In my early years of selling, whenever I got an objection, my heart would sink, my stomach would go into turmoil, and my mind would shift into overdrive trying to figure out how to deal with it.
All my early sales training and all the sales books I’d ever read made a big deal about having to deal with and overcome objections. It was as though every sale contained a mountain called Mount Objection that had to be scaled before sliding down the other side to a Close. It seemed that if you didn’t get any objections, you weren’t really making a sale; you were just having a conversation with the customer.
Even today, any sales training workshop worth its salt, including ours, spends time showing salespeople how to handle objections. Frankly, I feel the sales training community spends far too much time showing people techniques for handling objections. That’s right, I said we spend too much time on this topic. Before you mentally tar and feather me, hear me out.
What is an Objection
How many real objections do you actually get? What exactly is an “objection”? Is it a roadblock to be overcome? Is it an obstacle to closing the sale? Is it a mountain to be climbed? Webster’s dictionary defines “objection” as “an expression of opposition or disapproval.”
If you disapprove of or oppose someone or the company he represents, are you going to do business with them? Hardly.
When the customer says your price is too high, or your delivery is too long, or the specifications don’t meet his needs, or he’s happy with his current supplier, does that mean he disapproves of or opposes you? Of course not.
So what you might consider to be objections aren’t really objections at all, but are sales realities or simple expressions of concern on the part of the customer.
Of course the customer is concerned about the high price because he’s not convinced of the value. Of course he’s concerned about long delivery because that will cause him delays or problems. Of course he’s concerned about the specifications because your solution isn’t going to do the job. And of course he’s happy with his current supplier. If he wasn’t, he’d come looking for you instead of the other way around.
Are there any real “objections?” Probably. How about, “The last time I bought from you delivery was eight weeks late,” or “Every time I try to get service, no one calls me back.”
Biases and Roadblocks
You can also run into biases and uninformed customers who throw roadblocks in your way because they simply aren’t going to buy from you no matter what. That’s not a sale, that’s a sales nightmare. Some people won’t buy because you’re a woman or not a woman, you’re too young or too old, or for whatever reason they don’t like you or your company. These aren’t real objections. They’re biases and you’re dancing to someone else’s tune, the title of which is “There’s No Sale Today, Martha.”
So what’s the secret to handling objections? The secret is to manage the sales process so as to avoid them. That’s it. Now, how exactly does one do this? Well, first of all, remember that people buy from people they know, people they like, and people they trust. So build rapport, be likeable and be trustworthy. Do what you say you’ll do when you said you’d do it. Secondly, listen to your customer’s concerns. Find out what’s standing in the way of his buying from you. What is he unsure or uncomfortable about?
If you’ve spent the major part of the sales process asking questions, probing and qualifying the customer, you will probably have a good idea of what situations have to be solved or clarified before the customer will feel comfortable moving ahead.
Sometimes there’s no simple solution to the customer’s concerns. That’s when the customer will hesitate to move forward. If you can’t find a solution, maybe you can negotiate a resolution.
Perhaps a delayed delivery can be offset in some manner. Maybe no one’s product will meet the customer’s required specifications and your task is to help the customer accept your solution as the closest match he’s likely to find.
Negotiate a Resolution
Whatever it is that’s keeping the sales process from moving forward, it’s your job to identify it and to address it in a professional, non-confrontational manner. You’re not trying to overcome the objection; you’re working with the customer to resolve the situation in a mutually beneficial manner.
When you do this in a spirit of friendly cooperation, you’re partnering with the customer and coming across as a problem solver, not a peddler.
So, by treating what is often considered objections as simple requests for more information or clarification, you can reduce the stress of the situation and keep the sales process moving, hopefully to a successful conclusion.
Should sales trainers stop teaching objection-handling techniques? No, but they should put more emphasis on how to avoid customer concerns from coming up in the first place. They should help salespeople recognize the difference between a valid customer concern and an emotional bias. Salespeople need to improve their skills at uncovering the customer’s concerns early in the sales process. They also need to know the difference between a put-off and the reality of human nature that causes a customer to say, “I want to think about it.”
The final secret of handling objections is to listen. Most salespeople wouldn’t listen at all if they didn’t think it was their turn to talk next! You need to hone your skill at not just hearing what the customer is saying, but understanding what the customer is saying.
Once you understand what is standing in the way, you can work with the customer to pave the way to a smooth sale. The key to handling objections isn’t confrontation; it’s cooperation.
So the secret to handling objections is to cooperate your way to more sales.