“The Better You Manage ‘No,’ The Bigger You Will Grow.”
Having a career in sales is more than just making the sale. It includes building relationships, working hard, challenging your clients, having a winning attitude, customizing your approach, planning your strategy and of course, overcoming sales objections. This article will focus on the latter and covers the most common objections in B2B sales, why those objections are necessary and some tips to overcoming them and completing a successful sales cycle.
Objections are Necessary!
The selling actually starts when you hear the first objection, question or concern from a prospect.
Closing deals is about a few critical skills and activities: customizing your value-proposition to the customer’s interest; always driving the sales cycle to its logical next step and teaching the client something, while creating a trusting relationship. Throughout this process your prospect is teaching you, often indirectly, how to best fit the solution to the needs of their company. This is where listening is so important. “Magic” happens when you focus on what is important to them. Objections allow you to focus on the customer, not you.
Each sales opportunity starts with a conversation and has to continue to be a conversation that both parties benefit from. As long as you remain an active listener by continually tailoring the dialogue, you are building a relationship that should even transcend the current sales transaction.
Don’t be scared!
Start the sales cycle with the assumption that people have limited resources (time, budget, personnel, etc.) and that there is a trade-off associated with selecting you as a vendor and there is even an opportunity cost to spending time with you. The key is to help them understand the value of investing time with you even before they may choose to buy.
Now, let’s talk about the flip side. Why are objections necessary for you, the Sales Rep? Objections make you work harder and push you out of your comfort zone. Overcoming objections shows your employer that you understand all aspects of your job, and you will prove ambitious enough to secure growth in your company. Knowing how to handle objections will increase productivity, validate your market presence, and lead to personal and business growth.
Most Common Objections.
Research and experience confirms that there are four main types of objections:
1. Lack of budget
2. No decision-making authority
3. Lack of need
4. Bad timing
All great sales professionals will have a pre-call planning period that includes targeted research on the industry, company, department and person they plan to call on, or meet with. They will come prepared with understanding the company’s key goals, have some anticipation as to what objections they may encounter and will have already catered their dialogue around assumed company and/or department priorities and challenges. This pre-work is crucial, as it helps you avoid unproductive questions and allows you to gracefully and intelligently transcend to a more in-depth conversation. Demonstrate you know, care and want to understand better, before you sell what you think they may need.
“I have no budget.” If you hear that they have no budget for this solution, it only means that they do not have a budget for you. Are they still paying their employees, overhead, technology needs, etc? Then they have a budget. Find out their priorities, align your solution to these priorities and show them how your solution can save them on their budget and/or gain better outcomes. Provide a case study, link to research, etc. and respond with a simple business case that highlights “dollars and sense.” Also, know that most companies operate with some level of discretionary funds. Find your entry point into the organization, show them your merits and they will find the money. Find out what they need, regardless if they realize this need, and then attach a monetary value to it. Remember to avoid compromising the value of your solution at all cost.
“I don’t have the authority.” When you hear that they don’t ‘have the authority’ to pursue your solution, it can often be an excuse to help them get you off their back. It’s actually uncommon that the first person you make contact with is the ultimate decision-maker in the sales cycle. Assuming you did your research and you connect with “relevant” person, you most likely need their buy-in or even better, their sponsorship. You need important influencers in your corner. They may not have signing authority, but if you have strategically reached out to the appropriate division, then the person has the “ear” of the authority. In fact, top-level executives prefer their subordinates to flesh out the possible opportunities and screen them. So don’t give up. Work to engage your contact and make them understand how this step in the sales cycle actually benefits them by making them more successful in their role.
“I don’t need it.” When they voice ‘need,’ it’s definitely the most critical and the hardest to overcome because the statement is very broad, thus takes time to unpack. One way to approach this is to demonstrate how their competitors are gaining ground with your solution. This plays to buyers’ fear and envy. You may also try to uncover how they are currently addressing the same issues you aim to address. This may play into their desires to proudly tell their story of success, but also allows you to identify flaws you may solve on your end. Maybe they could get on board with certain aspects of your solution. During your discovery process of learning the organization, your job is to find a current relevant priority, event or initiative to which you can “attach” your solution. When the need is low for a new solution, find an existing need that you can make better, faster, cheaper, etc. Remember, “Features tell, benefits sell.” Especially when there is a belief of “no need” initially for your product, don’t talk too much about features without benefit to the customer. You must turn your ‘nice-to-have’ solution into a ‘must-have.’
“It’s not a good time.” Is it ever? Guess what: it is hardly ever a “good time.” Time is a finite resource. Who sits around waiting for a vendor to call and add more work to their plate? Not many decision-makers do. If they say that now is not a good time, find out why. What is preoccupying them right now? This is how you find out what is important at the current time. Attach your solution to a critical event if you can. A timing issue may also be related to their fiscal cycle, management change and/or acquisition. These types of timing objections can be tricky and requires a deeper conversation. You may still be able to sell the buyer on the value, but may have to postpone pushing for a potential decision some time later.
Most objections fall into one of these four categories. During your objection identification and addressing, let’s keep in mind that many buyers (or influencers) can be non-confrontational. Sometimes, you don’t hear a direct ‘no,’ but experience the runaround. Getting your prospects to give you a clear set of “yes” or “no” answers is critical to uncover their objections and ultimately overcome them.
Sure, you also need to know when to cut your losses and move on. Persistence is critical, but being stubborn and proud about not moving on is foolish. If you truly qualified the opportunity and you believe that it is a sincere no…then consider the opportunity lost or pause it for revisiting later.
There is a value of time. Sales productivity is key. So, if your particular typical sales cycle usually takes a month and you are in month three, perhaps you need to move on. If you can’t figure out a way to align your solution to the company or absolutely cannot discern a decision-maker, move on. If you missed their fiscal year or normal buying pattern, then definitely be realistic and revisit later.
However, don’t be complacent. If you have shared nothing with the individual that is powerful enough for them to make time to hear you out, then you have not done your job. If there is a chance of success with your typical profile target, even when you interpret a chance of “1 out of a million,” then give it your best “swing.” Without a best effort, you have already lost.
In conclusion, be courageous. If you give up, then you miss out on the sales opportunity. Understand that rejection is inescapable. Think of it as a challenge; maybe even set a rejection goal. If you regularly hear the same objections, analyze why and make them about growth and learning. Create a ‘notes’ document for each lead you are pursuing. In this document, keep a list of potential objections for each of the four areas discussed here, along with a 1-3-sentence response for each. Share this document with your peers and/or superior and grab their insight as well.
If it were easy, we wouldn’t need sales reps – an order-taking website would suffice. Overcoming objections is the job you are hired to do. Stay focused!
Co-written by Robert Greer and Michel Koopman