8 step guide to overcoming sales objections

Nicola Cook, author of The Secrets of Success in Selling, reveals the tricks behind objection handling and how you can turn a 'No' into a 'Yes'

About 15 years ago, I had a manager once say to me “Nicola, you’re not very good at closing are you”.

At the time I had hundreds of potential sales in my pipeline so apart from the fact that this is a rubbish thing to say to any salesperson as it will erode their confidence, I realised when I analysed my figures that he was right!

However when I drilled down further to look at myself, my skills and my strategy, I actually realised that it wasn’t that I was lacking in closing skills, it was that I didn’t have a clue what to do next if the client said ‘No’; so rather than ask for the business and not know how to handle the objections, I avoided asking for the business!

My best hope was that at some point in the sales processes they would actually ask me to place the order.

I decided to get my head down and put my nose to the grindstone and got to work getting better in this particular area of my sales performance. I read every piece of material I could get my hands on regarding Objection Handling,

I shadowed some super sales people to see how they did it and I put myself through training programmes that helped me with some new ideas. I then refined my own technique and over the years have developed the following 8 step guide to handling objections.

The amazing thing is, that after I had perfected this skill and added it into my sales skill tool box, ready to pull out when it was needed, I find myself very rarely (probably only two to five sales presentations a year) having to use it!

By mastering this area of weakness, my confidence went through the roof and I felt comfortable asking for the business and remember if you don’t ask you don’t get. So by following all the previous steps and examples I found that using this technique really really was the final step in gaining the client’s commitment.

I suggest that you learn this skill as a script; perhaps pinning it onto your notice board or somewhere you can see it constantly; at least until you are confident you have mastered the structure and the phrases – then tear it up and throw the paper away. By then you can use your own language and style but still follow the same flow in the conversation.

Here are the 8 Steps laid out as a flow chart.

8stepsflowchart

As you can see from the flow chart the objection handling process is almost a mini sales process within the overall sales structure, however it includes a few additional steps so let’s work through each step and I’ll give examples of the language to use.

Uncover the real objection

The first stage in handling the buyer’s objection is to be very clear about their real reasons for resisting your proposition. Bearing in mind up to this point they may not have been truthful and all your attempts to fulfil their needs have been met with lukewarm responses. If all your previous attempts to build conviction and compel them to buy have failed, then it may be time to delve even deeper, particularly if they’ve given you a fob off or a lame ‘I’m not quite sure’ or a ‘Let me think about it’.

  • “I know you have reasons for saying that, do you mind if I ask what they are?”

It’s highly unlikely they will say ‘No’ to this question, they are much more likely to give you an opinion. However, before you begin to deal with this objection you need to…

Make it final

There is no point handling this first objection only to discover that others are lurking below the surface. It is much easier to get them all out in the open, and then deal with them all in one go.

  • “Is that the only reason you are not able to move ahead right now?”

Now clearly if they say ‘No’ after asking this question, revert back to the first question “I know you’ve got reasons for say that, do you mind if I ask what they are?” Keep going until all the objections are on the table and they say ‘Yes’. At which point you now need to…

Align with them

Aligning with your buyer is an important stage of the objection handling process, as by simply stating the objection in the first place they have effectively miss-aligned with you. They have demonstrated that they do not agree with your point of view and are taking a different stance on the matter that is being discussed.

Therefore, there is absolutely no point in continuing to add Compelling Statements and dishing out more benefits until the buyer is ‘open’ to receiving more information.

Unless you take the time to align with them the only way you will ever win the sale is if they back down. Effectively when they object they are saying ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ and in this situation you can only ever overcome the objection if they were to  admit that they were wrong and you were in fact right; something that the buyer’s ego is unlikely to allow them to do. So by aligning with them at this stage, you are, in effect, giving them permission to have a difference of opinion.

  • I understand that this may feel like a big commitment”
  • I appreciate that I’m asking you to take a leap of faith”

Or my favourite,

  • That’s great

By stating that ‘that’s great’ it makes them feel that you appreciate, understand and empathise with their point of view. When I align with someone, before moving further through the Objection Handling structure, I can see clients visibly relax. It’s almost as if they have been geared up for a fight and you can literally see their shoulders and face relax as they think “That’s great, they’re not going to manipulate me, and they take my point of view seriously”.

