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Since we were young we’ve had to deal with how to handle objections, whether it was convincing our parents to give us more candy before bed or being a teenager asking for a later curfew. Times have changed, but handling objections during a sale rarely gets easier.
Mr. George Leith, our phenomenal host, takes us through how to handle objections. Prospects who say “no” or “maybe” are not always the most pleasant to deal with. George’s Top Tips include the secret sauce for effective sales people, how to work through a sale when a prospect stalls, and how to reframe the conversation when a prospect flat out says “no.” He explains the four different types of objections AND the five strategies to handle those objections.
George is a thoroughly experienced, educational, and inspirational sales and marketing keynote speaker who can enlighten your company or professional association on best practices for transforming sales and utilizing social media’s innovative concepts to align your digital media marketing with current trends and prepare it for the unpredictable times ahead. As a sales transformation keynote speaker, author and guest university lecturer, he has a unique ability to demystify concepts and inspire businesses and professionals to understand and truly embrace the potential that digital transformation has for many business objectives including sales, business development, and marketing for B2B, non-profit organizations, as well as government institutions.
George: It is the latest edition of the Conquer Local podcast. All about one of the things that trips up sales people, and I actually believe it might be the way to build amazing digital sales people. I will explain everything that you need to know about handling objections when we return on the Conquer Local podcast.
These additions have been titled by producer Coleen George’s Top Tips and we are going to get into handling objections. So the first time that you received some sort of an objection was very young. You may not even remember this. You went to your parents and you asked them for a lollipop and you had already had about 10 of them and they said no. And then you started dealing with the objection and you started saying, “Nah, but I’m only going to have a little bit of it.”Or, “You know, I didn’t really have eight of those earlier. You didn’t count right, Mom and Dad. I only had six.” And we would start spinning the conversation to try and get our way in the discussion. I think that some people are like, “Oh, I don’t really know. I’m not really good at handling objections.” You’ve been handling objections for a long time. You may just not have understood that in that context.
When we were writing this lesson, I wanted to dig into objections and why they are so bloody important. This really hit me a couple of months back. I think it was about five months back.
I was in the field working with the sales team and we were doing some role playing. I was the business owner and they were acting as a salesperson. I started to fire some objections at them to see if they knew how to handle the objections. And they were specific objections around digital marketing that we have all either heard or we have been dealing with. What I found was, the sales person across the table from me was not able to handle the objection like it was second nature. They were searching for the way to handle the objection.
Some of these people were traditional print sales people. If I were to ask them and give them an objection around a quarter page print ad, they would be able to tell me that in their sleep. They would be able to tell me that after 10 bourbon, because it was fully ingrained in them through years upon years of, first off, trial and error to figure out what works.
There’s a couple ways we learn. We learn by trying, not succeeding, adjusting or we learn from somebody that has some experience in the space.
The traditional products that we were selling, in my early days, radio, print, I can give you the objections just like that. And I had them all and there were a million objections that could come my way and I had all of the rebuttals down to an art.
I knew exactly how to navigate that. But because we are living in a world where new digital marketing solutions are invented every day, the landscape changes pretty much on an hourly basis. I do not know if we have armed our salespeople or armed ourselves with the key components of the objections that we are getting around digital solutions.
It really is the secret sauce of being an effective salesperson, is the ability to handle objections. I remember attending a training session here a couple of years back, I think it was actually about eight years ago, and they brought in this sales trainer from Xerox. I always love sales trainers from like Best Buy selling electronics or anybody who had to sell some sort of electronics, because those people are great salespeople. This woman was the head sales trainer for Xerox all over North America. She said the customer interaction that she hates is the one where they don’t give you an objection, because you have nowhere to go.
So you make the presentation to the person and you know, it is like presenting to a sphinx. They just sit there and no look. There’s nothing. You cannot even tell from their demeanor how they are feeling. The key to the objection is to understand where the objection is coming from.
