Marginalizing Objections

not-listening (1)I recently read a blog post on marginalizing and minimizing objections.  The author detailed various tactics to, essentially, blow the objections away.  Bad idea.  It has fatal downside potential.  If the client feels their ideas are being marginalized, or they are being played, you lose the deal, credibility and any chance to go back.  It is a scorched earth strategy.

Instead, regard objections as requests for more information – a sign of engagement.  Use them as opportunities to increase stakeholder engagement and get more stakeholders on your bus.  For more on this topic, here’s a post from 2012 –  Prospect Engagement: I HEART objections!

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Embracing Rejection

Rejection Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.Rejection.  A miserable term, a theme in literature, drama and a frequent subject discussed in psychotherapy.

A daily occurrence (repeatedly) for sellers.

We react to rejection in three ways generally:

  • IGNORE – If you’ve been coached to “get a thicker skin,” this is likely what you do.  You’ve steeled yourself to accept rejection as coming with the territory. The problem with this approach is that you’re learning nothing from the rejection and are making the same mistakes over and over again.  You close when you have the “ideal” situation; a prospect that might have eventually just bought self-serve from your website.
  • FIGHT – You’ve been thoroughly drilled in “objection handling” and “second effort.”  Rejection is First Quarter and you’re playing till the whistle blows.  Unless you WIN, you incinerate second chances.  You must have a very large territory so you still have ground that hasn’t been burned.
  • DREAD – Rejection hurts, and you take the line of least resistance to avoid it.  “Safe” prospects, “safe” pitch, “soft” close.  Like those who ignore rejection, unless the planets align perfectly, you fail to close.  However, unlike the fighter, these prospects may still take your call another time because you didn’t piss them off.  Unfortunately, they are unlikely to take you very seriously because of this timid approach.

Rejection is a mean, but effective teacher.  But, in order to learn from rejection, you cannot ignore it, robotically fight it, nor live in dread of it and run the other way.  You must embrace rejection and learn how to use it to learn from it.

Embracing rejection does not mean accepting it.  No way, we’re in it to win it.  But, if you don’t learn from rejection, it will continue, unabated, to kill your results.  So, how do you deal with this thing you’ve been taught to ignore, fight or dread?

  1. ACCEPT IT – This is a fact of selling.  People will object and will say no.  It”s gonna happen.  Accepting is different from ignoring because, as you will see, you must process the rejection.
  2. LISTEN TO IT – Don’t just hear it.  Listen to what is being said and not being said.
  3. EMBRACE IT – Take in everything you’ve heard, not heard and put yourself in the prospect’s position to try to understand what may be behind the apparent “no.”   You NEED to understand this thoroughly if you are going to be able to ask insightful questions to get the root of the issue.  It may be a latent objection you have to draw out; or a lack of understanding or misconception about your product/service you need to clarify.

Failure to learn from rejection it is a tragedy which will hold back your professional development.  It’s really a wasted opportunity.

Shortcuts

????????????????????Recently, I’ve been researching salesforce automation vendors for expanding emarketing and lead nurturing capabilities.  I’ve gone deep with a couple of vendors, but since I’m a the end user, I made it clear that I was just investigating their product and others would be involved in making the decision.  I did not disclose the name of my company either.

For portions of this project, I’ve been spending time in meetings with IT folks and have been observing their linear approach.  We frequently complain about how long it takes to complete a project, but this linear approach requires problems to be solved before moving to the next step and sometimes, unexpected problems arise.  (Sound like pipeline management?) Testing and validation always take place before the solution goes live, and if a problem is detected, they fix it, then retest.  No shortcuts.   (Hence, our complaining about project delays.)

On Monday, December 30th, I get an unexpected phone call from the sales rep at one of the vendors with whom I was speaking.  He was my original point of contact.  His pitch went something like this:

Seller:  “Hi Mike, I hope you had a good Christmas.”

Me:  “Yup, you?”

S:  “Good, good.  The reason I’m calling is that we’re closing in on a great year and want to finish with a bang.  We want to get all outstanding business in right away, so essentially, we’re having a Fire Sale.”

M:  “I see.”

S:  “For any deals that close today, you can just about name the price.  We’re offering very heavy discounts to hit our goal today.  Are you ready to move forward?”

M:  “Sorry, but there is no deal to be had here.  I told you from the very beginning that I was merely investigating your product’s capabilities and that I was not the decision maker.”