Now you have aligned with them and enabled them to drop their barriers again and feel more comfortable with you, it’s time to…

Gain their commitment to proceed together and find a solution to the objection

Quite simply, use a Tie-Down at this point that will ensure they are committed to moving forward in the sales process with you. There is no point in finding a creative way to handle their concerns if they are still not prepared to make a commitment.

  • “If we could find a way to handle that, you’d want to go ahead?”

If they say ‘No’ to this question, then they are concealing a further objection that you will need to entice out of them by reverting back to the beginning. It’s more likely however they will say ‘Yes’, they have no reason not to. Instead they will be thinking about how you can handle their objection.

Remember that some buyers are naturally more cautious than others and need to feel comfortable that the risk they are about to take is justified, therefore next…

  • “I know exactly how you feel
  • “I had another client who felt exactly the same way, when they were just where you are now”
  • “What they found after they’d made the commitment was…..”
  • And obviously share a positive story about someone else receiving the same benefits that this client needs.

    So by now, the client should have relaxed once again, you should be very clear about their reasons for resistance and you have their commitment that if you overcome their objection they will make a commitment. The next crucial stage in the process is to…

    Re-direct the objection

    The only way you can ever truly overcome an objection is to turn it into a question that you can answer. Right now their mind is focused on the objection and all of their reasons for not wanting to buy and by using questions not only can we turn this into a further question, but we can also use questions as a way of re-directing their focus once again to the possibility of agreeing to your sales proposition.

    • “And that brings up a question. How can we make this right for you? Isn’t it true that in-spite of the ‘objection’ that you will benefit from ‘list a feature’, which means ‘state a benefit’, which really means ‘state a further emotional benefit’ to you, and you will avoid ‘wound, wound, wound’,

    Don’t pause and wait for an answer after the first phrase ‘that brings up a question’ yet by using this language this prompts their mind to open, by evaluating the embedded question which is ‘How can we make this right for you?’ Again don’t wait for a response but this statement plants the seed in their brain that this could be right for them. It opens a loop.

    Follow this up with a variation of your Compelling Statement where you state further Features, Benefits and Emotional Benefits which match their Hot Button, or further Needs, Wants and Wounds you may have uncovered as you’ve continued your conversation. Also you may find you want to add in some pain avoidance into your compelling statement by stating the potential wounds that the client will want to avoid.

    • “And that brings up a question. How can we make this right for you? Isn’t it true that in-spite of the initial outlay, that by committing to this programme, in the time we will spend with your team they will leave feeling totally buzzed up and focused on delivering exceptional levels of customer service, which means that the customers in your local geographical  catchment will always want to choose you first for all their pharmaceutical needs, which means that you will create the footfall necessary to achieve your targets, which means you won’t have to worry about not achieving your sales figures or having sufficient revenue to fulfil your financial obligations and isn’t it true that despite the cost of this programme that the value will be recouped almost immediately, whereas the cost of not doing it….could be massive”

    If you are going to change your proposition and either add further value, or reduce the price, this would be the structure to introduce this new proposition, as you have already clarified that they are willing and able to move ahead, providing you handle the objection.

    Just as you would after a normal Compelling Statement, it’s necessary to…

    Test Close

    By Test Closing you will be able to read your buyer and understand how your latest solution has been received.

    • “Now, how does that solution feel?”

    If they are still showing no signs of warming up, either build their conviction with a further Compelling Statement, or go back to Gain Commitment, which if they were to respond negatively to, clearly they are throwing you curve balls and have not yet revealed their true reasons for not buying.

    However, assuming the buyer responds positively and their buying signals are good then…

    Assume the sale

    Hurray! Just as you would do normally, you have negated the previous objection, brought them round to your beliefs and way of thinking and they have re-aligned with you, in which case assume the sale. Ding!

    • “Fantastic, that’s all sorted now. What will happen next is…”
    Sales Secret: Even the best salesperson on the planet won’t win every sale every time. Learn from the sales you don’t make so that you constantly improve next time.

     

    We ring a bell in our office every time we make a sale and we love to hear the sound of that Ding! We also have a dance we do to the sound of the credit card machine. So we love it when our days are full of Dinging and Dancing!

    This is an extract from The Secrets of Success in Selling by Nicola Cook, published by Pearson. Nicola is MD of sales and leadership consultancy Company Shortcuts, which is running the Business Accelerator sales growth conference. Find out more at http://www.companyshortcuts.com/businessaccelerator/  

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