Four Major Forms of Objection
George:There usually are four types of objections when selling. So our first objection is around price and it is around the risk. The higher the risk is on the purchase, the more that you really need to work on connecting the value of the price. The other thing, it would really be important to understand how risky this purchase is. Sometimes you have got to get that with the needs analysis. What I mean by that is, let’s say the local business person just spent $10,000 on some sort of marketing and it did not work very well. They are under the gun from their boss because the boss had the write the $10,000 check and you can’t really prove the ROI. The next purchase might be a hell of a lot riskier for that buyer.
I’ve always found that understanding how risk adverse the buyer is and sometimes we deal with procurement people and sometimes we deal with CFOs and sometimes we are dealing with accountants. We just really have to understand the price and the risk.
Number two, the quality of service objection. If they have any sort of concern around the quality of your products or certain… This is why the value proposition and coming up with a way to present your product and service to show the true value and set the expectation is such an important piece of the puzzle. If the prospect expresses some sort of doubts about product quality or the training of our personnel or the speed or responsiveness of our service departments or compatibility, those are examples of quality of service concerns and couple of ways that you can deal with that…
Around product quality, give me a case study. Show me a demo of the solution, how bloody good it is, and then give me a case study of somebody who is really happy with that product or service. I think that kind of applies for the way that you are delivering a service or a solution.
Then the training of your personnel. I have come across this quite a bit recently and I really go into that. I see it as an advantage in the presentation stage to say, “Here is the team who is going to be looking after you. Johnny has been doing this for 25 years. I’ve been doing this for a long time, since the wheels weren’t round. And Colleen, she’s been doing it for like a few months, but she’s awesome.” So you really laying out the resume, as it were, of the team.
Now salespeople, sometimes we do not have very big egos. So we do not like to brag about ourselves and the things that we have done. You really need to get over that if you have that problem, by the way, because as part of the presentation, you better be compelling as to show the person across the table why they should be listening to you and why they need to pay attention to and what you bring to them that can help their business. Those are a few things when it comes to pivoting the conversation or dealing with the objections around quality of service.
Then we have got trust and the relationship. The customer might be concerned about the legitimacy or credibility of your company. What this indicates is that you have not done a good enough job of building rapport with the customer. You are not there yet. One thing that we have not talked about yet, but I am going to introduce this thought, is rushing a deal through the pipeline.
You have got set stages of the pipeline. First, you find a lead. They are qualified. They are in the space. You know that you have dealt with other companies that need your product or service. So you have qualified the lead. It is a PQL, product-qualified lead.
Then you are lucky enough to convince that person to have a meeting with you and you conduct what is then known as the needs analysis, where you start asking some of… By the way, it is not just one stage. You should be doing needs analysis all the time. We’ve covered this before, but it has to start somewhere and it is seeking to understand the customer. While You are doing the needs analysis, that is where you are building that rapport. That is where you are building that trust. That is where you are making that person understand that you know what you are talking about. So as much as you need to be asking them questions about their business, you need to align those values that you bring and the quality that you bring to the conversation.
I like to name drop inside my presentations. I like to figure out that per… It is pretty easy to do now, by the way, to figure out what names to drop, because you could just drop names, Tony, does not mean anything to me because there’s no context around that, Bob. See, it is not about dropping names, it is about dropping names that align to the customer. And guess what? This amazing piece of technology called Linked shows you not only the person that you are going to call on and their resume and their hobbies and the crap that they like, but it also shows you a bunch of other people that they are related to. And you do not even have to dig into the list of people that says, here is some common people that you have. And what if you were to drop the name of somebody who is in that common list, that you know is connected to the person that You are making the call on and connected to you?
That is where you are building that trust. You are building rapport. You are building a relationship and at that point then you can start asking for business. But if you do not have the proper trust or have not built the proper relationship, you can pitch until you are blue in the face and you are not going to get anywhere.
Now we get down to another type of objections. When I was researching this topic, I found a number of different blogs and I found a number of different podcasts I listened to about it and they called this fourth objection, the stall. I was like, “Oh, I hate this part. I hate this part.”
