How to Handle Sales Objections Strategically
There is no question that it is harder than ever to sell.
Today’s sellers not only have to get to buyers via communication channels designed to block salespeople, but they have to find decisionmakers in a world that no longer has decisionmakers. Finally, they must overcome objections and solve issues that block decisions. Sellers must be able to handle objections strategically throughout the sales process.
Don’t focus on the actual words customers use; focus instead on where in the sales process an objection occurred.
If the customer says you are “too expensive” just before you close, that is very different than if that same objection hit earlier. At the close it might be a smoke screen; if it were real, why wouldn’t that objection have occurred earlier?
If it first hits at the presentation, it is probably a cue to begin negotiating. If it hits while qualifying and gaining information it may be a concern about budget, but a good sign that they are actually considering spending money.
It also may be a comment, meaning that although it sounds negative, it really doesn’t halt their interest.
Other than the occasional early stage comment, the rest are issues.
If you’re cold calling and the prospect you’re trying to meet says “too expensive” that is an example of an objection.
Most objections are knee-jerk, like “not interested” or “happy now”, that customers use to greet salespeople. We can solve objections by simply redirecting the conversation by being polite, respectful, but insistent.
Issues are entirely different – they need to be solved.
How? Here are four ways to solve issues:
1. Personal Responsibility
How could you possibly be responsible for a prospect voicing an objection?
Consider these critical questions, especially the fourth:
- Am I doing anything that is causing this customer to say that to me?
- What am I doing to avoid the risk of getting issues that could be anticipated? (I should at least be testing one new strategy)
- What am I doing to prepare for common objections, questions, concerns, and comments?
- If I could go back in time, at what point could I have done something differently?
Consider what led up to the moment of a prospect proclaiming an issue. What tipped their reaction? They didn’t simply blurt out those words, they were probably answering our question. What did we ask them? How did we set up the question?
What have I learned about this person in order to understand how big an issue this really is for them? Is this really an issue or merely a comment, and now they are looking for my reaction? Maybe they want to see if I will flinch? Is it their style to be that direct? How desperate am I to get this deal?
They will learn just how desperate I am in my response to that particular objection.
When we begin to take personal responsibility for the customer’s objections we begin to train ourselves to sell in a new way using productive new sales habits strategies and tactics.
There is a pattern to sales conversations.
They usually begin with some small-talk before getting into the real topic of discussion. At what point will they turn from casual to serious? How much did you plan what you were going to say and how you were going to get there? How much did your words and reactions cause your prospect to say what they said in the way they said it?
As we study our conversations we quickly conclude that over time, we can put reactions into categories and we can anticipate them. Once a seller learns the art of pattern recognition, they can better anticipate and more importantly, prepare their responses accordingly.
3. Increase the Range of Next Step Strategies
You can’t solve every sales problem by “coming back with a proposal.”
There are hundreds of moving parts to a sale and each interaction needs to be cleverly fitted into the right sequence. When that happens, all of the sudden the sale has momentum. The high-level folks are suddenly pushing for your sale because it isn’t just your sale—it’s their initiative.
What are the back-story moves you need to use to reach the right people at the right time with the right message so that you have the right leverage and support?
We need moves in the form of next step strategies that will help us get over people’s heads (without turning them off), get influencers to be more effective in their internal selling, revive radio silent stale sales, and create a reason to make a decision that makes sense to the customer who was about to put your sale on a back burner.
4. Cut Losses Early
New sellers often feel frustrated when they are unable to close someone. While very good salespeople also share that frustration they simultaneously know that every sale that doesn’t close is wasting their time and blocking the path to the next sale that will close.
The longer a seller spends with any one sale, the fewer sales they will get to. The opportunity cost of closing one big sale that took all of your time is not having the time to close four little deals that over time would represent many sales, renewals, new contacts, and new case studies, success stories, or referrals.
Learn to move on and always communicate to your prospects that you’re not there to talk them into buying, especially if they are unsure.
Instead your job is to help customers figure out what they should do and the most helpful thing you can do is recognize when someone is no longer interested in hearing more about your sale. Wait a few months or until something changes, then you can come back into a better environment for the customer to reconsider buying from you.
About Steve Bookbinder
Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.