You may think that objections and negotiations are a “necessary evil” in your sales process, but that does not have to be the case. If you answer all of the questions, cover all of the issues, and make sure that all of the relevant information is fleshed out during the qualification and needs analysis stage, then what is left to discuss after the proposal is written?
Objections and negotiations are questions that come after the proposal is given. These tend to seem a bit confrontational and threatening because an offer has been put on the table, and now that offer needs to be defended.
If on the other hand questions come up during needs analysis, they are just questions and don’t seem threatening at all. The difference is your thoroughness and professionalism during needs analysis and qualification. If you flesh everything out and confirm it before the proposal, there is nothing left to do but write up what is agreed to and sign it. No objections. No negotiations.
Here is an example. Let’s say that you propose a trial budget in the needs analysis phase by saying something like, “Well, what you just described to me will probably cost somewhere in the range of $25,000. Do you think we will be able to find room in your budget for something like that?” When this is addressed at this stage of the process and the answer from the client is an emphatic no, you can simply ask “Well, what kind of budget do you think we will have to work with in order to address these issues (identified in needs analysis)?” At this stage, you are simply having a conversation and exploring possibilities.
But if you make a formal proposal that includes a price tag of $25,000 and the client objects or attempts to negotiate, the tone can be much more confrontational and much less cooperative. Better to address the issue before the proposal, when it has not yet matured into a full-blown objection and is something you can work with rather than something you need to defend. In this respect, we are avoiding objections by addressing them before they become objections.
But let’s face it, the world is not perfect. And no matter how thorough you are in needs analysis, something usually pops up as an objection after the proposal is presented. Some prospective clients seem to view the objection and negotiation phase as a form of sport, and they are just not satisfied making a purchase unless they go through a few rounds of “battle” with the salesperson.
So what should you do? First of all, start by thinking about objections and negotiation attempts the right way. Some prospective clients will use objections and negotiation tricks as tactics to get a better deal; some just have questions or concerns.
It is better to assume the latter, even if the former is true. If you start to battle your clients at this stage and make them feel like you are trying to “win,” the outcome will probably be worse than if you handle the situation in the same nonconfrontational, cooperative manner in which you handled the entire process. Here is how to do that.
When an objection comes, or when a negotiation is started by your prospective client, keep this idea firmly in your mind:
“If my offer is fair and offers value, an objection or an attempt to negotiate is probably based on a lack of information that the prospective client has about my product or service. It is therefore incumbent upon me to remedy this lack of understanding and to try to help the prospective client see the fairness of the price, the value of the offer, or the importance of the item they are questioning so they, too, can then see how fair and full of value the offer is.”
This may sound naive, or idealistic. It is not. What it is, in fact, is the right mental position for you to take in order to begin the objection and negotiation-handling process successfully. If you believe in your product and believe your price is fair, and most importantly, if you truly believe that your prospective client’s decision to work with you under the terms outlined and at the price given will add value, this is the only professional perspective for you to take when preparing to answer an objection or to enter a negotiation.
Taking this approach results in your responses naturally and seamlessly leading you to explore the objection together with the prospective client or to engage in a clarification of the things that need to be negotiated. It is a more cooperative approach than antagonistic. Your assumption is that you and your client are on the same side, trying to find a way to make this work. Even if this is not true, due to some ill intent on the part of your client, it will be easier for you to uncover any ulterior motives by exploring the ideas that underlie the objection or negotiation tactic rather than by confronting the issue with some kind of a “frontal attack.