A More Sincere Way to Handle Objections

If you work in professional sales or business development, objections are nothing new to you. Us sales folk hear objections every single day, and the objections are not going to stop any time soon. So if you can’t stop the objections from coming, you might as well embrace them.

The Old Way to Handle Objections

If you work for a company that has a good handle on sales training, they’ve probably schooled you up on common objections you’re likely to hear in the field. It usually goes something like this…

old school objection handling

In my experience I have found that sales people, in anticipation of a particular objection, tend to jump all over their customers because their response has been practiced and rehearsed. This can leave the customer feeling like they were wrong for brining their point up, and they may even develop a negative perception of the sales professional.

A New Way to Handle Objections

new way to handle objectionsTry clarifying an objection by asking a sincere, relevant question. It’ll show that you care and will help you better tailor your response so it’s better received. Generally speaking most objections fall into two categories: objections rooted in theory, and objections rooted in experience.

Objections rooted in theory are normally based off hearsay and often can be overcome by offering more detailed information. Sometimes just getting the customer to admit they  only heard something gives you a good basis to share information that could persuade them.

Objections rooted in experience may cause the customer to have a stronger objection. In my experience people communicate best through stories. Knowing the customer’s story will allow you to form a link with them. As you respond to their objection it would be helpful to reference their own story and show them how the outcome could be different.

Here’s an example of an objection that I hear quite often and my responses based on clarifying the customer’s objection…

example

Try it out and let me know what you think. Hopefully this post wrinkled your brain.

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neuroscience and exercising

Humans are made to move 

Who wants to walk 12 miles with me today? Any takers? I didn’t think so.

It might surprise you to find out that early humans traveled as much as 12 miles a day (today people walk an average of less than one-half mile!). They did this to find food, safety, and to explore. For thousands of years, exercise associated as a result of exploring and traveling did much to improve the brain functions of early man, and it still holds true for humans today.

Oxygen is vital to brain nourishment. Exercise does humans a lot of good because it helps our brains get more oxygen. When the body is moving during exercise it pumps blood and oxygen throughout the body and especially to the brain. Nitric Oxide is a flow regulating molecule that through exercise creates more blood vessels in the brain in some pretty key areas. This process of neurogenesis helps improve our cognitive ability as a result of exercise.

For thousands of years while our early ancestors were being active, the cortex of the human brain was getting bigger and bigger, and as a result humans were getting smarter and smarter.

Don’t be a couch potato

University of Washington Neurologist and author of the book Brain Rules, John Medina, shows that our society gives us a lot of reasons be a couch potato. Things like television, computers, and video games often allow people to sit around for hours on end with little body movement. Couple that with fast food and you wonder why America is the world’s fattest nation.

John Medina goes a step further and examined some of our most institutional environments that we created for ourselves. I’m talking about classrooms and cubicles, the mainstays of our educational and professional systems. Sadly, these environments are “anti brain growth environments.”

Think about it, for eight plus hours a day our children and coworkers are often sitting motionless at a desk or trapped in some fabric-lined neural jail cell. For our brains to function optimally we as humans need to move, and move often.

Bring back recess!

Today’s society is test-happy, and unfortunately a lot of academic leaders believe testing is the end-all-be-all of developing knowledge. Sadly this misguided mindset has lead to physical education and recess being eliminated from the school day so that more time can be spent on core subjects.

Is that really the right thing to do? Neuroscience teaches us that exercise facilitates intelligence and boosts memory formation. The resounding answer should be NO, it’s not the right thing to do! For the sake of our children’s mental and physical well being physical education and recess should be reinstated in schools where it’s gone missing.

Active Performance 

It is important to note that exercise alone will not improve your cognitive ability, but repeated tests have shown a strong association to improved cognitive performance. In fact it was found that physically fit kids and adults had faster cognitive response times compared to their overweight counter parts.

