agree with this kind of thinking and believe that sales and marketing to a large extent really is about luck. It is only after you have found a customer who is a good fit and willing to connect with you that you have the making of a sale and these are things that you cannot control. I believe that every sales conversation can and should be a "win-win" where at the very least you listen to your customer professionally and leave a good impression of yourself and your brand regardless of the outcome
Set At Ease
One of the first selling techniques you can apply with objection handling when you call on a customer is to set them at ease upfront. Saying things like, "I am not calling to sell you anything today" or "there is no pressure or obligation" or "I am simply looking for a few minutes of your time" helps allay the natural resistance that arises in people's minds when they think that they are being sold to. For the more part you are actually not selling to a customer right away (unless you are based in a commodity or transactional line of business). Usually you are simply looking to qualify a customer some more and then set up another meeting. Creating an environment where your customer is comfortable in interacting with you is one of the most important things you can do in sales and marketing
Contrary to popular opinion sales is not about talking but listening. The person talking is not the one in control of a conversation but rather the person asking questions and listening. Just think about it: does a judge or police officer or anyone else with authority talk more or ask more questions. Let's put it this way: an authority figure is deemed as the person with the right to ask questions and have those questions answered. If you talk back to a police officer and start asking your own questions you will likely be cut off and told, "just answer the question" (i.e. don't ask any yourself). Listening is common courtesy, good manners and also good sales sense. If your customer has something to say then the most important of selling techniques at any point in your sales discussion is to stop everything and hear them out
Do Not Argue
It is natural for a person to become resistant to perceived sales pressure - another reason you cannot simply force people to buy through a repetitious sales and marketing message - and just as natural for a salesperson to become defensive upon hearing objections. Becoming defensive and argumentative is a sign of weakness and will not get your the sale. You may have heard the objection many times over and there may be a common sense response but you cannot simply convince people to buy using logical reasoning alone. Rather, there is a famous sales truism that, "people buy for logical reasons based on emotion." You have to win a person's heart and mind and a lot of that has to do with having the correct posture
Instead of getting caught up in an argument at the first sign of customer resistance - knowing full well that your customers are going to resist you, at least to begin with! - a brilliant selling technique is to get into the habit of delving into customer objections and feeling them out fully. The Socratic Method of reasoning is based on this very approach. Simply speaking, you are seeking to understand a customer's position fully and so you keep asking about it. Ask you venture further and further into a customer's position through your questions, you will begin to see clearly how your customer's thinking is creating a negative outcome in their mind and how you can then address this
It may be that your customer can see how they would benefit from your solution but they are hesitant to move forward because of an element of perceived risk in their mind. This may be something quantifiable and defined or just a vague feeling that they have about the whole deal. Probing is a great selling technique that allows you to fully define and then insolate any risk your customer may face. Once you have arrived at their real and root objection, you can thus defuse it with a "What if..?" question. For example, "I understand that you are worried about the cost. What if we could structure the deal in a way that the benefits you accrue immediately begin to pay for the cost of implementing the solution?" Only questioning allows you to cut through the fluff to find and overcome real objections
Just like there is nothing that creates resistance in a customer like arguing with them, there are few things that will open them up as when you agree with them. If you are look for "magic" in sales techniques then try using the simple words, "I understand." This is especially important when a customer has opened up and revealed their true thoughts and hidden objections about a deal. At this point you will find customers significantly relieved to see that you are thinking about and actually get their objection and are not just arguing back at them. Of course, your ultimate goal is to overcome customer objections but to do this you must first listen with an open mind, accept and then validate what they are saying as a counterpoint to your presentation (just like the "acknowledge" step in L.A.M.A.)
In every line of business there are standard objections that will make up the majority of objections that salespeople hear (not including the standard "fluff" objections). These are usually to do with the technicalities of your business model, for example logistics, product features, special offers and so forth. For example, many business owners may be hesitant to try Google AdWords as an inexpensive advertising platform until they learn that you only pay for actual visitors to your website and not a flat subscription fee. Only after listening, probing and isolating your customer's main objection do you now have the right to use a standard response - if there is one - to one of these common objections. Use the "what if...?" approach to get your customer to agree to move forward if you address their concern
It is okay to use emotion - and lots of it - as one of the most effective selling techniques as long as you have laid the proper foundation for doing so. If you just call someone up and start pitching them frantically and trying to close them repeatedly then you are probably just going to upset a lot of people and get nowhere. On the other hand, if your customer is properly qualified and you have built a relationship and listened to their concerns; if you have done all of this you will automatically be emotionally invested in the discussion (and hopefully your customer should be too). At that point you can use the power of emotion to push a customer over the edge once you have been through all of the logical steps and your customer has agreed with you each step of the way
I have said before that I believe that persistence is one of the key attributes of salesmanship. However, what I mean by being persistent is different to what the word is usually taken to mean in sales. Generally speaking, sales is seen as the art of being persuasive, persistent and pushy in order to get deals. The thinking seems to be that, just like a child asking a parent for a new toy, if you repeat your demands enough times and with enough intensity then your customer will eventually cave in and buy. This is not the way to sell and even if it does work for a while it will not lead to the kind of fulfilling relationships with customers that are the fruit of good salesmanship. I usually talk about persistence in terms of making phone calls - if you make enough you will find enough interested people. In the world of sales objections being persistent means that as long as your customer is talking to you do not give up on a deal. If they continue to throw objection after objection at you then you should keep plowing ahead with the double-edge sword of logic and reason. There are some cases where you can tell things are going nowhere but other times your efforts will pay off and your customer will buy
