Written by Alan Morton, Senior Consultant at SBR Consulting
I spend a lot of my time watching salespeople sell to prospects and customers. Sometimes it’s our own team but often it’s our clients sales teams at different points in the development/roll out of a transformation programme.
Just recently I have been conducting a number of audits of sales capability which have involved seeing first hand what the “real deal” is in terms of the current sales behaviours that are on display*.
A point that has been highlighted through these observations has been the approach that people take to helping customers resolve objections.
First and foremost what I have seen recently has reinforced the reality that some people need to be great at objection handling because the way that they engage creates so many! It still amazes me how many salespeople and consultants that we see are still stuck in the pitch first ask questions later habit that in this age of customer experience and engagement we would hope had died out a long time ago.
How to Prevent Objections:
Firstly, There is no doubt that prevention is better than cure so enabling people to have meaningful conversations based on insightful and valuable questioning is the first step .
Secondly, helping people prevent objections through developing a well-crafted summary of you/your business that is delivered following the initial questioning/qualification phase of a meeting to help you deal with concerns before they turn into objections.
Undoubtedly though whatever type of sale we are dealing with i.e. transactional or complex – the reality is that we still need to know how to uncover and answer the objections that people have that are preventing them moving forward. A couple examples that I have seen recently have included working with a lead gen team who are looking to convert suspects into prospects all the way through to a consultancy business that provide very bespoke, high value advisory services. In both situations at different points it became apparent that the people involved were missing out on significant opportunity to help their clients because they didn’t know how to respond appropriately when required.
Practical Tips for Responding to an Objection:
A couple of thoughts therefore based on what I saw and the advice that we gave which I hope sparks some thoughts with anyone reading this:
- Uncover what the objection actually is: Too many people fail to clarify what the issue is because they aren’t curious enough to ask a few questions or confident enough to get to the real deal. I saw a great example of this from a consultant that I know and respect when he was speaking to a client post a “beauty parade” that he had participated in. He suspected from the response that he was getting in the initial feedback that there was a concern in the mind of the client so he stopped and asked a simple question, “I may be misinterpreting what you are saying but if I’m reading you right there seems to be a sticking point in your mind that you may not have raised yet – could you share the concern you have with me?” A lot of people that I have seen would have accepted the generic initial feedback and wouldn’t have asked, instead choosing to adopt a “hope” strategy that everything would work out. By asking in a respectful way the consultant in question was able to draw out the actual objection.
- Ensure that there is nothing else – “In addition to that point is there anything else that is a concern from your perspective regarding e.g. our potential suitability to this project?” If yes, draw these out and prioritise them, If no move onto next stage
- Empathise – Show that you have the ability to see the world through their eyes and validate that it is OK that they have a concern e.g. “I completely understand the concern that you have expressed as other customers have expressed similar concerns…
- Provide new information or a new perspective – A fundamental truth about human behaviour is that we are unlikely to change our mind but we are often prepared to make a new decision based on new information. The best way to do this is by sharing third person examples e.g. “the reason that a number of clients decided to move ahead despite similar concerns was that…e.g. they hadn’t initially seen the approach that we take to maximise return on investment
- Provide evidence that the course of action worked – Like so many aspects of selling your ability to articulate the value delivered and outcomes achieved by others is key to the credibility of what you say e.g. “as an example of the results that we were able to achieve through adopting that approach (give relevant example)
- Ask a commitment question to gauge whether the new information or perspective has helped – The concept of using questions like a traffic light is key at this point, “has what we have just run through helped to reassure you regarding…”. We only go forward if we have a green.
As ever let me know your personal thoughts and experience on this and I hope some of the points above are of use.
*It’s a topic for another blog but it’s remarkable how when we do this it is often the first time that someone has taken the time to watch how people sell with an eye to helping them improve.
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