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Use Questions to Overcome a Prospect's Objections

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By Keith Rosen, MCC
The Executive Sales Coach™

Here's a little known sales secret: You never have to “close” again. You never have to worry about “selling” a prospect again. I’m suggesting an alternative action that will result in more profitable sales with less effort.

Many salespeople believe that their product or service should speak for itself. Once they encounter resistance, they are quick to ask for a time best suited for a follow-up call. Unfortunately, during this “dead time,” many selling opportunities are lost.

The word closing has a bad reputation because of the negative connotation associated with it. After all, the word is synonymous with shutting, locking, finishing, final, and end.

Instead, create a new opening without having to close. You can accomplish this in a simple conversation that does not threaten your integrity by sounding too “pushy.”

The word closing is really the wrong title for this phase in the selling process. This phase should be considered the “agreement phase” or “opening phase.” As opposed to closing the opportunity for a sale to occur, you are opening up the possibility to work with a particular prospect, to advance the sales process, and to explore new solutions.

Here are the most generic and common obstacles to selling:

  • “I need to think about it.”
  • “The price is too high.”
  • “I want to shop around.”
  • “I need more information.”
  • “I’m already working with another vender.”
  • “I’m not the only decision maker.”
  • “We have no budget.”
  • “This is a bad time.”

How can you create a new opening to overcome these common concerns?

Allow me to provide you with a friendly reminder of the definition of an objection. It's a sign of interest, a request for more information, or a prospect’s concern or fear. These objections need to be satisfied in order to guide the prospect through your sales process and to its natural conclusion. Therefore, in all of the prior examples, an outright refusal is never given. In reality, you have not given them enough of a compelling reason to explore your services in more detail.

In other words, instead of fearing objections, embrace them. Every objection provides you with a new opportunity to share the right information with a prospect and to move them into the next step of your sales process.

Defusing an Initial Objection

Your first intention in responding to the above objections and others is to ensure that you are, in fact, dealing with an actual objection and not a smokescreen. It could be that they don’t believe you, don’t trust you yet, or don’t believe that your product can help them; they may have been burned before; maybe they are just having a bad day. It could even be that they are not a positive prospect for you.

In any case, rather than react to an objection with a statement, which creates an adversarial posture between you and the prospect, respond to the objections you hear with a question. Here’s how.

Prospect: “We don’t have a budget for this.”

You: “Mr. Prospect, I can certainly understand that. It seems as if everyone today is more sensitive about operating within their limited budget, only making investments into proven products, services, or processes that they know are going to work.”

What follows are some responsive questions that you can ask in this situation:

  • “May I ask, is it that you have no budget for our product now, or no budget ever?”
  • “May I ask, is it that you don’t have a budget at all or is it more about the hesitation to try something new and different?”
  • “How much do you think my product costs, and is that why you feel there’s no budget available for this?”
  • “Has the budget been cut altogether or has it been dramatically reduced?”
  • “Is it a budgetary concern or are you more concerned about the value you will receive?”
  • “May I ask what factors you consider when choosing where to invest your budget? How do you make that decision?”
  • “So, if you don’t have the money right now, who in your company does?”

After using these types of questions, you should be able to confirm whether their objection is the core obstacle or if the real objection is actually something else. These questions will enable you to expose their true primary concern.

Get Permission

Now that you’ve smoked out the real objection, it’s time to offer a solution. However, the key to a productive conversation — without pressure or “cheesy” pitches — is to first get permission. You can create a new opening and overcome a prospect's concern by asking for permission to do so.

Before offering a response, solution, or new possibility to diffuse their objection, request permission to discuss a solution to their concern. This way, you will quickly learn if this person is a qualified prospect looking for a better solution and if the objection they previously stated is the only obstacle to the sale. Here are some examples of ways to ask your prospect for permission to continue:

  1. "Mr. Prospect, at this point, I’m not sure if we can provide you with the ROI that my other customers have experienced. However, if it was possible for me to demonstrate a rapid ROI so that you can profit from our service within one month, is that something you would be interested in talking about?"
  2. "Mr. Prospect, if budget was no longer an issue for you, would you be open to explore this in more detail?"
  3. "Mr. Prospect, if I can demonstrate to you in just three minutes how the value that you will receive far outweighs the manageable investment amount that I would propose, would you be open to hearing more about how you can achieve this?”

I love using “if” questions. In the second example, all I did was remove the objection to determine if “not having a budget,” for example, is the only obstacle to a sale. Now that I’ve hypothetically removed this objection, I should be able to secure their permission. If not, then there’s still another obstacle that they haven’t shared. So, keep digging!

In the third example, notice how I include a timeline of three minutes to let the prospect know that this will not take up a lot of their time. Make sure, however, that you can accomplish what you are proposing in the timeline that you stipulate.

If they say yes to any of these examples, you now have a prospect who is interested in hearing more about the solutions you can offer. So, go for it! Since you have gained permission to explore other options, the prospect is now willing to listen to your suggestions. If you fail to ask permission and dump alternative solutions and more information on them before you have a true understanding of their primary objection, you run the risk of sounding too pushy, which causes a prospect to be defensive and prevents you from making a sale.

The next time you run into an objection, defuse it by getting permission to continue with the conversation. The result will be more sales with less resistance.

Remember, like all selling strategies, there are no absolutes. When some prospects offer an objection, it is really a refusal. However, if you can convert even 35 percent of the objections into opportunities, then this process would be considered wildly successful.

The key point here is this: Salespeople don't overcome objections, prospects do. The only person who can truly overcome an objection is the prospect. Salespeople create the opportunity for this to occur through their effective use of questions. Selling is therefore the art of asking questions, of listening openly and intentionally, and of gaining information — not giving it.


About Keith Rosen, MCC — The Executive Sales Coach
Keith Rosen is the executive sales coach that top corporations, executives, and sales professionals call first. As an engaging speaker, Master Coach, and well-known author of many books and articles, Keith is one of the foremost authorities on coaching people to achieve positive change in their attitude, behavior, and results. For his work as a pioneer and leader in the coaching profession, Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country.

If you're ready for better results quickly, contact Keith about personal or team coaching and training at 1-888-262-2450 or e-mail info@profitbuilders.com. Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.

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