May 7, 2012

During sales training, one adjustment that often has to take place in salespeople is to reduce the amount of time spent talking and increase the amount of time spent listening. Through listening, we find out about the prospect and her business, and determine the best way to address her concerns with our offerings. In every sales cycle, however, the comes a time when the salesperson must quickly switch gears and actively do some talking — and one of those times is when the buyer throws out an objection.

When hit with an objection, the proper thing to do is not launch into a diatribe about benefits or to desperately criticize the competition, nor is it time to panic. Instead, the use of intelligent questioning will open the door to a closed sale.

Feed It Back

One great technique to teach during sales training is to feed the objection back to the buyer in the form of a question. Suppose a buyer says “But it costs too much!” Feeding it back would look something like: “If I can demonstrate how you will be able to afford it, would you be prepared to move forward?” How could they say no? If they do, then price is obviously not the real objection, and the salesperson needs to probe further with more questions.

Another way to feed it back is to use “Feel, Felt and Found” and add a question at the end. On a price objection, a salesperson might say “Yes, I understand how you feel about the cost of our service.” Pause to show empathy. “Some of the people that ended up being our best customers also felt this way when we first approached them.” Pause once more to let that sink in. “However, once they got involved, they found that efficiency increased so much that they were extremely happy they invested with us. Wouldn’t you like the same results?”

The last example shows the prospect that the salesperson has some empathy and leads to a question they cannot say no to. Who doesn’t want to be more efficient and happy?

Exploratory questions

Another excellent question to practice during sales training is, “Do you mind if we explore…?” and delve into the objection with a few more questions. Asking questions takes some of the pressure off of the prospect momentarily as she would rather answer them and talk about herself than make a purchasing decision. Questions also build rapport and allow the salesperson to discover buttons that might help seal the deal.

Example objection: “Your company doesn’t have a track record in this industry.” The salesperson responds with, “I get it. Do you mind if we explore that a bit?” Buyer gives permission to proceed. “Your company is rather new in the marketplace, how did you overcome the ‘new company’ hurdle with your clients?” Prospect replies with “Well, we did a lot of face-to-face meetings to build trust.” Salesperson replies with, “If I could build the same trust you did when you built your clientele with no track record, do you think we could do some business even though we are in a similar position?”

Notice that the focus of any effective questioning technique is the prospect, not the salesperson’s product, service, or company. Questions like “Isn’t this a fantastic house?” are not as effective as “Do you mind if we explore how your life would change after moving here?”

Sales training sessions should incorporate role playing to teach salespeople to think on their feet when faced with objections. Effective questioning will be found to handle most of them.