I am frequently asked by sales leaders to help their people handle objections more effectively. This triggers a discussion about what kinds of objections their salespeople are facing, what might be triggering those objections and how they are currently addressing what turn into crucial conversations.
Most often, especially in large-ticket sales, I find that objections are created because salespeople simply ask customers to accept too much change, for the expected benefit or risk involved for the customer:
- Too big a change in routine for the customer, whether users, buyers or influencers
- Too much effort to evaluate the offer
- Too much time or effort to deal with the product
- Too much time or effort to deal with the supplier
- Too much change for the customer's organization to handle!
- Too much risk to implement, change behavior or to see impact
Numerous studies show that more than 70% of change initiatives fail. Given that, why should salespeople expect that, as outsiders, that they can convince the customer to take the risk to change, let alone be successful in executing it?
When salespeople recognize that their success requires others to change behavior, they get a new perspective on selling and a fresh perspective on what they see as "objections." Successful salespeople are change agents. Unfortunately, people and organizations do not like change. This is not to say that people are intentionally stubborn. Saying "no" is simply one way that people cope with change. When things get busy, people protect their routines and rituals. Customer resistance often starts when salespeople carelessly consume customer time and ask customers to change their rituals without fair reward.
For example, when working with Rotary Club leaders on membership development, this thinking creates a shift in their conversation with potential new members. Instead of just asking and asking (the sales training cliche equivalent of "close six times"), the club leaders focus much more on making their mission and impact clear to members, while making it very clear how they will help new members integrate into the club. Why should anyone join a nonprofit and spend less time with their families, their hobbies, their work or any other volunteer activity?
When customers say "no!" they are just saying that they will not change their behavior. So what can salespeople do about objections? Prevent objections. Don't deal with objections. Start by looking at reducing the customer time and effort required to deal with you your organization:
- Reduce their work. How can you make it easier for customers to buy, implement, learn and use your products and services? Have you communicated how simple it will be for them? What can you do to reduce their work, whether it is directly related to your product or not?
- Streamline the working relationship. Customers develop a working rhythm with suppliers, whether they love them or not. Why should they interrupt that rhythm to work with you?
- Help customers connect. One of the consequences of "too much work" is that people become disconnected from their own organizations. Recently, getting sales to work more effectively with marketing is a hot topic. What can you as a supplier to to help your customers connect?
- Simplify your communication. Bill Jensen has distilled the essence of change management into three simple ideas - Know - Feel - Do. What do you want them to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?
When salespeople realize they are change agents, I have noticed that they begin to shift their approach. They use customer time more carefully. They think through their actions and how their recommendations affect their customers - both in terms of results promised and in terms of the work needed to realize those results.
Many salespeople are excited to tell me that their customers respond immediately - and positively when they make this shift in thinking. Rather than try to do everything for the customer, why not help them do a few things really well, and make it easier for them to do their work - and in less time?
- How have you simplified your products or your working relationship to make it easier for your customers to drive value from what you offer?
- Of all of the suppliers in your category, what can you do to be the easiest to do business with?