We are close to the sale. We have made the presentation. We are asking for the business or we are about to have the call where we ask for the business and you cannot get an appointment. They will not give you an answer. They actually will not even tell you the reason why they will not say yes or no.
When we are looking at the sales process, there are two answers that we really like. Yes. Of course we like that one the most. But another one that I like almost as much is no. Because what those two answers give us is closure, so that we can move on to the next stage. And what a maybe gives you is nothing. A maybe is a dark hole and what it does is maybe sucks up all your time and you have got this pipeline built up and you have all these maybes. One maybe is 30 days old, one maybe, 60 days old, one maybe is 90 days old.
And as salespeople, we’re hoarders. We never want to throw any freaking opportunity out. We’re like, “Ah, I thought I pitched that guy four years ago. It went so well.” You have been dreaming about them saying yes to you, but it was four freaking years ago. Some of you have had two kids in that time or two gran… It is a long freaking time.
We need to clean that pipeline out and we need to be aware that the stall could be sucking up one of our most valuable resources is time.
So we got those four objections and we need to learn how to deal with them. It is a really important step to becoming a prolific salesperson. If you have anticipated and prepared for those four types of objections, you will not panic. This is what I find working with sales teams when I’m out on four legged calls, two legs with titanium, two legs most of the time without.
We go out and we call on a customer and I wait for the objection to come up and then to see how the rep deals with it. Sometimes it is just sheer panic. They are just scared shitless. You can just tell by their whole demeanor they have no idea how to deal with the objection.
That comes back now onto the sales manager that did not train the rep properly or the sales environment that they live in. I have found that some of the most effective sales environments… And this isn’t just recently. This has been 30 years ago when I started in the business. I learned more from the veteran salespeople that I was seated next to in the sales room than I ever learned from my managers or on the street. A lot of that was live fire where they would come in, they would be all really excited about a call labor just on and I would say, “Well how did you present it? What were the things they liked?”
I was always have been very curious. It has been one of the reasons why I think I have been pretty good in my sales career. I am super curious and I like to ask questions. Why did that happen? How did they react? I like to think that I am a student to people and I like to measure, make it statement and then stand there and wait and see what happens with it. And as those of you who have known me for a long time know, I’ll pretty much make any statement to see what people will do.
Best course of action to direct the focus back to the larger context in which the purchases being made is to come up with clear, logical reasons why they can buy. It is pretty much a verbatim quote from one of the blogs that I had read on the subject. The interesting thing that that is saying is when you are in the sales process and you come to an objection, you need to be able to steer that prospect back to what you have identified as the need that you are solving. They are throwing objections at you either to stall the deal. They are throwing objections at you to get a better price. They are throwing objections at you because they do not believe that you can deliver on the product or service meaning, you have not established that trust.
The analogy I’m going to use is you are the back catcher and you have got a pitcher out there. He’s got different colored balls and he is firing them at you and you can map those balls back to “Oh, here comes a price one. Here comes a risk adverse one. Here comes the quality of service one. Here comes the does not trust me piece again. And it is repetitively dealing with those objections where you start to wear them down. You start to wear down the price, the risk objection, the quality of service objection, the trust, the relationship objection. And then the one that we hate the most, and we probably can’t do too much with, is stall, the stall portion of those objections.
To Frame or Express Differently
George: We need to be using a strategy called reframing. We need to reframe things. A customer says, “Your price is too high.” Why do you feel the price is too high? Are there other products and services that you have been looking at that have a better price? Imagine that question. You ask about that and they give you your competitor that you know you are better at in three different places on the chart. You know you’ve got the chart and you measure them.
So are you saying you are concerned about return on investment? Are you looking at the impact on your overall costs? That’s another way of reframing the objection to get the prospect back on track. If you are comparing risks and benefits that were previously agreed to, you can use one of these statements. “We are offering a custom solution that will help better meet your customers’ needs and eliminate downtime, which is going to have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.”
