One of the salesadvice blog readers asked my advice on handling objections in the new way of selling. Good question, right? How do you respond when your customer/prospect says:
- “I’m okay with the way things work right now.”
- “You are too expensive.“
- “Your competitor is offering the same for less.”
- “We’ve been working with your competitor for 15 years. Too much can go wrong.”
- “I need to run this by my wife/business partner before I do anything else.”
- “It’s too much for me to take on right now; I’m too busy; Call me again in six months.”
In the old way of selling, you would indeed try to overcome these objections following a specific objection-handling process. However, a lot has changed since these “processes” were designed. The buyer has changed, and we have adapted to these changes: we are selling now with the buyer’s perspective. Therefore, the thought process of – a separate Overcoming Objections step – is outdated and does not fit the new way of selling.
The heavy-loaded word “Overcome.”
When having a mindset of overcoming an objection, you insinuate that you win, and the other person loses. Or, if you, as a salesperson, cannot overcome the objection, you are thrown back by the buyer into your sales process. Although not intended, an ‘objection’ is strong language; they use it in a court case! Traditionally this was a separate crucial step in the sales process. Many sales organizations spend many training hours to ensure their salespeople can handle objections. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work anymore.
Instead of overcoming objections, let’s explore for a moment a different mindset: Uncovering, Anticipating, and Resolving Concerns. The buyer doesn’t object to meeting with you; they are concerned you are wasting their time. Or, they don’t object to your price; they are concerned about not seeing the return on investment. Different, right? To understand the specific concern, we need to understand better what buyers think. Because what buyers say and think is different.
When prospects tell you: “Can you call me back in 6 months?” or “Now is not the right time,” what they actually think is ‘I am busy with something else that has my priority, and so far, you have not said anything that helps me with achieving better results. I sense you are not worth my time. But, yeah, they choose to stay polite, so they do not tell you the whole truth and want you to go away. The real reason for not accepting a meeting with you is their belief that this will waste their time.
Value From the Buyer’s Perspective
On the other hand, if they think they would get something valuable from meeting with you, they would willingly accept your request. So, when you hear a concern about moving forward in the conversation, from the buyer’s perspective, you have not delivered enough value.
In many ways, this falls back to preparation. First, you must be convinced that you can create value for your customer. What you want to share needs to be of such importance that the stakeholder wants to hear more and spend time with you.
Anthony Iannarino, one of the leading sales gurus and bloggers of our time, gives excellent advice on how to anticipate concerns in his highly recommended book “The Lost Art of Closing.” His advice: “Why not tell them in advance your real intention? Tell them directly how you intend to create value for them during the time they give you”.
- So, Lead with insights relevant to the prospect’s challenges. Ensure your contact knows right from the start that you have something to share that is of their interest
- And resolve their immediate time concern: Tell them, “I promise I will not waste your time.”
Stop Shortening The Sales Process
What is the root cause of concerns? First, let’s face reality: Salespeople generally shorten the sales process by moving through the discovery phase too fast, rushing to a presentation and proposal, and asking for the business. No wonder prospects have questions and concerns. Fast is not good, and the discovery phase is not about you but the customer.
According to Gartner, in the new way of selling, our job is more about helping customers discover something about themselves and advising them on their buying decisions. But we have to work hard for that; Thirty-three percent of all buyers desire a seller-free sales experience — a preference that climbs to 44% for millennials. Why is that? There have been salespeople before you; hence, you cannot ignore their experience so far, with previous salespeople not bringing enough value to their tables. They have concerns when they are asked for their time and more meetings. So the first message is to slow down, and the second is to spitz your ears and listen carefully if your contact is ready to move forward. If not, they have genuine concerns that you must resolve. You got to prove them wrong that you are not one of those salespersons they base their disappointment on. You sell differently; you sell with the buyer’s perspective. And you know that Selling Will Never Be The Same Again
Another key learning is that concerns pop up anywhere, not only at the end of the sales process before signing the deal; Often, they appear right at the first contact you make. In particular, when your prospect thinks, from their perspective, that there is no real reason to change. They have worked hard on choosing suitable suppliers for their complex supply chain. They may not say it, but they have genuine concerns right at the beginning of your initial meeting. And in most cases, it is about allowing you time with them. You resolve these concerns by helping them gain the confidence to move forward. You need to deal with unspoken concerns.
When you go too fast
In many cases, concerns are raised when you are going too fast, ignoring the Buying phase your stakeholder is in. For example, you start to ” sell” why the customer should use your company rather than the incumbent competitor (Change to Who?). At the same time, your stakeholder still struggles to understand the needed solution (Change to What?) to achieve the growth opportunity you discussed in Why Change? phase. So, what to do? Acknowledge the raised concern and take the stakeholder back to the relevant Buying phase.
Let’s look at some examples:
- When prospects say they have no time to meet with you
- When they do not like to involve more stakeholders
- When they think (and say), you are too expensive
Buyer: “I have no time.”
Salesperson: I wanted to let you know that what I have to share with you is worth your time. It will be 20 minutes; I promise I will not waste your time; I will make it a valuable experience for both of us. How does two weeks from now fit your calendar? Thursday the 21st?
What about when you ask for another stakeholder to get involved? Many buyers are protective and are concerned about bringing in more stakeholders.
Buyer: “I don’t think that is necessary.”
I understand, and it can get more complicated when we bring other people in. I thought what we discussed so far made sense to you, and you would like to explore different options. in my experience, when we do not bring other people in then, nothing will happen. How do we bring in one other person who has a stake in this and might support what we have discussed?
What about the classic price objection? There will always be stakeholders who will bring up their concerns about the money. We should treat these as real concerns instead of something we can overcome by certain closing techniques. Again what they say and what they think is different. You will hear: “Your price is higher than what we pay now” – what they think is: ‘so far, I have not heard enough value that is worth paying more for. Your price does not give me the confidence to take this to the people involved in this project”. Your contact is not convinced that a higher price will give their company the results they are looking for.’ Resolve their real concern
Buyer: “Your price is much higher than what we pay now.”
Salesperson: I understand this is a concern for you. I may not have explained well enough the investments we make to get you the results you are looking for, and that is why our price is higher. Can I share more about that with you so you are more confident moving this forward?
I hope this is helping you to see a different perspective on ‘Handling Objections”. Customers don’t have objections. They have concerns. They feel anxiety about moving forward. The sooner you can uncover that the better you can resolve their real concerns.
Also, Anthony, thanks for your advice!