Building upon the principle that exercise not only leads to a healthy body, but also a healthy mind, activity and exercise were found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer Disease by 60% and stroke by an amazing 57% in a person’s lifetime.

The great news is that you don’t have to run marathons or do crossfit to benefit from exercise (but they don’t hurt). All you have to do is walk about 20 minutes a day, three days a week, and be more conscious of your dietary intake. It really doesn’t take much.

Today, we have the same brains our early ancestors did that walked 12 miles a day. So be active and make the most of your brain. I’ll leave you with this quote from John Medina that sums up why humans are made to move.

“We were not used to sitting in a classroom for 8 hours at a stretch. We were not used to sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours at a stretch. If we sat around the Serengeti for 8 hours – heck, 8 minutes – we were usually somebody’s lunch.”

For more neuroscience information on exercise please check out Brain Rules by John Medina. You can see the cover in the bookshelf section of social-brain.

Neuromarketing and McMuffins

I drive along the expressways of Chicago most mornings. Although these expressways are lined with billboard after billboard I couldn’t name three of them off the top-of-my-head for you.

Like most people who drive to work in the mornings I’m on autopilot.  I mean I’m physically behind the wheel, I am alert for break lights and lane changes, but I’m not that alert. This mental form of autopilot is actually pretty normal.

We know our brains often go into “autopilot” mode to conserve mental energy during routine tasks like drives to and from work. So you can’t really blame me for not actively looking at all of the billboards as I drive. Plus they’re billboards. I’ve seen thousands in my life time. Big whoop.

However, recently while driving I spotted a billboard along I-290W in Chicago that grabs my attention every single day. Given my background in neuroscience and marketing I quickly noticed the design of this billboard. This ad (and campaign) are noticeably influenced by science. Let’s take a look at what makes this advertisement special:

Although I’m not a fan of McDonalds, I admire their new advertising campaign for it’s neuromarketing elements and design.

  1. The oversized, detailed McMuffin quickly draws consumer attention. Market research studies using neuroscience have shown that consumers better emotionally respond to more detailed foods they’re familiar with.
  1. The left placement of the McMuffin on the billboard actually helps our brains better perceive the image faster. Objects placed on the left side of our field of view are better processed using the right side of our brains and vice versa. This is because our optic nerves criss cross when they enter our brain. The right side of our brain is better at perceiving images. The left side of our brain is better at processing numbers and writing. The image placement and writing in this ad are placed in the best spots possible for our brains to process this information effectively and efficiently.

because the optic nerve criss-crosses when it enters your brain, your left field of view best feeds to your right, artistic side of your brain, and the right field of view feeds to the left, analytic side of your brain.

  1. The text is in lowercase font making it uniform. Visually, this is preferred because the brain likes consistency. Because of how we read when a text is properly capitalized we’re prompted to look for more semantic meaning like if we were reading a textbook.
  1. The message is simple. Perhaps the most difficult thing in marketing and business development is making a concise, influential statement. This billboard speaks to a very common buying focus of consumers when it comes to food – calories and nutrition. In just four words you are now aware a McMuffin is only 300 calories. Remember the principle of cognitive fluency – the easier it is to think about something the easier it is to act upon something.
  1. The design is contrasting. It may seem like common sense but the brain loves clear contrast. The human brain is extremely visual, so the fact that the image and font pop off the background are more helpful to perception.

Pretty crazy that I can sit here and breakdown a very simple billboard and pull the science behind its design and messaging out of it. The beauty of neuroscience and perception is that it doesn’t have to be complex to be effective.

We live in the most over-communicated time ever in human history. Every company has an advertisement to catch our attention, but because we’re so perceptually bombarded, nearly all of the advertisements turn into white noise that we end up ignoring. My advice to companies is to evolve to something more engaging.

The goal for companies should not be to simply catch our attention with advertising and marketing, but to have the consumer genuinely interact with your message. The billboard above stands out for so many reasons. Right now, in this over-communicated world, simple design is going to win out because everything else is cluttered, and ultimately our brains better respond to simple rather than complex.

