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Obsolete Options for Overcoming Objections

Without exception, the training topic that sales reps ask for most and express the highest degree of interest in is… overcoming objections.

Before I customize a curriculum and deliver sales training, I survey the reps and managers who will participate in the program. I ask about skill level, confidence level and interest level in a variety of sales training topics. I also ask for samples of objections and responses. When I put all this together, I can usually understand why a group zeroes in on this topic of how to overcome objections.

Even for reps who have been trained before in how to overcome objections, the general sentiment is the same. Reps believe that they are hearing insurmountable objections… that nothing they say will cause the prospect to think beyond the objection. In other words, reps accept the objections as absolute truths.

That’s a problem. Even in an economic downturn, at a time when it’s easy to empathize with a statement like “I just can’t afford it right now,” sellers must probe objections. It’s the buyer’s job to offer an objection, and it’s the seller’s job to make an effort to overcome the objection. When sellers agree with and accept objections, buyers are confused and disappointed. In field research, I often talk to buyers to do post-mortems on sales calls. When sellers back down after an objection, buyers say things like “he must not want my business,” or “I guess she just lost interest.” Occasionally, I hear “that one works every time – it’s how I can tell if they sales rep is good or not.”

One of the reasons that reps readily accept objections is that they are not confident and/or “competent” enough to handle them. Since the old methodologies for overcoming objections no longer work as well as they used to, veteran sellers have also shifted toward thinking that objections are dead ends.

How did this happen? Why do the approaches that used to work now fall flat?

It’s because buyers have changed. Consumers are more savvy and empowered than ever before. No one wants to be a pushover, and everyone knows that they should at least try to get a better deal. Buyers wield their power with more confidence in a marketplace that gives them abundant options and at a time when they know with absolute certainty that they can call the shots.

Additionally, there are some formulaic responses to objections that are simply worn out from overuse. These include:

  • Feel/Felt/Found  - This is the one where a seller responds to any objection with “I understand why you feel that way. I’ve worked with others who felt that way too, until they found that ____” (Blank is to be filled in with an awesome benefit). The appeal of Feel/Felt/Found is that it supports the prospect's position and is, therefore, putting the buyer and seller on “the same side.” But the problem with Feel/Felt/Found is that it supports the prospect’s position, thereby validating the objection and strengthening their position.
  •  That’s Exactly Why – In this response, the seller is taught to turn the objection around. For example, the buyer says “I can’t afford this right now,” and the seller responds by saying “The fact that you can’t afford this right now is exactly why you should make this investment and grow your business.” The problem with this approach is that the responses often sound like circular logic and are, at best, convoluted rationalizations that do little to sway most buyers
  • Ignoring the Objection – While not formally taught in reputable books and training programs, this is the response to objections that sellers choose most often. Sometimes the choice is deliberate, and the seller hopes that changing the subject will somehow erase the prospect’s memory of that objection. Sometimes, this is an inadvertent omission. The seller wants to position value or solutions ahead of the objection but then forgets to circle back to it. Sadly, the primary reason that objections are ignored is that sellers don’t actively listen and understand them when they’re offered. When the prospect says “I don’t think this is right for us, let me think about it,” the seller selectively hears, “Call me back next week for the order.’ When I’m in field observing calls and debriefing reps afterward, I ask them “why didn’t you respond to that objection?” They frequently say “what objection?” because they’ve missed a part of what the prospect said.
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