I am often asked about handling objections by salespeople. It has been a staple of sales training courses for decades. Is it time to give that up? The question I ask myself is, ‘if buyer behaviour has changed with technology, why do sales people keep doing the same thing? Why are sales people not changing how they sell? ‘ Going to a sales call armed with sales objections is prescriptive and doesn’t always get you the outcome you want. And here’s why.
Is it time to radically change the Sales Conversation?
I have listened to thousands of sales pitches and observed sales professionals in a variety of industries. I ask them to tell me why I should buy what they have to sell and we look at how they construct their sales conversation, both from a language and conversational point of view. We inevitably get to the point where they want to know how to handle sales objections.
It got me thinking about how the sale conversations have to start differently and be conducted differently to get a different outcome and not end up using objection handling as a default tactic. I realised that the key to increasing the number of closed deals was to lower the ratio of statements around features, benefits and prices and increase the ratio of questions and framed value-statements the sales person could use. It is always about motivating the buyer to explore the WHY inside the sales conversation. It takes awareness and some skill to revamp how you conduct your sales conversation. So if you are reluctant to give up your sales objections handling strategies, let me give you some reasons why it might change your sales results this year.
1. Sales objection handling is a conditioning behaviour
Sales objections condition sales people to behave as if every customer is the same and is going to say no. No two customers are the same. They are all as different as their finger prints. They each have different motivations and different decision-making patterns. If you don’t carry this awareness with you as a starting-gate position, you will end up down the rabbit hole; expecting to overcome objections before you even enter a sales conversation. When you are always expecting or moving to dodge objections, how can you be focussed, calm centred and strategic in these sales meetings?
Handling Objections is a tactical game that conditions buyers and sellers into behaviours that are not always good for business. Not only is it not helping you develop your sale skills, but it is creating a career-long bad habit that will impact the number of sales you can close. It creates poor interpersonal relationships for the buyer and the sales person. So the question is, how often do you end up handling sales objections, knowing that it is being used as a tactic by the buyer to negotiate lower prices or possibly intimidate you into submission? We always hope people don’t operate this way. But they do!
2. Objection-Handling puts you in the battle position
So if you are looking to use the handling sales objections strategy, it sets you up to assume a battle position when meeting a customer or a prospect. It undermines your confidence and ability to create a mutually-beneficial relationship. It will show up in your selling state, body language and how you speak. The fact is, they have agreed to meet with you; that must mean they are actually interested, in at least learning about your offering, on some level.
When you assume there will be objections, you set your mind up behave defensively and as if there is something wrong with your product or service. If there is – correct it or don’t go to visit your prospect until you have a clear value-proposition. The best way to give you a better starting-gate position is to ask and answer the WHY of doing business with your company. Clarity on value is the key to quality sales conversations, where you can take your time, asks questions, listen and explore. It keeps you away from having to resort to the poor relation of objection handling.
3. Objection Handling undermines both the seller and the buyer
Who loves a conversation that is a battleground of agreement, disagreement, resistance and reaction? What does it do to both parties? It undermines your position as a business negotiator and their position as a business buyer. Selling is a negotiation rather than proving that you are good enough. In any negotiation, there has to be something on the table for both of you.
When you are batting off objections, it is focussed on you as the problem, rather than the buyer’s desired solution. That is why it is important to take command of your sales conversation by using questioning and listening skills. Asking pertinent, thought-provoking questions invites the buyer to explore what they really want. It confirms something in their mind that they are on the right track and that you might be able to help them make a good business decision. And once again, they get clarity on how well you fit their business needs. Listening gives you time to think about what you are hearing and where you need to take the conversation, with a higher chance of a positive outcome. This lifts both you and the buyer to another level in the business deal. Quality business relationship are built from this place.
4. Objections Handling is a symptom of the unasked questions
Whenever you think you have an objection coming from the buyer, it can often mean that there are some unasked questions. You haven’t asked the questions, or they haven’t asked themselves the questions around the impact of the purchase both personally and on the broader business landscape. Not every buyer is the same. Some will have questions, which can be seen as objections, but they are just making sure there is a minimal risk to their purchase.
So I suggest you translate handling objections into preparation for the question they could ask. This was something I started doing early on in my sales career with teams I worked with. It worked so well because we knew that whatever they asked or “objected” to we were ready to take each concern and address it. You can prepare your questions and responses. Here is a slight different twist on it: weave the objections and concerns into the conversation upfront and as you progress with the conversation. What that does is, allow you to get to the price negotiations, without ending up in the objection handling battle.
5. Objection Handling doesn’t have to be part of the cold call
Yes, I hear you say, “What about cold calling? Some of us still have to do it.” There are always objections there. People have no time to talk, there are happy with their current supplier, they don’t need what you have to sell. If you don’t have sales techniques to handle objections, how are you ever going to get a sales appointment?” Yes, cold calling is still part of the sales process. So what can you to deal with the most common objection; people don’t really like getting cold calls, and sales people are not exactly delighted to have to make them?
The answer is simple. You have to have a good reason for them to want to meet you. This is the WHY I mentioned earlier. There may be truth in what the person you are calling is saying today. Yes, they are happy. No, they don’t need what you have today. So plan for the future. People are naturally designed to constantly review and improve what they have at hand. An example from every day life; the mobile phone, how many mobile phones have you had since your first one? People are motivated in different ways to update, upgrade, improve, grow and be more efficient or effective. Creating your most compelling WHY is your best starting point.
So how are you going to change your sales conversations this year? Are you going to throw away your old list of objections and start with a new page and new questions for the new year?