Here’s a little known secret that the top salespeople are aware of. They never have to “close” a sale.
“Just Sell Value.” – What does that even mean?
The alternative approach that I’m suggesting results in more profitable sales with less effort. Many salespeople believe that their product or service should speak for itself. To compound this, sales managers continue to remind their salespeople to sell value. The phrase “sell value” has been so overused that it’s lost its meaning. Just ask each of your salespeople how they specifically sell value and you’ll hear a variety of responses. And most won’t have a strategy nor the refined message to do so.
For example, for many sellers, once they encounter any resistance from a customer or prospect, they back down or are quick to ask for a time best suited for a follow-up call. Unfortunately, this “dead time” also gives your competition the opportunity to gain a foothold in your accounts and when many selling opportunities are lost.
If salespeople were truly selling value, then they would not allow this to happen. Why? Because aside from uncovering each of your buyer’s priorities, challenges, expectations and objectives, you have also made them an internal advocate. As such, you’re serving people the way they want to be served and always act with their best interests in mind. That is, by definition, selling value.
Stop Closing, Start Opening Up New Possibilities
The word “closing” has certainly gotten a bad rap because of the negative connotation associated with it. After all, look at the root of the word, “close” which is synonymous with ‘shutting, locking, finishing, final, and end.’
Instead of closing, what if you can create a new opening without having to close? You can accomplish this in a simple conversation that does not threaten your integrity by sounding too “pushy.”
The word “closing” is really the wrong title for this phase in the selling process. This phase should be considered the “agreement phase” or “opening phase.” As opposed to closing the opportunity for a sale to occur, you are opening up the possibility to work with that particular prospect or customer by agreeing to move the sales process to the next stage and explore other solutions. It is at this time when you are suggesting alternative options in the form of a question that creates a new possibility for your prospect to consider which might better suit his or her needs.
Here are the most generic and common obstacles to selling:
- I need to think about it
- The price is too high
- I want to shop around
- I need more information
- I’m already working with another vender
- I’m not the only decision maker
- We have no budget
- I’m not interested
- There’s been a recent reorg
- I’m not responsible for this initiative anymore
- This is a bad time
- We are already under contract for the next few years with another vender
- And so on…
How can you create a new opening that can overcome these concerns? Remember my definition of selling: the art of creating possibility.
It is at this point, during any conversation with a prospect or customer when you are creating new possibilities that may have never existed before. You are uncovering new needs, new solutions, new priorities, even needs that your buyers didn’t realize they had!
What Is An Objection Anyway?
Here’s a friendly reminder of the definition of an objection. It’s a sign of interest; a request for more information or a prospect’s concern or fear that needs to be satisfied in order to continue guiding the buyer through your sales process and to its natural conclusion.
If you stop and think about it, with the top objections you hear, is the person actually saying, “No?” The prospect is not saying “No, I don’t want to and never will use your product or service or buy from you.” What they are really saying is, “I’m saying ‘No’ or a form of ‘No’ because you haven’t given me enough of a compelling reason to buy from you or have satisfied all of my concerns and priorities.”
In other words, instead of fearing objections, embrace them. Every objection provides you with a new opportunity to share the right information with a prospect that can move them to the next stage in your sales process.
Defusing an Initial Objection
If you refer back to the list of common objections I shared with you earlier, here are several examples of how you can respond to the objection, “We don’t have a budget for this. (We can’t afford this.)”
The intention behind the following responses is to first ensure that you are, in fact dealing with an actual objection rather than a smokescreen. Therefore, isolate the objection down to its core to see if the initial objection they shared with you is really the truth or if it’s something else.
The “something else” could be that they don’t believe you, don’t trust you yet, don’t believe you or your product can help them, they may not be the decision maker, they have been burned before, they are having a bad day and you are their new target, they are not the best prospect for you, they are getting a comparison bid to compare it to their current and preferred vender, and so on.
Rather than react to an objection with a statement that creates an adversarial posture between you and the prospect (Example: defending your position, service, or product) respond to the objections you hear with a question. Here’s how.
