how to close the sale
The Changing Role of the Modern Sales Team
Head ‘em Off at the Pass
Part of knowing how to overcome sales objections is to anticipate possible snags in the sales process. One of the most common sales objections is that the buyer needs approval from another party: a spouse, a business partner, a supervisor, or other executives. Early on in the sales process, determine if you are dealing with the decision maker(s). Doing so will avoid wasted time and help you focus your efforts where they should be.
In addition to screening your customers’ decision-making authority, screen them for interest and need of your product or service. Interest can be measured by engagement with your online marketing tools and responses to product information. Many CRM programs or automated marketing systems will help you in identifying and scoring leads. By focusing your efforts primarily on well-qualified leads, you ensure a greater chance of closing the sale.
Another proactive sales technique to overcoming objections is to address common concerns in your online material. According to data from CEB, the average customers are 57 percent of the way through the sales process before they ever engage with sales reps. By anticipating common objections in your online sales and marketing material, you can educate your potential customers before their objections arise.
Understand the Herd
Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor in Sales and Marketing for CEB, explains that in B2B sales, the hardest discussion isn’t between the rep and the potential company, but between the decision makers themselves.
CEB surveyed over 3,000 individual B2B stakeholders and compared purchase likelihood with the number of buyers involved. When only one decision maker is involved, the probability of a purchase is 81 percent. When two decision makers weigh in, the probability of purchase drops to just over 50 percent. When six stakeholders are involved, the sale’s potential drops to a disappointing 31 percent. The unfortunate statistic found by CEB is that the average buying group size in B2B is 5.4 people, meaning that when groups are involved, sales can be difficult, at best.
The solution, according to Adamson, is to find the mobilizer of the group, the one who wants the best solution for the company. The mobilizer is not an advocate for you or your sale, but rather for making improvements to the company and its processes. Because mobilizers value their reputation in the company, they are likely to ask a lot of questions and raise a lot of objections, but don’t be discouraged. Instead, enable the mobilizer with objective information and real solutions to the buyers’ problems. A mobilizer can help corral the objections of the formidable group of 5.4 in order to find the best outcome for the company.
To respect your customer and their decision making process seems like obvious advice. However, when motivated by a sale, sales reps sometimes forget to put the customer’s needs first. Campbell, Davis, and Skinner explain in the Journal Of Personal Selling & Sales Management that customers want to be respected and maintain their autonomy. These concepts of rapport management are crucial in developing the customer relationship and handling sales objections. The researchers cite four relationship phases in selling: awareness, exploration, buildup, maturity, and decline. They state that during the exploration phase, it is essential to develop interpersonal trust between the customer and the salesperson. Managing rapport between you and the buyers increases the possibility that your sales relationship will progress and you can lasso the sale.
During the exploration phase of the customer relationship, a salesperson’s techniques to overcoming objections can make or break the sale. When a customer raises an objection, ANY action then taken by the salesperson is considered a response to the objection, explains Campbell, Davis, and Skinner. Contradicting the customer, avoiding, or ignoring the objection, disrespects the customer’s innate need for respect and autonomy. However, “When sales representatives address objections in a manner that satisfies the customer and builds trust,” explain the researchers, “they help move the relationship beyond the exploration stage.”
Daniel J. Adams, sales trainer and consultant, uses what he calls a credibility preface as a way to manage rapport when a customer raises an objective. A credibility preface is a statement that allows you as a salesperson to avoid confrontation with a customer without making them defend their stance. A credibility preface statement might be as simple as saying “I can see why you’d feel that way. In your situation, I’d have the very same concerns.”
Says Adams, “Simply agreeing that a customer has a right to make an objection helps to diffuse the customer’s discomfort and opens an air of trust between you and the customer.” Backing a credibility preface allows your own genuine desire to help the customer be seen, rather than pushing the sale, which then establishes rapport.
Avoid the Fight by Shootin’ Questions
When confronting sales objections, resist the urge to fight. Asking questions that identify the underlying need is an often overlooked sales technique to overcoming objections. Use a credibility preface to build rapport and validate the customer’s right to object before asking questions to help you understand the customer’s needs and concerns.
Recognize that objections often stem from deeper concerns that customers themselves may not even recognize. Adams shares an example conversation between a salesperson and a potential car buyer who says a car being shown doesn’t have enough horsepower to show how to identify underlying concerns:
Salesperson: “It is true that there are cars out there with more horsepower than this one.” (Agreeing with the customer in part is a credibility preface statement) “Can you tell me why horsepower is so important to you?” (This question is non-threatening and respects the potential customer and their autonomy)
Potential Customer: “I need to accelerate quickly for passing on the highway.” (This information tells the salesperson more about the potential customer’s needs and how to then respond.)
Salesperson: “So what you are really looking for is speed and responsiveness.” (The potential customer’s real needs are performance. While the car may not have the customer’s desired horsepower, the salesperson can then educate the customer on the features of the car that affect the stellar performance of the vehicle.)
Respectful questions that identify customer concerns can be surprising and instructive to both the buyer and the salesperson. Don’t try to rush the sale without understanding the needs of your buyers. In an age where customers educate themselves before ever speaking with a sales rep, your job is to be a problem-solver and trusted advisor to your potential customers.
Ride off into the Sunset
Knowing how to overcome sales objections means making sure you involve all decision makers early in the sales process. Identifying and educating the mobilizers in an organization is an important strategy when working with groups of buyers. Anticipating objections through online material is one of the key sales techniques for overcoming objections, especially since most customers come into the sales process highly informed.
Above all, realize when to respect your potential customer’s objections, and identify their deeper concerns, by doing so you strengthen rapport, an essential element if you want the customer relationship to progress. Overcoming objections in a way that genuinely respects the customers’ concerns opens the gates to helping them see your product or service as a solution to their problems. When the real reasons behind the objections are discovered, the salesperson and the buyer can then ride off into the sunset.