By Ian Richardson, Managing Partner, Richardson & Richardson Consulting
Business sales and customer acquisition is a common thread and challenge for entrepreneurs. If it was “easy” to “win” new accounts, businesses would never struggle, never need outside investment, always grow, and never fail. Reality is much more difficult, and customer acquisition has been trending towards requiring a more consultative sale across multiple industry types, especially in the B2B space. A key part of customer acquisition, and retention for that matter, is the concept of objection handling. Your organization needs to have a strategy for overcoming objections. This article will share with you the strategy that R&R utilizes every day in our own prospecting and customer account management processes.
Common Objections Encountered
One of the most useful items I’ve found is to make sure that you have a “plan” for the most likely encountered objections. For example, if you’re concerned that you’ll hit an objection over cost, or deliverables, or timeline for delivery, why not have that objection mapped out and a plan of action around it? Put a different way, is it not better to be “wanting” the objection to be aired by your customer or prospect, be anticipating the conversation and well prepared for it?
The below list are the 7 most common objections I run into when speaking with prospects or clients during my day to day:
- We already have the product or service that you’re offering.
- We don’t require the product or service that you’re offering (I’m not interested in that).
- We don’t take sales calls.
- I don’t see the value of your product or service offering (A cost objection).
- The timeline you are proposing isn’t what I want.
- The deliverables of your proposal aren’t what I want.
- Do you have any references I could speak with?
Process for Overcoming Objections
The above list of objections falls into two categories of objections: Pre-Discovery and Post-Discovery. Let’s start with defining those two categories.
Pre-Discovery objections (Prospect Objections) are those objections found “before” a sales discovery conversation. Most likely these are heard by “prospects” versus “clients” and may be presented to you by someone other than the decision maker at an organization (A Gate Keeper).
Post-Discovery objections (Proposal Objections) are those objections that occur after a sales discovery conversation. They generally will occur either at the tail end of a proposal meeting, or during sales follow up meetings or contact attempts. Sometimes they are delivered through a “dear John” formatted email and can be difficult to recover from.
Overcoming Prospect Objections
Let’s start with pre-discovery objections. The process I utilize at R&R stems from Carrie’s experience founding and running Managed Sales Pros, an I.T. channel specific business development company that utilized telemarketing for their lead generation activities.
Carrie and her team at MSPros utilized the methodology she refers to as the A.S.K. methodology, which I will summarize here:
- Acknowledge the Objection: The person you are speaking with needs to always feel “heard” during your conversation. Restate their objection back to them so they don’t get a sense of not being listened to.
- State a fact: You are using your fact to reinforce your comprehension of their objection, while softening the ground for your pivot around it.
- Keep the conversation going: Ask an open-ended question to “pivot” or side-step the objection, while soliciting further engagement from the prospect.
This process can seem more complicated than it is, so I’ll give an example below:
“We already have the service you’re providing. I don’t need to speak with you about it.”
“Ian, I’m glad that you find the value in the service I’m providing. All our current customers had a different provider in place when we first spoke with them, before becoming our customers. How are you handling the service I provide today?”
This simple conversation track shows that I:
- Heard the prospect and acknowledged their objection.
- Stated a fact that was relevant to their objection, while creating space for my pivot.
- Kept the conversation going through a relevant open-ended question.
This process has served the Managed Sales Pros team without fail for over one thousand engagements over 9 years (at the time of this writing), resulting in conversations with over half a million small business organizations. Adopt it, and I can guarantee it will serve your organization as well as it did ours.
Overcoming Proposal Objections
Post-discovery objections are difficult to strategize about if you don’t realize the root cause of the objection.
100% of post-discovery objections stem from a failure of your discovery process.
That’s a big statement, so let’s unpack it, one objection at a time.
Someone not seeing value in your service offering means that you did not properly find, document, and present the pain points in their organization back to the prospect, as well as relate how your service or product offering alleviates those pain points. If your discovery had gone correctly, you would have either discovered enough value in the pain points for the organization that your service becomes a “no-brainer” OR you would have discovered that there was NOT enough value in engaging your organization for the prospect and self-selected out prior to proposal.
Someone not being ok with your timeline for delivery is someone who was not asked about their timeline during the discovery process. When you found out about the prospect’s timeline requirements, you would have had the opportunity to discuss the timeline during discovery, and either had the prospect adjust their timeline requirements, or self-selected out prior to proposal.
Someone not agreeing with your deliverables is someone that you did not properly scope during the discovery process.
In all three of these scenarios, I’ve found only one strategy that can save the prospect or client’s share of wallet.
- Acknowledge the objection.
- Take responsibility for the misstep.
- Ask to reset the conversation.
As with pre-discovery objections, an example may be the most valuable way to drive this process home.
“I don’t see the value of your service or product offering – the cost is more than I’m willing to pay.”
“I heard that the cost of my service or product is out of alignment with what you want or expect to pay for it. That’s a fair point, and I want to apologize to you. I’ve made a mistake in how I presented our organization’s offerings with relation to your situation. Is it ok to revisit the numbers on this?”
Now – one thing to note is you are asking for permission to redo your proposal here. You can and will be told “no” to this request. Unfortunately, that’s an outcome that we will have to live with. If you receive permission to revisit the figures, circle back to the discovery you have done, and see if you can fill in the gap in value presentation with the prospect or client. Ask questions to clarify the impact, especially in terms of financial impact.
A note about references
A request for references is an interesting objection to consider. I’ve found that this request stems from one of two concerns – Either the prospect has a process they follow and a “box” they need to check to be allowed to proceed forward in their selection process, or they have a lack of understanding or trust of an area or areas of your process, deliverables, or offerings that they are not articulating.
In the case of the former, you should receive this information during your discovery, specifically when you prompt them for the steps in their decision-making process.
For the latter, a direct confrontation is the approach that has served me best:
“That’s a fair request. Is there a concern you have that you’re looking to get addressed, or are you looking to check a box as part of your process?”
Handling Errors when Overcoming Objections
You will mess up during your objection handling. Accept this early and don’t stress over it. When you make an error, the easiest way forward is to acknowledge it and move past it.
“I apologize – I’ve made a misstep on this situation. I believe I know how to move past that misstep, the first step is X.”
Prospects and clients will appreciate you taking accountability and being proactive to move past the error.
Overall – keep in mind that there are no business development or sales emergencies – take your time and it will work out in the end.
Overcoming objections, whether they stem from pre-discovery or post-discovery conversations, is a key skill for entrepreneurs and their sales teams to have nailed down. If you’re struggling to overcome objections, Richardson & Richardson can help. Look at our blogs here for more information around sales and sales tactics. You can also review our white papers for helpful tools your organization can adopt and utilize to close more deals. If you’d like more help, click here to book a free 90-minute consultation with one of the Richardsons to explore next steps.
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