By Keith Rosen, MCC
The Executive Sales Coach TM
If you took a survey amongst sales professionals, many of them would know and could articulate what needs to be accomplished during an initial contact and during a follow-up meeting with a qualified prospect. When asked to list a few of the important steps and strategies of delivering a masterful presentation, they might respond with the following:
- Ask the prospect questions to uncover his or her needs and concerns in order to provide the most appropriate solution for them.
- Actively listen for buying signs as well as for preliminary objections or concerns that may halt or stall the sale.
- Create the space for the prospect to do most of the talking during the meeting.
- Sell on value not on price.
- Differentiate my company from my competitors.
Although many sales professionals have some blueprint or selling strategy to follow when cold calling or during their meeting with a prospect, most admit that they don’t apply these techniques during every cold call or sales presentation. It seems that when salespeople experience their first objection or obstacle, something happens that throws them off their initial path: They start performing unhealthy sales practices and revert back to old ineffective selling habits.
When salespeople feel a possible threat to their selling efforts, they become concerned that they will lose the sale; at that specific moment, many salespeople create a barrier between their prospects and themselves. That is, they react.
Reacting is the aggressive and often abrasive action or posture a salesperson takes and which quickly erodes the relationship between the salesperson and prospect.
Think about the word. Reaction is an action that you have taken before. When you react to what your prospect says or does, you are acting from your instincts or past experiences, surrendering all your personal power to act by choice.
For example, at some point during a meeting with a prospect you think back to the events of a previous situation. Whether it’s a similar cold call, a prospect with comparable problems, or a common objection, you may react in the same way that you have in the past. Reacting to these situations only succeeds in keeping you stuck in survival mode, recreating the same experiences and results over and over again.
Reacting is one of the greatest barriers to developing new client relationships. Reacting to a prospect based on old habits creates pressure for the both of you, fostering an unhealthy relationship from the start.
Are Your Selling Skills Revolving or Evolving?
When a salesperson makes a cold call or enters into a meeting with a prospect, that person goes into that activity with both past experiences and future expectations. If you’re focused on what transpired during a previous situation, you will react the same way as you did in the past. Conversely, you may be focused on the end result of your conversation with the prospect. If you are thinking about the end of the call, then you are concerned about the outcome and whether or not you will sell. And if you are concentrating on the outcome, then you can’t be in tune to or truly listening to the prospect. Either way, a preoccupied mind does not allow for the space to create the best solutions for your prospects.
If you’re a golfer you’ll appreciate this analogy. Have you ever missed a shot and carried that feeling of frustration over to the next shot? Essentially, you’re living in and still focused on the past. The simple truth is, your outlook on the next shot will determine the outcome. If you focus on the possible negative outcomes or on a repetition of past failures, there is a very strong chance that that focus will transpire.
The End of the Sales Slump
Think about a time when you experienced a dip in your performance. This may have occurred because you continually reacted the same way in appointments, presentations, or cold calls.
Reacting to a selling situation or to what a prospect says keeps you stuck where you are and prevents you from moving forward. When you finally sell or achieve your desired result, it is usually because you have taken new actions or responded to the prospect in a different way.
If you enter into a sales call reacting from either a past experience or a future expectation, the present is missing. Imagine what would be possible if you had the ability to act by choice to each situation in the moment, without concern over the outcome and without unconscious reactions.
For starters, you will hear more about what your prospects really want. You will develop a greater level of awareness, become more sensitized to your prospects’ needs and feelings, and learn how to best serve them. You will no longer be concerned with whether or not something will threaten your sale. Instead, you will be fully present and engaged in helping your prospect make the right purchasing decision. Finally, you will enjoy the selling process more, as it becomes less of an effort and more of a natural process.
If your goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship with your prospect, conscious action is required. To create new selling opportunities and prevent costly mistakes, learn to respond to what your prospects say or do; do not react from the past.
One responds to a prospect when he or she is fully present with them, when he or she is not worried about what happened in the past or about how the conversation will end. Becoming responsive is to view each appointment or prospecting effort as a fresh, new experience with boundless possibilities and to be uninhibited by previous sales calls.
How can you determine whether you are responding or reacting? If you act from your instincts or from your ego, it’s a reaction and likely based on some fear or threat. We react instinctively to bright lights by squinting; our body reacts to cold weather by shivering. The difference between our body’s reaction to certain external forces and our reaction to our prospects is that we have the power to control how we react when speaking with a prospect.
Responding is to adapt to what is occurring without feeling threatened or feeling that you have to try to control every outcome. You know you are responding if you feel less distracted and have time to make changes in your approach or strategy in order to create a new selling opportunity.
Are You Their Advisor or Adversary?
