Overcome Sales Objections By Discovering the Need the Buyer Hasn’t Realized
By Frank Visgatis, President and Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Sales organizations generally struggle to accept that potential buyers can have valid objections to some pieces of their offerings. It’s great to be proud of your offerings, but keep in mind they won’t be a 100 percent perfect fit for most people. Every day buyers purchase offerings with some features that are not adequate, relevant or ideal to their particular business needs. They make the buying decision anyway because the pros outweigh the cons.However, there are times when some objections are “show stoppers,” meaning that buyers eliminate offerings from consideration. But there are ways to block that “punch” and still make the sale.
Years ago I saw a popular poster that said: Selling begins when buyers says no. It’s difficult to put into words how strongly I disagree with that premise. Once a buyer states an objection it is difficult for sellers to have them change their mind.
At the beginning of my sales career I was trained in objection handling. The primary tactic was to display empathy (I understand how you feel), let the person know they aren’t alone (others have felt the same way) and then dismiss the objection (but they found that…). Techniques like this reinforce buyers’ beliefs that sellers try to manipulate them.
A seller’s job would be easier if buyers had fewer objections. Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself: Why do sellers encounter objections? My theory is that sellers receive so much training about offerings that they often get into “tell mode” while making product presentations. This approach virtually ensures poor buyer experiences because sellers do most of the talking, dominating what should be a two-way conversation.
A few things are likely to happen during product pitches that are delivered without doing any need development research before talking to the buyers:
- Sellers feel it is necessary to educate buyers in how extensive their offerings are and do “spray and pray” product pitches. When buyers hear many features they don’t understand or don’t need they may conclude offerings are too complicated and therefore too expensive.
- Once product is mentioned, buyers ask how much it costs. Sellers either try to defer the discussion or have to give an estimate. If the price seems too high, the meeting may continue but the buyer has already shut the door.
- Buyers being forced to listen to product pitches want to slow down the speeding train and will often raise objections to gain some control over the direction the sales call takes.
In my experience, the higher up in an organization sellers call, the less inclined buyers are to listen to generic product pitches. Remember there are valid objections you (as well as your competitors) will encounter. Unless objections are “show stoppers” buyers can and will buy because they recognize no offering is a perfect fit for their needs. Use your judgment in deciding whether to try to address objections, but accept the fact that some are valid and you may hurt yourself by trying to talk buyers out of them.
Competent sellers first diagnose buyer needs so that they later only present the parts of a given offering that are relevant to their business. Uncovering outcomes buyers want to achieve (or problems they want to address) is an important early step. After that a thorough diagnosis to uncover relevant and irrelevant capabilities by asking questions should minimize objections. It is also helpful to buyers if sellers explain how features are used vs. merely referencing feature names buyers won’t fully understand.
If and when you get an objection, my suggestion is to be thoughtful and slow to respond. I’ve seen many salespeople make erroneous assumptions, jumping in with counter-points and inadvertently raising new objections. If you have any doubt, consider asking clarifying questions or restating objections to verify that you understand the buyer’s concern.
A few suggestions:
- If a buyer asks for a feature you don’t have you should admit it isn’t in your offering but ask why that feature is important or how will it be used. If they can’t give a meaningful answer it may not provide much value.
- If you have a differentiator, try to first ask diagnostic questions to determine whether it is relevant to your buyer, before jumping into a pitch about it. If your differentiator is relevant, be sure to arm them with exactly how it could be used. Also suggest that if any other company claims to have the same feature, the buyer ask to see it.
Revisit price objection by creating an active need.
Assume a buyer visits a showroom and has configured an Audi A6 on the dealer’s website and shows it to the seller. This is the car the buyer wants, exactly. Cloth interior is specified and when asked “why not leather?” the buyer says that $1,500 is too much to pay. At this point, the seller can either try to sell to the buyer’s ego (a dangerous tact), accept that leather is out of the question or be patient because the buyer either can’t afford or doesn’t see value in getting a leather interior.
During the test drive the patient seller and buyer could have the following dialogue:
Seller: What do you think about the A6?
Buyer: Nice handling and much faster than my car.
Seller: I’m wondering if you would often have any young children or pets riding in the car?
Buyer: I have a 1-year old daughter and a German Shepherd. Why do you ask?
Seller: When we got married our car had cloth seats. After we had our first child I realized when milk or formula spilled onto the seats it was difficult to get them out of the cloth. Has that happened to you?
Buyer: Let’s see what the difference in our monthly cost would be with leather when we get back to the showroom.
If a buyer says no to a feature because of cost, sellers have a better chance of having them overcome that objection if they can help the buyer see the value by asking questions to take the buyer from a latent to active need.
In conclusion, objections are part of a seller’s life. Doing need development research, asking pertinent and specific questions and then only discussing features relevant to the buyer’s need should minimize the number of objections sellers get (and help you get the sale).