Got a presentation coming up to a group of people or a customer. Let this billboard remind you that simple is always better.

Your Social Brain and Your Happiness

It’s always nice when one of the most respected institutions in the world provides some research that’s right up your alley.

One of the most astounding facts neuroscience researchers have discovered in the past 20 years is that our brains are far more social than originally thought. Our brains are actually wired to connect with each other, like neural wifis. This ability to connect with each other has been and will always continue to be beneficial to human success and well being.

It’s no coincidence social participation can increase a person’s happiness. Over thousands, even millions of years, humans and our apelike ancestors that contributed to our evolution survived and thrived because of our intelligence and high level social behavior.

Today, mobile technology and social media monopolize our mental energy. Although our tools provide us with a technological advantage, we must avoid falling into a social deficit. Children, teens, adults, and professionals must place a premium on quality, in-person social interactions that are free from technological distractions. These quality, in-person social interactions will provide our brains the neural pathways for us benefit and get a sense of happiness from being a social participant.

We used to be smart, now we’re just frazzled.

As a college senior I remember sitting in my 400 level sales & marketing class, hearing the professor tell us how the internet is reshaping the field of professional sales because the consumer is becoming more intelligent as a result of easily obtaining information through the use of search engines. I enjoyed the thought that technology and knowledge could provide transparency to professionals sales – something the profession was in desperate need of.

 

I graduated from college in 2007. At that time Facebook was just getting off the ground, Twitter or LinkedIn were nowhere near mainstream, and the thought of iPhones and iPads were something from a sci-fi movie.  It’s amazing to think that was only five years ago. Those were different times then, and we were different people.

 

If in the mid 2000‘s the internet made consumers more intelligent, the addition of social media and mobile technology has made today’s consumer impossibly busy and extremely difficult to reach from a professional sales standpoint. Technology provides a cheap, quick form of communication, but one that is not emotionally stirring enough to drive buying behavior.

A majority of B2B sales professionals struggle to get over these new-age, technological hurdles that keep them from their potential customers. And even when sales professionals meet with potential customers, most are not equipped to deal with someone who is busy, stressed, over-communicated, and is short on attention.

 

The solution for sales people is not to become as complicated as the environment that surrounds today’s customers, but rather to cut right through the clutter using simple, effective communication. Here are some tips and tricks that my help you in a sales process with a frazzled, busy customer.

 

Simple is effective.

 

The human brain loves simplicity. The principle of Cognitive Fluency teaches us that the easier it is to think about something, the easier it is to act upon something. If your message is complex your customer will hesitate to take action, and nothing is worse than a customer who continually drags their feet.

 

If you’re sending a message in text keep it at three sentences or under. It’s far more likely to be read. Keep in mind most people read emails on a mobile device, and the small screen could make a two paragraph introductory email look like a novel.

 

One of the questions I like to ask is “can you summarize your entire message in a tweet?” Seriously. Thinking about your message from this perspective will allow you to trim the fat of your presentation and make your message more likely to be understood.

Be relevant or get the hell out of my office.

 

Always keep the focus on the urgent and most immediate needs of your customer. Undoubtedly you will discover other areas that you can make a difference for your customer in the sales process, but you must keep your eye on the prize. It’s important you gauge the focus of your customer and don’t get off track.

 

If your customer has several urgent and immediate needs, deliver your message one at a time when you see the timing is best. Although your customer might have 4 major needs they can’t mentally process them all at once and on the initial. Spoon feed them how you can make a difference for them one issue at a time.

 

Be Salient and Different.

 

Don’t be surprised when customers don’t return your phone calls and emails. I have best friends who don’t call me back. It’s nothing personal, it just speaks to a busy lifestyle. If you want to reach your customer you need to stand out and that might be winding the clocks back to a time before emails and text messages.