S:  “Yes, I recall, but could you speak with the others today because if you close today, you’ll save a lot of money.”

M:  “Again, I told you there is no deal here and we’re not yet at the point where such a discussion would be appropriate.  I thought I had made it clear that if we felt your product offered the right solution, I would get the rest of the team involved and we would look into your product more thoroughly at that time.  Was I at all unclear about that?”

S:  “No, you were perfectly clear, but…”

M:  “Thanks for calling me, Happy New Year.”

After the call, I sat in amazement.  Literally, I couldn’t believe what I just heard.  I’ve heard hundreds of lousy sales calls, made many more than that, truth be told.  But I’ve never heard one single call do so much damage across such a wide swath.

The most egregious offenses (in descending order of egregiousness):

  • NOT PITCHING THE DECIDER – It’s the #1 reason we don’t get the order.  He knew I was not the decider, pitched me anyway and didn’t close the deal.
  • FAILURE TO QUALIFY/EXPOSE NEED – We had 2-3 conversations about the technical issue we needed to solve, but beyond that, he didn’t even know the name of my company, let alone our buying process, business needs, etc.
  • ASSUMING OBJECTIONS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN EXPRESSED – At no time in the process was cost even discussed.  I had no idea what their pricing model was, let alone the cost to my company.  So a discount was an impotent weapon.

And the damage done (in descending order of severity):

  • COMPANY CONCERNS – If someone is telling their sales reps to hit the phones and drop their shorts on 12/30 to close TODAY, I wonder why?  Is the company in financial distress? Will they be able to support us if we bought from them in the future?  It would be difficult for me to recommend this product if I had such doubts.
  • PRODUCT CONCERNS – If they hire this caliber of sales people/managers, what about their coders/software architects?  And if they take these kinds of shortcuts in the sales process, what shortcuts were taken in product development/testing that could cause breakdowns later.  Buyers want to have confidence in the solutions they buy.
  • SELLER CONCERNS – Nah, not really.  I don’t remember his name and as long as he continues to shoot blanks like this, it is unlikely our paths will cross again and, if so, I would expect a similar outcome.

There are many things that make shortcuts attractive or necessary.  Time, goals, commissions are all factors that add pressure to close deals.  Sometimes you are forced to take some shortcuts to try to speed the sales cycle to conform with your company’s business cycle or your earning needs.  But some shortcuts are not shortcuts at all.  They are the immutable fundamentals of building your business; the blocking and tackling of sales.

The above is a typical result of skipping these fundamentals.  Imagine how well your software would work if the coders skipped some subroutines because they were hurried, or did not test your company’s new website before going live.

More on the blocking and tackling of sales this quarter in future posts.

Prospect Engagement: I HEART objections!

Most sales training covers objection handling.  For each of the most common objections to your product/service, you are well coached in handling that objection.  If she says this, you say that.  While it’s very important, I think that training overlooks the bigger picture, because it treats objections as sales resistance.  I think differently.

I see objections as sales interest, rather than resistance.  All of your prospects are busy people and they have lots of information available to them in a few clicks.  They do not suffer fools gladly.  They don’t have to.  So, if they have no interest in what you are selling, they’ll just say “Thanks for the information, I’ll consider it and let you know.”  (You know what they are really  saying here and it ain’t pretty.)

But, when your prospects start asking questions, which sellers have been trained to  hear and treat as objections, what I feel they are really saying here is “I have some level of interest in what you just pitched.”  And either “But I need to understand it better” or better yet “I am thinking of how I would use this, and need you to help me figure it all out.”

Why else would anyone waste time (they know you’ve been trained to deal with objections and they expect a fight) just throwing objections at you?   They have a job to do and you can either help them do it better/faster/cheaper or you can’t.  And if they think you can’t, they need you out the door ASAP so they can get back to work.

I sell to senior executives in healthcare and they are an EXTREMELY detail-oriented bunch.  That’s good, because as a patient, we want our providers to be careful in each and every detail of our treatment.  So they ask a gazillion questions, frequently in the form of an objection.  I HEART objections because it tells me they are taking the first step toward a buying decision – they are considering the implementation and efficacy issues should they decide to buy my service.

Whether you use feel/felt/found or another form of objection handling, don’t stop responding.  Just stop thinking of objections as sales barriers and think of them as sales enablers.  Invite questions.  Let prospects take you away from your plan and walk with them on their path for a while.  You just might find, as you answer their questions and give them more information, in the end they make a more informed buying decision – to buy from YOU!