Buyer: “We don’t have a budget for this.”
You: “Mr. Buyer, I certainly understand and appreciate you sharing that with me. It seems as if everyone today is more sensitive about operating within their limited budget.”
What follows are some responsive questions you can ask in this situation:
- How do you typically budget for a project like this?
- How do you typically go about making a decision like this?
- May I ask, what is the process you use when making this type of decision?
- What are the factors you consider when choosing a vender?
- Other than you, who else may be involved in this vender selection?
You can also leverage the following, more specific budget related questions:
- May I ask, is it that you have no budget now and there may be budget in the future?
- May I ask, is it that you don’t have a budget at all or is it more about the hesitation to work with a new vender?
- How much do you think my product would cost that would make you feel that there’s no budget available for this?
- Has the budget been cut altogether or has it been dramatically reduced?
- Is it a budgetary concern or are you more concerned about the value you will receive?
- So, if you don’t have the money right now, who in your company does?
After using these types of questions, you will be able to confirm whether the objection they shared is the core objection or if the real objection is actually something else. These questions will enable you to expose what their primary concern or reluctance actually is. And remember, like any set of precision based selling questions, treat them like a buffet. Take the ones you like leave the ones you don’t.
Now that you’ve smoked out the real objection, it’s time to offer a solution. However, the key for this conversation to work without you sounding like a high pressure or “cheesy” salesperson is to first get permission. You can create a new opening to overcome a prospect’s concern by asking for permission to do so.
Before offering a response, a solution or a new possibility that would defuse their objection, now is the time for you to get permission to discuss a solution to their concern. This way, you will quickly learn whether or not this person is truly a qualified prospect who is looking for a better solution, someone who you are better off without or if the objection they stated is, in fact, the only true obstacle to the sale. Here are some examples.
1. “Mr. Prospect, at this point, I’m not sure if you would realize the ROI that my other customers have experienced. However, if it was possible for me to demonstrate a rapid ROI so that you can start realizing the advantages of our service within one month, is that something you would be interested in talking about?”
2. “Mr. Prospect, if budget was no longer an issue for you, would you be open to exploring this in more detail?”
I love using “if” questions. All I did here was reverse or take away the objection to determine if “not having a budget” is the only thing that’s truly getting in the way. Now that I’ve hypothetically removed this objection, their response should be a “yes.” If not, then there’s still something else going on or another obstacle that they haven’t shared with you yet. So, keep digging!
3. “Mr. Prospect, if I can demonstrate to you in just three minutes how the value you receive will far outweigh the manageable investment that I would propose, would you be open to hearing more?”
Notice how I include a timeline of 3 minutes to let the prospect know that this will not take up all of their precious time. Just make sure that you can accomplish what you are proposing in the timeline you stipulate.
Salespeople Don’t Overcome Objections. Buyers Do.
If they say “Yes,” to any of these examples, you now have a prospect who is interested in hearing more about the solutions you can offer. So, go for the appointment (sale, demo, or whatever is the next step in your sales process)! Since you have gained permission to explore other options, the prospect is now willing to listen to your suggestions.
If you fail to ask permission, and instead dump alternative solutions or more information on them even before you have a true understanding of what their primary objection is, you are running the risk of sounding too pushy, which causes a prospect to shut down their listening and put up their defensive wall that prevents you from making a sale.
The next time you run into an objection, defuse it by getting permission to continue with the conversation. The result will be more sales with less resistance.
Remember, like all selling strategies, there are no absolutes. When some prospects say “No” they actually mean it. However, if you can convert even 35 percent of the “No’s” you hear into selling opportunities, then this process would be considered wildly successful.
The key point here is this; salespeople don’t overcome objections, buyers do. The only person who can truly overcome an objection is the prospect. Salespeople create the opportunity for this to occur through their effective use of questions.
Selling is therefore the art of asking questions, listening openly and intentionally, and gaining information; not giving it.
Photo Credit: Farouq Taj