Listen to that. The way that that’s… Again, they’re coming back to… In the needs analysis we found that the business does better when they sell custom solutions, when they make sure that they meet the needs of their customers and they are all looking to eliminate downtime. Those items, right there are tent poles and you need to keep hammering on that tent pole every single time. You know that that resonates with the prospect because you found it in the needs analysis and need to go back to it and reframe it that way. “Yeah. The price might be a little bit more, but this is a custom solution that hits all of the items that you told me earlier were important to you. It is going to get us to the outcome that you desire.” I’ve also found in that reframing stage is where you push them back to the outcome. Always push them to the outcome. The outcome is, I’m going to solve these problems for you with my solution or my products.
Then ask questions to get acceptance to close the deal. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it is not really a trick. It is the way that you need to close business to come to that closure of give me a yes or no so we move on to the next stage.
Here’s one of these questions to get acceptance. Do you feel that this custom solution will help your relationship with your customers? Will that be a value to your company? If you have done a great job of presenting, of doing the needs analysis first, building the strategy that solves their problem, framing that to them as to how it does solve the problem with the value that you bring and then say to them, “Do you feel that this custom solution will help your relationship with your customers?” “Yes.” “Will that custom solution be of value to your company?” “Yeah, it would be way better than what we have today.”
You are moving them along the line and if we do not have that panic stage, if we can give those objections just off the cuff… This is something for the sales managers that are out there, or for those of you that are running your own independent businesses and you are managing yourselves, you want to go back and you want to say, okay, over my sales calls this past week, here are the top 10 objections that I had and then grade yourself on how good you were at dealing with those objections. Show me the ones that You are great at. Show me the ones that you are poor at and then you know where to spend your time.
I want you to remember these tactics. Listen fully to the objection. The first thing we do is get defensive. We jump in, but no, that’s not the way that it works. I said this, this, this, this, and we just feature benefit dump on them. We just throw up all the feature benefits again, because maybe they didn’t hear us and producer calling and saying, “You are talking too fast again, George.” See, I do it. I get excited and that person’s not going to buy from me? Damn right, you are going to buy from me. Here’s all the reasons booboo, booboo, booboo, boom.” Take a breath and maybe ask a question like this. “Here’s what I think you said,” and get them to reframe the question again so that you can really understand it and then deal with every single item that they have an objection to and try not to be too defensive.
It just reeks of weakness when you are really, really defensive. No, but that’s not the way it went or no, no, it went this way. Your body language will give it all away. So you need to have that confident body language. When I do presentations I like to stand. Way more confident when I’m standing. Like to probably take a little wider stance. So I put balance over my frame, not like hopping around on one… It is just annoying and it is nervous and you want to make sure that you have that confidence when you are going in to deal with those objections.
Understanding the objection completely. There are many objections that hide behind other issues and maybe the buyer can’t even articulate what their real concern is at this point. The true issue usually isn’t what they tell you first.
As a salesperson, that is your job to dig in and get to the heart of the objection. I’ve got a term for this. The G rated way to explain this is called blowing smoke. So you make the pitch to the customer and they give you an answer. I can’t buy that because I don’t like blue dumplings. But that’s not the real reason that they can buy it. They can’t buy it because blue dumplings are super fricking expensive. They are like $2,400 and they do not have the budget and that prospect is going to need some sort of a finance plan to be able to afford blue dumplings and they do not know if they can get approved for credit. That’s an extreme example of what might be hiding underneath an objection. It is the truth as to why they really have the objection. I want you to make sure that you utilize this tactic to dealing with objections. Respond properly.
After You are confident you have uncovered all the objections. I want you to start with the most important objection first. They give you a bunch of objections. Do not like to buy things on Monday. Do not like to buy things that are too expensive. Do not really think that you guys know what you are doing. Find the one that is most important to the person, based upon their body language and the way they presented it and let us get that one first, because usually when we dig under the hood of all of those objections, finding that most important one is the key. It is like the blowing smoke part. They gave you eight things, but it is really only one. So responding properly is really important. We want to make sure that we do our best to resolve the issue right away. The more that you can resolve issues in real time, the greater chance you have of moving the sale forward.
