We dread them. We dodge them. We deny, debate and discourage them.
What would happen if, instead, we genuinely appreciated our buyers' objections?
As a field coach, I've seen every imaginable response to sales objections.
As a buyer-side researcher, I've asked buyers about the ways sellers respond.
As a sale trainer, I've conducted hundreds (thousands?) of role plays related to overcoming objections.
All of this leads me to one certain conclusion. We're making it much harder than it has to be.
We know what buyers want us to do. We know the steps that will invalidate objections and enable us to advance the sale. We have the ability to logically respond without getting swept up in adrenaline-fueled emotional responses.
So what's the problem? Why does objection handling still show up as one of the top skills sellers feel they need help with?
Overcoming sales objections is much easier when you appreciate them
Let's start by re-examining what's really going on when a buyer offers an objection.
First, everyone knows you have to offer some kind of objection. You can't say "yes" too soon or you'll look like an easy mark. Buyers are simply doing what they're supposed to do when they float an objection. Oftentimes, these are merely smokescreens to prevent a seller from seeing the true interest level.
Second, real objections (not smokescreens) are extremely valuable for sellers. They are a strong indication of what the buyer values. What's more, they are a sign of interest. No one gives you a reason for not buying unless they want to hear your response (secretly hoping you'll make it easier for them to say "yes").
Third, objections are not personal or permanent. Buyers aren't rejecting you, the seller. They're telling you that they need more information and are stuck. They're asking for your help to change the way they see the current equation.
Considering these truths about objections, we should be grateful for them. They give us clues about how to proceed and insights into our buyers. Objections give us something to work with.
I'd rather hear an objection than be left wondering what happened because the true objection was never spoken. I genuinely appreciate when a buyer explains what's keeping them from saying "yes" to me.
That's why I start my response to the objection by saying "Thank you for sharing that with me." I'm genuinely thankful, and I want the buyer to know that.
By thanking the buyer, I accomplish something else. I make it okay for them to tell me more. I show them that I'm not crushed and that what they're thinking or feeling is important to me. I like how objections can give us an opportunity to bond.
Because I've opened the conversation (instead of shutting it down), the buyer tells me the truth and the whole story. That makes it much easier to work with the buyer on getting the objection resolved so we can re-focus on what they value and want to achieve.
Overcoming sales objections is also easier when you actually understand them
Expressing appreciation opens up the conversation and gives you a chance to make sure this is a real objection and the only objection. Then you can probe to fully understand it before becoming defensive or responding prematurely.
When sellers leap into a response, they come across as fast talkers and cause buyers to feel they can't be trusted. A seller's palpable discomfort when defending against an objection makes the buyer uncomfortable, too. Pretty soon, both parties are eager to move on... The problem is that the buyer has only one place left to move if the real objection has not been surfaced, understood and resolved.
That's why it's so important for a seller to treat an objection like the innocuous question it usually is. The buyer needs information. Before racing to deliver the information, sellers should pause and get clarification.
Simply paraphrasing the objection back to the buyer will get you that clarification. It will also give you a moment to compose yourself and remember how much you appreciate this opportunity to respond to the objection.
Once clarified, probe to fully understand the objection. One technique for doing this is to simply say "please tell me more about what causes you to feel this way."
Note the word "feel" instead of "think" or "believe." Feelings are more malleable and, at this point, you're probably dealing with a feeling or perception. Hear the buyer out. Don't interrupt. Ask natural follow-up questions, as needed, to get the clear and complete picture.
Along the way, you may wish to express appreciation for any sharing that is confidential or difficult for the buyer. They are trusting you with this information, and it is appropriate to encourage them with your praise and gratitude.
Overcoming sales objections gives you the perfect opportunity to exhibit a behavior that is highly valued by buyers
Once you fully understand, it's time to respond to the objection. Try not to sound scripted no matter how many times you've answered this same objection.
Try, too, to be thoroughly address what they buyer shared. Don't race through your response. Don't ignore what the buyer said. Don't make stuff up just to get it over with. Be frank and stay on point.
When you respond fully, you will be demonstrating the behavior that B2B buyers rated #1 most important (in a Qualtrics Panel Study with 530 B2B buyers). That behavior was:
"The seller fully answers my questions and provides information that is relevant, timely, and useful."
This behavior is the one, above all others, that buyers want to see more frequently from their sellers. Dodging the objection or giving a canned answer won't satisfy you buyer. To fully answer and be relevant, timely and useful, you'll need to control your emotional reaction to the objection and handle it with care.
This is an opportunity. In this very moment, while responding to the objection, you can differentiate yourself from other sellers who don't fully answer questions (objections) and provide the kind of information buyers want.
This differentiation builds trust and credibility. It makes you stand out in positive ways vs. your competition. It builds a bridge between you and your buyer.
Aren't you glad you got this opportunity? An unspoken objection would never have set you up for success in the way this does!
The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection. Our 2017 emphasis will be on reporting buyer-side research and how sellers can connect with buyers and sell more effectively by adopting the behaviors of leaders. The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement is all about the future state of sales and your success as a Sales Professional.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach. Her bestselling book “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” has been named by HubSpot as one of "The 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time."