A little sales humor …
The entire North American sales force of a leading dog food company was gathered together for their national sales convention. Onstage, the marketing director was giving a performance that any revivalist would have been proud of. Using the old pattern of call and response, he was really working up the spirit of his sales team.
“Who’s got the greatest dog food in North America?” the marketing director shouted.
“We have!” the audience replied.
“And who’s got the greatest advertising campaigns?”
“Who’s got the most attractive packages?”
“Who’s got the best ingredients in their products?”
“Okay. So, why aren’t we selling more of the product?”
One bold voice from the crowd replied, “Because the darned dogs don’t like it.”
So, there are objections and then there are OBJECTIONS.
Most of the questions I get about selling and closing are simply about this ONE topic: How do I handle objections and sales resistance? What should I do, what should I say, and how should I respond?
The bottom line is that prospects are far more likely to say “no” than “yes” for a wide variety of reasons that don’t necessarily have to do with money. Just ask any sales rep why they aren’t hitting quota (or why they haven’t closed a particular sale), and you’ll often hear the list of sales objections they’re running into and can’t overcome: They’re not interested. They’re already in a contract. They don’t want to spend money on IT. They’re broke. Our prices are too high. It’s the holidays/beginning of the year/summertime/etc., and people aren’t buying right now. The gatekeeper is blocking me. They need to think it over. They aren’t ready to move ahead right now. They need to bake a cherry pie. (That is an actual objection I got once as to why someone couldn’t make a decision at that moment, and after all that, the result was the same: no go on the decision.)
That’s why I think handling and overcoming objections is the single most important skill a sales professional can master. Not value building, not asking questions, not building rapport. So, let’s attempt to tackle this vast but critical aspect of sales.
Is It Really A Sales Objection?
When I quiz a room of MSPs as to what their single biggest sales objection is, I always get “not interested” as one of the first answers. So, the first point of clarification you need to understand is that “not interested” is not a sales objection but a marketing objection.
Marketing’s job is to properly prepare and develop the interest in a prospect so selling can begin. This is a BIG reason why so many salespeople struggle. They waste their time trying to sell to people who are not interested and/or who are not properly prepared to engage in a sales presentation. They confuse courtesy with genuine interest.
If you’re talking to a prospect about what you do, and they tell you they aren’t interested, your problem lies in your marketing strategy. Yes, many salespeople conduct cold-calls as a means for “marketing,” calling it prospecting, and therefore see it as a sales objection. I contend that it is not. They are essentially trying to use selling to do the job that marketing should be doing — and pure cold-calling in the absence of marketing is a really crappy marketing campaign.
In my organization, the SDRs (sales development reps) are part of the marketing team and fall under the marketing budget. They’re doing the job of calling our list of unconverted leads to find those prospects who are interested in talking to us RIGHT NOW about our services. If they get a “not interested,” I instruct them to say thank you and call the next prospect. We’re not trying to turn a lump of coal into a diamond through pressure. It’s better to keep digging until they find the existing diamonds in the mine.
Ultimately, the purpose and goal of marketing (and, more accurately, marketing systems) is to create offers and communications that move a prospect from “not interested” to “interested.” Sometimes that happens fast. More often, it’s a drawn-out process of warming up slow-maturing prospects, moving “maybes” to shy “yeses.” This is especially true when selling complex, expensive solutions (like IT support and services) that have real consequences if a bad decision is made.
Therefore, to properly create an objection-handling process or script, we have to start with the correct premise that the person we’re talking to is an individual who has shown some genuine level of interest in what we sell and is qualified, meaning they have the ability and authority to buy. Of course, defining what makes a lead “qualified” or not is where a lot of managers and salespeople have arguments. The sales rep insists the prospect they called on wasn’t qualified because they were broke and didn’t have the budget. The sales manager argues that EVERYONE is “broke,” and it’s the sales rep’s job to help them see the value and develop the need, convincing the prospect to FIND the money. But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume the prospect we’re talking to is both interested and qualified to buy.
The 5 REAL Reasons A Prospect Won’t Buy
When you get right down to it, there’s only a handful of real reasons a qualified prospect, with an actual need and genuine interest, won’t buy. They are:
- They don’t believe you or trust you.
