When sales leaders Tony Hughes and Cian McLoughlin recently debated over the importance of opening and closing the sale, Cian made a fundamental point: “Opening is incredibly important, but you can open until you’re blue in the face. If you don’t put the work into the steps that close, the whole thing falls apart.”
One of the biggest obstacles for closing new business is how sales teams manage customer objections. A deal can fall apart at the moment a customer objects and a sales rep becomes defensive and starts to justify the merits of the company or product. Taking an objection negatively or even at face value, can lead to missed opportunities during that critical closing sales moment.
Most common sales objections
In the business of sales, objections are inevitable. The key is to be prepared for them and understand why your customer may object. Let’s take a look at a few common causes for objection:
- Lack of knowledge: “We don’t need a mobile solution.”
- Specific, warranted concern: “Your price is higher than everyone else.”
- There is a hidden agenda: The customer has a preference or incentive to use a different product but doesn’t say outright.
- There is a perception issue: “The Cloud isn’t secure.”
- Their interests are not clear: “That’s not a priority for me this year.
To put yourself in your customers shoes, think about the objections you receive in your working week. Write down an example for each of the above types of objections. How did you handle them? It’s important to note that you may not overcome objections every time, but understanding how you handle them will put you in good stead when you’re in the middle of closing a sale.
Methods of handling customer objections
Now that you have written down the most common objections, here are some of the top tactics for handling them:
Tactic #1: Gratitude
It’s surprising what a simple thank you can do. Not only can it diffuse a situation but it can open the door to further conversation. Always thank your customer when they put an objection in front of you because this is an opportunity to address it and move on with your deal. Don’t forget, an objection is better than a “no” because it gives you some place to begin the conversation.
Tactic #2: Empathise
Empathy is a way to connect with your customer on a personal level, show you care and that you’re listening. All of us have had to say “no” at one time or another, and in business, you’re not always speaking to the decision maker. The saying “don’t shoot the messenger” absolutely applies here. Empathise with your customer, for example, words like “I hear this a lot,” “I’m sorry you feel this way,” “I hear what you’re saying and I think I can help,” can encourage your customer to open up and share more.
Tactic #3: Ask open-ended questions
Now that you’ve begun to diffuse the situation, take your time to uncover what’s really going on. Good customer discovery always focuses on asking open-ended questions. This is a lot harder than it sounds and it takes practice to develop this ability. Test your skills by having a conversation with someone and only ask them open-ended questions. If you get stuck, just do what every 4-year-old does and ask “why?” – you’ll be amazed at how powerful that little question can be!
Tactic #4: Ask, probe, confirm
Keep the conversation flowing by probing further and asking more questions. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. A great example of this tactic is when the customer mentions an acronym or other words specific to their company or business process. Take your time and keep asking questions until you truly understand the reason for the objection and they’ve satisfied your curiosity. Make sure you restate what you heard in your own words and ask them to confirm that you’ve understood them correctly.
Tactic #5: Show them your product/service will solve their problem
Okay, you have gotten to the bottom of the objection and now the next move is with you. To keep your customer around for the long haul, they must see value in your product or service. The purpose of your questioning is to understand what’s important to them, why it matters, and what their business would be like without your product or service. Ultimately, you want to know exactly what their pain point or problem is. By taking their pain point and expanding on it, a sales rep can then encourage the customer or prospect to see the connection pain resolution with the purchase of the product/service.
Tactic #6: Turn to your ultimate advocate – your customer
Now that you’ve gone through steps 1-5, it’s time to back up your statements with customer success stories. Customer case studies are a great tool because those stories often represent a pain or objection that was overcome with success. Overtime, your stories will set you apart from others and give your customers another reason to trust you with their business.