Like the selling techniques of using emotion and persistence, creating urgency works but does not work by itself. This is a classic sales trick where you attach some kind of time limitation to a special deal or offer. You can tell customers that a "special" price is only good while stocks last, or that a sale will expire at a certain date or that the first 100 purchasers get a free gift. Just as when retailers mark items "$4.99" instead of just "$5.00", everyone knows that these are little psychological tricks in order to get you to buy. The thing is that they work. Creating urgency can also be used as one of the selling techniques for overcoming sales hesitation. It is to be used when your customer does not have any more legitimate objections but is simply undecided still. At that point you can say something like, "if you go ahead with us today I will get my boss to throw in an extra couple of... for free"
Three Silver Bullets
I have written about 3 "silver bullet" selling techniques for sales objections which are 1) agreeing and redirecting; 2) mirroring and 3) restating value. In the first, you simply agree with what your customer says as an objection, deal with it in a cursory fashion and then keep on going as if they had not said anything at all. It is only if the objection is real that your customer will keep restating it until you address it correctly. With the 2nd of these selling techniques, you simply restate a customer objection back to them. This too is a form of probing and oftentimes when your customer hears their own objection stated back to them they realize that it is not really a valid reason not to buy (or it gets them to clarify their true intentions). Finally, a blanket silver bullet statement/ question can be used where you restate your value proposition and ask your customer to hear you out. You can read about that method here
Feel/ Felt/ Found
This is another great rebuttal that is a bonus silver bullet amongst objection-handling selling techniques. Whatever your customer says to you simply respond, "I understand how you feel. Many of our customers felt the same way but what they found was that..." For example, "I understand what you are saying. Many of our customers felt that implementing the solution in one go is very expensive. However, they found that the saving kicked in right away and you can achieve a return on your investment within months." This approach works especially well with vague objections that are more just "feelings"; just by knowing that others had similar reservations and were now happy will be enough to convince many of your customers to come on board
I sometime have customers get in touch with me and ask me for a cold calling script template that provides a flowchart for every conceivable response that a customer can say. What these marketers are looking for is the ultimate in selling techniques, a chart that says, "if a customer says then then you should say this". How nice and easy it would be if you could actually create such a document. Imagine having a programmed response for everything a customer can possibly say from "hello" all the way to a deal each and every time! It is impossible to create such a script just based on the randomness of human behaviour. Beside, every customer situation is different and the first part of your job in prospecting is to learn about your customer and their problems and needs
That being said, there are a number of common objections that salespeople in every line of business run into every day. Most of the times these are "fluff" objections and happen because a salesperson has not had an opportunity to properly engage a customer. The correct selling techniques in response to these objections, therefore, are that you should spend more time in opening and qualifying before presenting. That way you will have created an appropriate engagement and will be building a bona fide relationship with your customer. However, it is still necessary to have logical rebuttals to these standard objections. Even if you seek to defuse them with context, you will also have to provide an answer that appeases your customer's logical thinking
"I don't have money"
The best of selling techniques to counter this objection is by providing a product or service that makes or saves your customer's money. Talking about value versus price is the best way to counter money objections and the more specific you can be the better. Sales and marketing Guru Jeffrey Fox teaches never to sell unless you can "dollarize" the value that you are providing customers through your solution. If you can definitely prove to your customer that you are going to make them 1.x dollar for every 1 dollar they spend with you then the whole proposition becomes a no-brainer. Beyond this, break the price down to days or units so that your customer appreciates that they are actually paying a small cost per item. Explain to them why your pricing is more than other competitors. Be creative in coming up with financing plans to help them pay for doing business with you
"I am not interested"
No matter how good your skill or training with selling techniques is, it is hard to counter an objection like this because it is vague and insubstantial. It is similar to objections like, "I need to think about it" or "this is not a good time" or "we are happy with what we have." What your customer is saying here for the more part is, "you have not given me a reason to listen to you." The first thing is to ask about your customer's current situation and then listen to them. It is only then that you will find out what you need in order to "sell" them. Unless they open up and talk to you first there is little chance that they are eventually going to buy from you. Set them at ease and at the very least plant a seed than you can then follow up on and develop at a future date. A lot of sales and marketing has to do with timing
"I have to ask wife/ partner/ boss"
When you qualify a customer according to VBANT - Vision, Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe - then one of the things that you are making sure of is that you are talking to the right person. Countless hours and days and months in enterprise sales are wasted by salespeople "selling" to people who do not have the authority to buy. In an ideal world your customer should not use the excuse of having to talk to someone else first because you would have already ensured that they could make the decision by themselves. If there is someone else involved in the decision making process then should engage with that person right away at the beginning. If another person does come up for whatever reason then you may have no choice but to restart the process with that person in the loop. Failing that, you will have to convince your customer there is no time to wait and that their partner will not mind them doing something good for the business