It is most common for a salesperson to react when the potential sale is being threatened. This often happens in the beginning or at the end of a prospecting conversation or sales presentation. Certainly, though, you can get hit with an objection at practically any time.
Let’s explore the vocabulary of a salesperson’s reaction to a prospect’s concern. Imagine that you are in a conversation with a potential prospect who voices an objection.
Often, salespeople will react by making a ”but” statement:
- But our company is better, or stronger, or faster.
- But this is a great price/deal.
- But we have the best products in the area.
- But we will do a great job for you.
- But we are better than the company with whom you are working.
- But look at the value you are getting.
- But you don’t even know what I can offer you.
You hear an objection, become flustered, and react because you feel that your selling opportunity is threatened. You may repeat old patterns, unload information on the prospect to defuse their objection, or attempt to talk the prospect out of his or her concern. Unfortunately, this is often interpreted as defensive and is not effectively persuasive.
Defensive action places you in a confrontational position with the prospect, and the prospect will win. As a result, the prospect may end the conversation, and you may have lost the sale.
If a salesperson reacts to a prospect’s objection by defending their pitch, unfortunately the prospect will interpret this action as an attempt to undermine or make wrong his or her feelings.
Whether the prospect expresses a need to think about it, a worry over the cost of your product or their budget, or a satisfaction with their current supplier, what they say may not be what they mean. In other words, if their first objection isn’t the real objection, it may still sound like a viable one that should be treated with respect and attention.
However, to ensure that you uncover and respond to the true objection rather than to an excuse or a smokescreen, you need to patiently explore the objections and ask two or three questions. There may be an additional and more important meaning behind the prospect’s initial concern. A sales professional must dig deeper and look behind the words that the prospect uses to voice his or her concerns or feelings.
When a prospect first expresses concern or objections, you cannot be sure what additional information the prospect needs or what exactly impedes the sale. Yet many salespeople act with certainty and provide the prospect with additional facts, benefits, or reasons to buy or to take the next step. This is information that the prospect has not requested and that does not respond to her real concerns.
Therefore, when you hear an objection or run into an obstacle that prevents the prospect from moving forward, rather than reacting with a statement to defend your position, learn to respond to what the prospect says or does with a question. In this way you can uncover the real reason preventing or stalling the sale, and you can create or explore a new solution. This method requires less effort and produces much more profitable results.
The Question Is the Answer — Responsive Questions That Get to the Real Objection
The greatest salespeople know how to respond to objections with questions in order to explore those objections first. These salespeople actually listen the sale out of the prospect by asking the right questions.
Here are several questions that you can use to respond to an objection or a concern. These questions will enable you to gather more information and to create an opportunity for the prospect to buy from you. Remember, if you are not asking the right questions, then you are not getting the information that will enable you to guide the prospect to the next phase of your sales process.
- If it were possible for me to satisfy and alleviate your specific concern, would you be interested in discussing this in more detail?
- What are the top three benefits that you would want to realize if you were to make this investment?
- What do you need to see in order to feel confident that you’ve made the best purchasing decision?
- Is it possible that there is another approach or solution here?
- What solution would my product have to offer that would motivate you enough to explore working with me?
- That’s interesting. Will you share with me why you see it that way?
- While I can certainly appreciate how you feel, may I ask why you feel that way?
The responses that result from these questions will enable you to create a new sales opportunity and to examine more thoroughly the prospect’s concerns and values. The prospect will make up her mind whether to hear you out or end the conversation.
Either way, you now know exactly what the prospect is feeling and where they stand, as opposed to walking away scratching your head and wondering why he or she did not buy.
Questions motivate people to think and to create solutions on their own. Besides, what do you think a prospect is more likely to believe, what you say or what they say? Your prospects will support the solution they create; no one wants to be told what to do.
Responding to an objection with a question reinforces your commitment to understanding the unique needs of each prospect and to becoming their trusted adviser. By uncovering their true concerns, you can provide a solution that’s a perfect fit for them. This strengthens your relationship with your prospects, as you take the time to provide the information or solutions they want, not the ones you think they want. Now, you can determine exactly what is needed to best satisfy your prospect’s needs in order to earn their business.
When you are in reaction mode, external circumstances drive your actions. To become more responsive, pause before responding. Wait a minimum of three to four seconds before addressing the worries, objections, or tentativeness of your prospect.
Choose to respond to situations in a healthier way. Until you practice responding, you are always in some form of reaction, surrendering your personal power. If you are responding then you can choose how you are going to act or think. If you are reacting, you don’t.
Responsiveness creates more space within a conversation where a topic can be explored in greater detail. This space will provide you with the room to develop new selling opportunities with your prospects that you may never have noticed before.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Keith Rosen online at Profit Builders and be sure to sign up for his free newsletter The Winners Path.