Every sales dialogue in consultative selling eventually leads to a customer objection. Therefore, sales professionals shouldn’t try to avoid them. Instead, they should sharpen their sales skills and come prepared to resolve objections.
The problem, however, is that different customers across various industries will have different objections.
The solution – a four-step model – applies to any sales objection because it’s built around a client-focused framework. Here, we look at the specifics behind of framework and how sales professionals can apply the concepts in any environment.
Engaging the Challenge Before the Solution
When encountering an objection, too often the natural impulse is to counter the customer’s statement. This urge comes from the ego. We feel compelled to stand our ground and assert our position.
Effective sales professionals work to silence this involuntary response.
Their first step: acknowledge the customer’s objection. This approach is critical in selling because research repeatedly shows that “listening is positively related to buyer’s trust in and satisfaction with the salesperson.”
This step is characterized by empathy for the customer’s objection. Begin by stating that you’ve heard the customer’s position. Doing so means more than just outwardly showing that you’ve heard their words with “scripted sincerity.” The sales professional must engage in active, empathetic listening that seeks to inhabit the customer’s perspective. Interestingly, research tells us that this is both “the single most important skill that salespeople can possess” and, at the same time, “one of the most important reasons that salespeople are unsuccessful.”
The strongest sales professionals understand the importance of listening. They genuinely think about what the customer has vocalized because they understand that reaching a close means navigating the objection.
Therefore, they need to understand exactly what the customer has said by asking the right clarifying questions.
Benefiting Both Sides of the Table by Clarifying Needs
The customer’s objection reveals only a fraction of the true, underlying need. The sales professional’s job is to question and go deeper.
This process is important for both sides of the table.
The sales professional needs the detail to eventually overcome the objection. At the same time, the customer needs to talk through the objection so they can arrive at a more defined description of the challenge. Questioning is diagnosing. It’s impossible to deliver a solution without a clear outline of the challenge.
These should not be leading questions. The sales professional should not attempt to push the customer down a path. Instead, questions help surface the details of the objection. Otherwise, they remain hidden and grow unchecked until they’re too big for even the best sales professional to handle. Most importantly, the answers to these questions guide the sales professional towards the sale.
Even highly experienced sales professionals will find that some business challenges are prohibitively complex. They will not have all the answers. However, when they ask questions, the task of overcoming the objection becomes a team effort.
Drawing a Straight Line to the Solution
In a competitive atmosphere where a customer is considering numerous solutions, sales professionals may resort to a long list of product features.
This compulsion is understandable. Many sales professionals have taken enormous effort to become an expert in every characteristic of the solution. They want to show what they know. Additionally, the more capabilities the solution has, the more powerful it appears. Effective positioning reminds us that articulating only the most relevant features is best.
Positioning is the sales professional’s opportunity to use what they’ve learned while questioning and draw a straight line from the customer’s specific needs to solution capabilities.
Customize the solution. The discussion of features should be limited to only those that connect in a meaningful way to the customer’s challenges. Use clear, concise language.
Avoid the tendency to position early. The key to strong positioning skills is knowing when in the dialogue to articulate solution capabilities. It’s not time to position until you fully understand needs and how the customer thinks. You need to show how the solution will deliver results within the context of the customer’s business.
Eliciting Feedback to Maintain Collaboration
Eliciting feedback is an effective way to maintain momentum in the sale, but too many sales professionals ignore this step thinking it shows weakness or lack of confidence.
Feedback is important because it offers the opportunity to course correct if the customer perceives misalignment between the solution and business needs. Checking must consist of direct questions. The sales professional must determine if the solution satisfies the need.
Feedback also shapes the customers thinking. Asking for feedback invites them to acknowledge that a solution is a viable option. If they believe the solution isn’t a fit, then eliciting feedback encourages more dialogue which helps the sales professional. Without feedback the conversation stalls. Deadlocks lead to dead ends.
Objections should not be feared. In fact, they’re often a good sign. Vocal objections signify that you’ve engaged the customer and that they’re taking you solution seriously. Moreover, objections may not indicate dissatisfaction with the solution. Instead, they might be a hint that you’re moving too fast and not asking enough questions. The key to closing resides in the specific words embedded in the objection. Listen closely.