A guest blog by Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates
“No” is a dreaded word in sales. It’s the last thing most salespeople want to hear when they're trying to meet a quota, win a deal before the end of the quarter, or get their bonus.
Did you know that in many cases, a “no” means “not yet”? Although you may think of objections as signs that your prospect is not going to move forward to purchase your solution, shift your perspective and welcome the next “no”.
If there is a question or a concern in the mind of a prospect, you want them to raise it, so you can address the objection and move the sales process forward. If you’re not aware of the objection, you’ll likely lose the deal.
Let’s look at the most common types of sales objections and offer five specific steps to overcome them.
3 Common Types of Sales Objections: Value, Power, and Plan
Once your prospect is qualified, you’ll most likely face objections in these three categories:
Value-based objections focus on the question, “Is it worth it?” This question often involves price and perceived value to the organization. Naturally, the more convinced your prospective buyer is about the solution’s value, the fewer price objections you’ll face.
Objections could include:
- Your price is too high.
- We’re doing OK with our current solution.
- I’m already in a contract with another company.
2. Decision Authority
Power-based objections focus on the question, “Can I buy?” This is where organizational politics and roles come into play.
You may hear objections such as:
- My manager won’t approve this.
- I’m only one of several people involved in this decision.
- I’m convinced, but I’m not in charge of the budget.
Plan-based objections focus on, “When will I buy?” Although the prospect may be convinced your solution is a good one for them, timing and priorities need to be considered.
Objections will come in the form of pushback such as:
- I’m too busy to move forward with this right now.
- This doesn’t fit into the current year’s plan.
- Can we revisit this next quarter?
5 Steps to Overcome Objections
At ValueSelling Associates, we teach a specific process for handling objections.
Oftentimes when I’m teaching, the client is trying to write down the perfect words to address an objection. However, it is the process to address the objection, not so much the words themselves, that is most important.
Here are five steps that are part of the process to handle objections.
Step 1: Attitude
Having a positive attitude, and not being fearful of handling objections is critical to your success addressing them. You don’t want to look like the deer in the headlights or break out in a cold sweat.
Getting an objection means the prospect has enough interest to engage with you, rather than end the conversation. Embrace objections as they are an opportunity to learn more about your prospect’s needs and communicate the measurable value your product or solution offers them.
Step 2: Clarify
Fully understand the objection and the “why” behind it. Clarification is critical to address the exact concern.
For example, when sales reps get a price rejection, they almost always assume the price is too high. That’s not always the case. It could be around components of the price, how the price was determined, or even because the price is too low, and the prospect wants to make sure everything they need is included.
A client once told me a story about selling a multi-million dollar consulting project to a prestigious hospital.
The sales rep assembled the “A” team and developed the absolute best proposal with a stellar investment summary to present their capabilities to the hospital. The team was so proud of their solution and believed it was an ideal fit.
You can imagine their surprise on the day of the in-person presentation when the hospital executives raised a number of questions and concerns about pricing. Before fear set in that the price was too high, the sales rep asked several clarifying questions to uncover the true reason behind the questions.
It turned out the hospital was concerned that the consulting firm had low-balled the price, and they wanted to protect themselves from getting nickel and dimed in the future or running into a situation where quality would diminish because the consultancy underbid the project.
Once the sales rep understood the why behind the questions, he realized it was less about defending the price and more about defending the plan, explaining how the consultancy could deliver high quality at the proposed price.
Step 3: Diagnose
Identify the stage of the prospect qualification process where things became misaligned. Did the prospect engage in conversations with a competitor? Did the prospect forget how the solution might solve their problem?
If the objection is price, you need to do a better job communicating value. If the objection centers around timing or the need isn’t a priority now, you need to uncover the root cause of a business issue that your product or service can resolve.
This diagnostic allows you to review the prospect qualification process and reflect on a few key questions.
a. Does the company really need what you’re selling?
To uncover the root cause of a business issue that your product or service can resolve — whether it’s technical, supply or capital issues (or all three combined!), you need to discover if an individual or an organization has a burning issue that they are determined, maybe even desperate, to resolve. You need to honestly evaluate if your company’s solution is a good fit to mitigate or alleviate the prospect’s pain points.
You may be surprised at how often sales reps do not stop their pursuit after learning that a prospect’s main needs don’t align with their offerings.
b. Does this person truly understand your value proposition?
Many executives become fixated on costs, especially if they are on tight budgets or used to bargain-hunting.
In this case, you must determine if this business or individual understands the true value or worth of your solution beyond its pricing structure. Also, you must find out if they even have the budget and vision to see the value in your solution.
To learn how to pivot a sales strategy focused on price to one focused on value, read my blog, “Forget about Going Lower to Capture Frugal Buyers.”
c. Why now?
Timing is important. Excellent business acumen will pay off because you may sense when there’s a market shift on the horizon and be able to discuss potential impacts with key executives. This will not only impress them, but also build your credibility.
Whether publicly traded, privately owned or a not-for-profit, every organization is always preparing for possible challenges ahead. By being viewed as a trusted partner, you are well positioned to gain or maintain future business during up and down economic cycles.
Step 4: Sharp angle close
A sharp angle or trial close is a way to isolate an objection, and determine if it is a negotiating tactic, a valid question, or a concern. It might sound something like this, “if we get past these pricing questions and you’re in agreement that the investment we’re asking you to make is worth it, is there anything else that would prohibit you from moving forward?”
If the objection is a negotiating tactic, you want to surface all the objections the prospect may possibly have in order to negotiate on a multitude of issues, not just price. There may be concessions you can make on terms, functionality, deliverables, or other ways to add more value as part of that negotiation process. However, you can only do that if the conversation expands to multiple metrics.
Step 5: Address
During the course of a sales cycle, industries, companies, and people change. That’s why at the end of the process, you may need to need to further educate, clarify or negotiate.
I’ve been in sales for almost 30 years, and the reality is every objection that I have faced has fit into one of these four prospect qualification dimensions:
- Should they buy from us?
- Is our solution or product worth it to them?
- Can they buy? Am I targeting the person with purchasing authority?
- When will they buy?
Moving Beyond Objections
Objections inevitably will come up during the sales process. Effective objection handling is a skill set you can practice and reinforce with sales training and coaching.
Different organizations have different levels of sophistication in handling objections, with the best providing both training and tools such as “battle cards” to help you overcome common objections.
The next time something is suddenly said or questioned that gets in your way of moving a sale forward, use the five steps we’ve just outlined to address objections on a positive note.
A little about Julie:
Julie Thomas, president and chief executive officer of ValueSelling Associates, is a noted speaker, consultant, and the author of “ValueSelling: Driving Sales Up One Conversation at a Time.”
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