There is an art to overcoming objections during the sales process, if you try to do it the wrong way, you risk losing the potential client. However, if done the right way, you provide the potential client with the level of comfort and security needed in what you are offering to clear a path towards closing the deal.
A Brief History.
Something most people don’t know about me is that for a brief period of time in my 20’s I actually worked in sales. My father had been pestering me for years to help him out in the mortgage business with his company, so I caved in and started working with him. The housing market was booming so business was good, but I was cast into a role I hated. I was the faceman for Florida, thrust into outside sales, meeting clients at their home, talking to them about their situations, putting together application packages, presenting them with their options for saving money or purchasing a new home, etc.
My father is a salesman. Like The Boss was Born to Run, my dad was Born To Sell... He had the gift of gab and would talk to anyone and everyone. More often than not, he would turn a complete stranger into a potential client. It didn’t matter if they were a flight attendant, a waiter, a cab driver, a roofer, or Anders from Norway who worked as Pluto in Disney World. My dad just had a way with people. He could listen, talk and relate to everyone.
I am not a sales guy. I’m a “straight to the point” kind of guy. I’m going to tell you what you need to know, give you the information you will need to make your decision and that’s that. Well, I would learn in time that my process makes for a poor salesperson. Don’t get me wrong, I did well in the mortgage business. Extremely well for a 25 year old kid. I had my own house, my own Land Rover, I spent my mornings in the gym, my afternoons at the beach and my evenings closing deals.
The Art of Overcoming Objections.
Everyone should go through some sales training, whether you are in sales or not. Once you go through sales training it’s easy to dissect a person and their sales approach. If a salesperson becomes too transparent, they are a bad salesperson.
During my training we learned quite a bit about sales. Most importantly, the art of overcoming objections. This truly is an art form, one I don’t have the patience for or the personality for. I understand it. I can do it. But I loathe it. I loathe sales. I loathe cold calling. I loathe being cold called.
First, if you found this post and you are either in sales or about to go into sales, I recommend you read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s also out on Audio Book, so I’m sure you can find it on iTunes.
So on to the point with all of this, the art of overcoming objections.
1. STFU and Listen.
Know when to STFU (Shut up...) and Listen. There is a time to talk and a time to listen. When you are trying to sell, it’s very important to listen. If you don’t listen, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you won’t know what your client wants, needs and has objections to. There is nothing worse than a person who knows what you want, knows what you need, and doesn’t need you to explain anything to them because they get it without even talking to you. Phooey! When a salesperson acts like that with me, I tune them right out. It’s my initial reaction.
The minute you start talking more and listening less, people tune you out. So during the sales process it’s important to listen and remember the things they tell you. What you learn conversing and listening is what is going to help you overcome potential objections. So let me repeat, be quiet and listen to the customer’s stories and objections.
2. Time to Talk.
You need to let the customer know that you understand them and that you can relate to them. This is when it’s time to open your mouth and talk. It’s important here to make sure you come across in a sympathetic or empathetic way, don’t just try to bulldoze them. You need to repeat back to them their objections in your own words but in a way that lets them know you understand.
Some people will break this into two parts by saying that you need to repeat the objection, then clarify it. I don’t differentiate between the two because if you do, it becomes too transparent as to what you are trying to do. Repeating and clarifying should be a dialogue that happens mutually.
A good way to gain customer trust and help overcome their objections is by asking relevant questions. By asking these questions, you are showing your potential customer that you are trying to understand their objectives. You need to be sincere and make the customer feel like you are listening. The customer wants to feel that you care about them, even if they don’t buy from you. I think the best way to do this is with free flowing conversation. Some will say, “stick to the script”, “get them back to the script”. That works well for cold calling but when you are working a warm or hot lead, you need to be a bit more casual and comfortable. You need to demonstrate your comfort with and knowledge of what you are trying to sell.
3. Building Value.
Once you have listened to the client, you have repeated and clarified their objections through a mutual dialogue, it’s time to build value. If you have been doing steps 1 and 2 correctly, you are halfway home with step 3.
At this point, the client has let their guard down and now has become more receptive to what you have to say and what you have to offer. Now you need to capitalize on this by explaining that your product will meet or exceed their needs and expectations. Revisit each objection and inform the customer how your product measures up to those objections. The important thing here is to keep it informal, make it feel more like a conversation than a sales pitch. The minute a client feels like you are trying to manipulate them with information they just gave you, they will shut you down.
4. Asking for the Sale.
Finally, it’s time to ask for the sale. Ask them if they are ready to buy. If they say no, ask them what else they need to do to be able to make their decision. Depending on what you are selling, you either need to back off or become more aggressive at this point.
If you are trying to sell a product or a service to a person who is the only decision maker, you can attempt to revisit objections and repeat the cycle but in a more concise way.
If you are trying to sell them a service that requires the input of multiple individuals or a team, you need to ask them who will make the final decision and what needs to be done for them to get that decision made. You need the names and titles of people who are on their team. Let them know that you will follow up with them during their process to see how things are going. If they reach out to you, answer their questions in a well thought out manner.
If you meet with only one team member, you may want to try to set up a meeting or presentation to have with all of the team members. If the customer tells you they will inform you of their decision on Day X and Day X comes and goes, follow up with them on Day Y.
If you happen to lose the sale, don’t ask them why they didn’t give it to you, ask them why they went with the alternative. This may help you learn what you are competing against and what others had to offer that you didn’t. This may help provide some insight as to what your competition’s differentiators are.
Like I said, I don’t have the patience for sales. My father was a great salesperson who could do this effortlessly. He wouldn’t just wind up with a sale, he would wind up with a client for life. His past clients would seek him out the next go around. It wasn’t until after my sales training and spending time in sales myself that I was able to put it all together and understand what my dad was doing. I understand it now and I can appreciate it (but I still don’t have the patience or the personality for it). I’m not a talker, I’m a doer. Doing things is what makes me happy and what keeps me interested. Getting my hands dirty and having something tangible or physical to show for my work and efforts is what gives me a rewarding feeling, a feeling of satisfaction.
A recap in 100 words or less.
During the sales process it’s always important to listen and try to learn. Don't think that you know everything. Don’t be cocky or arrogant. Stop talking and start listening because you don’t really know as much as you think you do. You can’t hear what someone is trying to say if you can’t stop talking.
Stayed tuned, Building a Mobile Solution with Sencha touch, DotNetNuke and PackFlash Constellation Part 3 is still in the works!