If you have a customer that’s worth the time there’s a variety of ways to get their attention. Once you’ve crafted your simple, relevant initial message you can try some of the below strategies. It’s always nice when I mailed a hand-written note to a customer and they call me back when they get it. There’s actual a scientific reason behind it. Thanks for reading and I hope this wrinkled your brain.

Cold Calling for College Kids

My experience working with college classes has been that very few students actually want to pursue a career in sales. However, the rude awakening for most students is that as they approach graduation they’re going to accept a job in sales. I always open up a conversation at the beginning of class so I can find out what actually scares students about sales, and the most common answer I get is COLD CALLING.

In life and business you only get one chance to make a first impression, and a cold call is just that, a first impression. For many people, approaching someone you don’t know is stressful regardless of the situation and setting. For my college students I liken cold calling to dating. Yep, dating.

Think about the last time you were out and saw someone that you found attractive but didn’t know them. Now I want you to think about how terrified you probably were to go over and talk to that person. Sounds a lot like a cold call doesn’t it?

When you really think about it, you have nothing to lose by introducing yourself. At worst, the person is rude or mean. If that’s the case then they’re probably not a good fit for you anyway. For the sake of learning, let’s pretend that you decide to stride on over to talk to that person.

Your appearance and confidence are paramount to your introduction’s success. Always be self assured, but not cocky. Remember peoples’ brains can unconsciously detect if you’re nervous or scared. You’re standing in the person’s line of sight. You make eye contact with them, smile and open your mouth to speak… but what do you say?!

It’s not about you.

Dale Carnegie said it best, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people to become interested in you.” As introductions and cold calls go, the first words out of most people’s mouth are often about themselves and not the person they’re talking to. Fail.

Keeping with the dating example, imagine you’re a girl at a bar and a guy you’ve never met before walks up to you and says this:

As you can see the language of Rich’s introduction is all about himself. The majority of women out there would probably not be enticed to spend more time with him because all he did was drop details about himself during his introduction.

Like our college stud above, sales professionals often make the same mistake of talking too much about their own companies while introducing themselves. Here’s an example of common cold call introduction made by a sales professional:

As you can see from the above example all this sales professional did was talk about his company. And much like the girl at the bar, the customer is probably going to pass on spending more time with this sales professional.

WIIFM

WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me. That is the question you need to ask yourself from the perspective of the other person you’re talking to. Life is an endless series of decisions, and all sales is helping influence decision making as it pertains to business. The best way to influence people is to put their needs, concerns, and goals before yours. Taking the WIIFM perspective of the person you’re talking with will make a world of difference in your initial interaction.

Let’s go back to our first dating example of the girl at the bar. How much different do you think the interaction would be if Rich lost the cigarette and came up and said this:

Before you criticize my game, please keep in mind this is just an example. What I wanted to convey in this second scenario is that Rich is taking an interest in the other person by anchoring to an interest of hers. Rich is still the same guy as in first scenario, he just doesn’t have to be in a rush to get that information out so quickly. If he can share a common interest with her and let her know she’ll have fun by spending time with him she might be more inclined to actually do so.

From the business perspective this is how a cold call would go from a WIIFM perspective:

It amazes me how many times I have made introductions to customers without ever mentioning who I work for and still got the meeting. This is because the mind of your customer is selfish and all the things they want to hear are about their business. The customer could care less about Company X being an industry leader or a Fortune 1000 member. All the customer cares about is What can Company X do for me?  If you’re speaking to their interests, needs, and goals you’re going to make a great first impression as a result of your cold call.

The truth is if you’re going to be an effective communicator it’s all about taking an interest in the other person. If you’re trying to persuade or communicate a desire, keep the focus on the outcome or WIIFM for the other person. The best sales people aren’t talkers, they’re actually listeners. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you’re a college kid reading this I hope you’re able to think twice about the introductions you make personally and professionally.

Thank you for reading.