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Overcoming sales objections by verifying the roadblocks

Effectively dealing with customer concerns and objections is part of every sales job. Rarely will a sale occur without the prospect or customer raising a concern or three along the way. It's a natural part of creating value for customers by helping them solve their problems, and satisfying their requirements.

Therefore it's essential that salespeople understand what goes into properly overcoming sales objections and how to handle the common sales objections that prospects and customers frequently raise. By mastering the techniques for professionally meeting and overcoming objections, salespeople will experience a dramatic increase in sales effectiveness, including a significant reduction in sales cycle time.

Sales objections are roadblocks, not dead ends

Too often we find salespeople viewing sales objections as a dead end. In reality, the most productive way to view sales objections is simply as roadblocks on the road to a sale.

If you were driving down a road, think of what you would do if you encountered a roadblock: you would slow down, take in information, investigate the environment, perhaps discuss the situation with a construction worker or policeman on site, and then decide how to proceed. Should you wait until the roadblock is cleared? Or do you need to find another way around it? Only rarely would you give up and simply go back to where you came from....and you certainly wouldn't speed up and crash head-first into the roadblock! 

And yet there seems to be two great sins in sales when it comes to meeting customer concerns and overcoming objections: give up, turn around and leave at the first sign of resistance or start selling harder and crash any hope of building a relationship.

Instead, you should view an objection as an opportunity to gain greater insight into your prospect's thinking and the problems they are trying to solve. This will inform you about how you should proceed. Often you'll find that making a few adjustments to your sales approach, such as repositioning the value your product or service provides, will help the customer understand how your solution solves their problem.

Meeting and verifying sales objections

Most salespeople know that when they encounter objections, they need to ask the prospect questions. Where many salespeople fail themselves however is falling into the trap of asking the customer 'why': Why would you think that's a problem? Why would you have a problem with that? Whilst there is sound psychological theory in asking 'why', in practice 'why' is perceived as confrontational, and can appear to question the prospect's intellect, almost like saying, "What's wrong with you?". This of course will not cause them to want to continue talking with you or help you build a relationship.

So in sales we need tools and skills that help us do in practice what 'why' does in theory. That is, when a customer voices an objection or concern, we need to seek their opinion. We can do this by first acknowledging that they must have a good reason for having the thought they've expressed, and then ask them what that reason is. By seeking their permission before asking the question you communicate respect, the customer feels in command of the situation, and understands that you value their perspective.

Once the customer feels in control, and more at ease with the sales process, you can gently probe and verify whether the sales objection is a true one or an excuse because to this point we don't know which it is! Even after you've responded to a sales objection by asking for the prospect's opinion, they will too often give you a good sounding excuse as to why they don't want to proceed....but its not their true reason for stalling. The reality is that more sales are lost attempting to answer objections that don't even exist (including by experienced salespeople) than for any other reason.......they're nothing more than excuses.

To ensure that you're addressing the prospect's true concern, ask them if they think your product or service would work for them if their objection was not an issue. By asking a simple question like this – again, you're merely seeking their opinion – you'll quickly determine if this really is their true concern.

Handle sales objections as you would any roadblock

Once you have greater insight into the prospect's true concern you'll be better informed about how to handle it appropriately. Revisiting the roadblock analogy, do you wait until the roadblock clears, is it simply a waiting game until the prospect gains access to a budget or you can sell other stakeholders? Or do you need to find an alternate way around it, such as repositioning the solution you're selling?

There are of course a number of ways to then deal with specific sales objections. The key is to effectively cut through the excuses and identify the customer's true concern. If you're not dealing with true concerns you're an unpaid entertainer!

Practical Sales Management and Leadership is a modular, cloud-based, training system designed to help sales leadership teams grow their ability to performance manage the sales force.  Preview a module from the training system here