The tendency we have is to then tell the truth in advance, outright boldly lie, because we don’t really know the real answer. So I’m not saying to just blurt out stuff that you don’t know is 100% true. It is still okay to say, “I’m gonna have to go back and get some information on that and figure out if we really can solve that problem for you.” There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that actually creates trust. One of the hardest things for a salesperson to do is to say that they don’t know and that they’re going to have to find out. But I found that that can build a hell of a lot of rapport if you don’t know the answer and you get back to that person. Plus it is a reason to talk to them again.
You are in the call, you are making a presentation. They come up with these objections. One of the objections you don’t know the answer to, you say, “Here are the other two. Here is the one I think is most important. Let us deal with that first. Let us deal with this one over here, which I think is just smoke, but I’m being polite by dealing with it and then number three, I am going to have to go back and I am going to have to talk to somebody way smarter than me to get you an answer on that one. But I promise that I will call you back by the end of the day.” I know that person works til five. I am going to get back to the office and I will give you a call. You see how that cadence gives you an opportunity to build more trust with the customer because you have now delivered on a promise.
Maybe as part of your value proposition you said, “We always deliver on our promises.” Here’s a perfect opportunity to deliver on a promise that you just gave them. I also like to rub that in the prospect’s nose all the time. “I promised you that I would be here for our appointment at three o’clock. I promised you I would get you information on that product or service that you had.” When I send them the email, I go, “Fulfilling my promise to you, here’s the information that you requested.” You see what we are doing there? People who speak that way are not afraid for you to look at what is going on in behind the scenes. They ae like, “Yeah, check me out. I’m good. I deliver on my promises.” It is called trust-building.
Confirm that you’ve satisfied the objection. This is tactic number four. What you are looking for is to get through what I call the lukewarm yes. You can tell it when they give it to you. Kind of like, eh. It is kind of positive. You don’t quite know. I think that what you want is the emphatic yes. Where it is like, “Yes, that is exactly what I was hoping you would say. I have been looking for somebody who can do that.” You get to the heart of their concerns and you confirm you satisfy the objection.
George: This is a great closing line. You say to the prospect, “Now that I have dealt with that objection…” Call it out. Call it an objection. It is not a four letter word. Call it out and say, “I dealt with your objection. Are we able now to move our partnership forward?” Pass the pen across the table and let him sign the order.
We wanted to get that out there because I find that objections are the secret sauce to selling and the ability to find them, deal with them, pivot them to show the value in your products and services.
We all need to work on practicing the art of handling objections. They are like weeds, folks. There are new objections growing right now, right this minute. Like, “Ah, I just weeded the garden. Where the hell did that dandelion come from?” We need to be dealing with objections all the time and practicing the art of that.
Role playing, by far the best way to do it in a sales room. Get your salespeople start role playing. Here is what I do know. I can find out how well managed a sales team is by whether they deploy role playing on a daily, weekly, monthly, or never basis. Walk in, “Let’s do some role playing.” And if all the reps are like “Ahh.” They run. They try and hide. They freak out. A bunch of them pass out. They turn white as ghosts. You can tell that they haven’t done any role playing or practicing out loud or…
So then here is what happens. Then the salesperson goes out and practices dealing with objections in front of the customer with a look of panic on their face like they just had when I brought it up. Get objection handling into the DNA of your sales organization. If you are a one person salesman or woman, get it into your DNA every morning. You are driving to your first sales call. Practice handling some objections. It is going to change the game for you. Knowing how to identify them, knowing what category they fall into and then knowing how to deal with them and practicing that and honing your craft, you will become an expert on dealing with objections.
Thanks for joining us for the Conquer Local podcast. These are George’s Top Tips for Sales. I’m George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you