- They don’t like you.
- They don’t see the value (and think they can get it cheaper elsewhere).
- They don’t have sufficient need/urgency/pain to buy right now.
- They don’t have the money and truly can’t afford it.
You can’t do anything about No. 5, and you may only be able to have a slight impact on No. 4. But you can directly address Nos. 1, 2, and 3. Keep in mind that if a prospect has agreed to meet with you, there is some level of interest.
But here’s the biggest problem: Prospects often don’t really know and can’t articulate why they are hesitating to buy. Often, there’s something causing them to pause that is nothing more than a feeling. Saying “yes” doesn’t “feel” right. They don’t have a “sense” of urgency, and when a prospect is uncertain or uneasy, they put the brakes on because saying “no” feels safer and less stressful than saying “yes.”
So, if you want to succeed at selling, you need to deeply understand the five core objection categories above and build objection-killing strategies, tools, and materials into your sales process from the very beginning.
The Best Way To Overcome Objections: Kill Them In Advance
One of the biggest disservices done to salespeople by sales trainers is training them how to overcome an objection when it’s handed to them. At that point, you’re arguing with a prospect. The prospect says, “Your price is too high.” Now what? “No, our prices are fair and just! You get what you pay for, dum-dum! We’re a steal for what we charge!”
Yes, you can ask a prospect to explain why they’re saying that, tell a story, use the “feel, felt, found,” approach, etc. But really, the best way to overcome sales objections is to build objection-killing strategies into your sales process so you bring those objections up and handle them BEFORE the prospect even has a chance to utter them.
For example, protesting your fees is a universal sales objection everyone deals with. Knowing that, I’m suggesting you create marketing pieces and sales scripts/questions/processes to address explaining your fees (and justifying them) well in advance of the proposal stage, so you control the conversation and can redirect and prepare the prospect for the final fee.
Of course, what most MSPs do is avoid talking about price altogether (due to their discomfort and uncertainty with the topic) and hope the prospect won’t notice they aren’t the cheapest firm in town or won’t breach the “what do you charge” conversation. Worse, the first time a prospect sees what your fees are is when you email them a quote. Dumb.
While I wouldn’t lead with price, I would, early on in the sales process, bring up “price” to see where they are in relation to what you charge, long before doing any assessments and certainly before doing a proposal. (Side note: I believe a proposal should be a written agreement of what you’ve already discussed verbally, not the starting point of the negotiations.)
Here’s a rough example: “Prospect, the good news is that we solve the problems you’re dealing with every single day. However, before we get too far down the road, I want to let you know our fee structure and how we work with our clients. Most of our clients that are your size and with similar IT needs spend anywhere from $X and $Y per month for us to manage their IT. Is that entirely out of the question for you?”
You’ll notice I didn’t ask, “What’s your budget?” or “What do you want to spend?” Prospects hate questions like that because they don’t know or don’t have a budget; they fear you’ll use it to overcharge them; or they’re afraid to look foolish by giving too low or too high a number. Further, it’s not the prospect’s job to name the budget. That’s your job. You’re the expert. So, it’s up to you to tell them what they should be spending, not for them to tell you a budget and you work around it.
I would also make sure you have marketing pieces such as free reports, testimonial books, videos, and FAQ guides that explain why you are worth the extra money, so the prospect can know you’re not the cheapest and why before they even sit down with you in a sales meeting.
A Final Word Of Advice
Sales objections are nothing to be feared, and you certainly can’t eliminate them altogether. Often, the prospect you’re talking to is just not ready enough to buy, and that’s okay. Just make sure you don’t let a not-ready-to-buy prospect wear you out with meeting after meeting, wasting your time preparing and revising proposals.
Further, a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “absolutely no, forever and forever.” They often mean “not right now,” or the prospect may actually need to sit on making the decision for a bit. If your marketing is working and you have sufficient deal flow, you’ll take the “no’s” a lot better and won’t be as desperate and needy, which will, in turn, make you a more confident, relaxed sales pro.
If you want more information on how to handle objections, be sure to go online to www.MSPSuccessMagazine.com/objection for a video clip of me talking about the art and science of overcoming objections in advance.