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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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.

Do One Thing

Welcome to the new year ladies and gentlemen. I wish you all health and prosperity in 2012. Personally, I have never been big on new years resolutions, but since I’m writing this on the biggest football day of the year I wanted to spend some time tackling the subject (horrible pun intended).

Not surprisingly, 88% of all new years resolutions end in failure [Wiseman, 2007]. I believe this to be true because year-in and year-out we bite off more than we can mentally chew. This time of year the conversation always comes up about resolutions and you’ll hear from many people they want to do this, and that, and some of this, and that one thing. If you have more than one resolution, you’re setting yourself up for major failure.

The brain has a finite amount of mental energy. This is a fact. To accomplish tasks that require will power, like a new year’s resolution, you have to be economical with your brain’s energy. Try and do too much and your brain will perform poorly do to fatigue.

Contrary to popular belief the human brain is not good at multitasking. In fact, it’s quite bad at it. For this reason I urge you all to simplify your new year’s resolutions and pick one thing and focus on achieving it.

To get in shape you need to protect your brain.

Weight loss is the most common New Year’s resolution, so I wanted to spend some time on the subject . In a study conducted by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, several dozen undergrads were split into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to memorize. The other group was given a seven-digit number to memorize.

After the groups spent time memorizing their numbers they proceeded down the hall one at a time where they were presented with their choice of a bowl of fruit salad or a piece of chocolate cake. Not surprisingly the group that had to memorize the seven-digit number were 2x more likely to take a piece of cake to eat.

A tired brain does not have enough mental energy to support will power – something that requires a lot of brain energy. Spending most of my life in outside sales I can say that I saw the outcome of Baba Shiv’s experiment coming. When your brain is overworked, frazzled, and stressed you make poor choices and lack will power.

DO ONE THING

Like most things in life, the key to success is simplicity. Focus on doing one thing, and then do it really well. I saw this idea in action two years ago when I sat in the office of my former marketing professor and dear friend and mentor Dr. Terri Feldman Barr. She described me a movement she was starting at Miami’s Business School called “Do One Thing.” It was brilliant.

Students were urged to select “one thing” they wanted to commit to and then shared it with their peers to create social accountability. Some students went as far to create badges with their “one thing” written on it and wore them for all to see. If you’re one thing was recycling then everyone knew you were going to do your best to be environmentally responsible.

The end result of Do One Thing was a large group of students coming together to share their goals for better behavior and accountability. This year I ask you all to do “one thing.” My “one thing” is to compliment strangers. I want to make the environment around me better one smile at a time, and my “one thing” can help make it so.

What’s your one thing?

Solving Real Problems with Conceptual Solutions

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite TED talks.

 

The term “value” is so ubiquitous (triple word score!) in business today that it runs the risk of losing its meaning. Most professionals know the importance of “value” but rarely spend time digging deep and understanding the elegance of the concept of value.

 

In this TED talk Rory Sutherland gives a very insightful and humorous survey of the history and conceptual complexity of value. He’s brilliant. Enjoy!

 

How to Call the Baby Ugly

Speaking effectively to the deficiencies of your potential customers.

By: Kevin Torres and Jeff Sobieraj

In a recent HBR Blog article The Worst Question a Sales Person Can Ask, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson take a stance against the exploratory, question driven approach that dominates the sales landscape today. In the article Dixon and Adamson bring up a topic rarely covered in sales education and training, that most businesses don’t actually know what they’re doing wrong.

If most businesses are blind to their own shortcomings, asking general questions would otherwise prove to be an ineffective approach for getting the customer to voice their concerns. At a certain point in the sales process it is a necessity to bring up the subject of your customer’s deficiencies to move the sales process forward because your customer may be unaware of their issues. The goal of your sales interactions should be to let the customer discover, in their own way, that he/she has an issue or area that could be improved. If questions aren’t working it might make sense to go at your problem head-on.

Breaching the topic of your customer’s deficiencies is much easier said that done. Incorrectly communicate your message, no matter how good your intentions, and you run the risk of offending your customer. Any kind of direct challenge will most likely result in one of two responses: defend or deny. But if you’re able to effectively speak to your customers deficiencies, the sales experience you’ve provided would be valued by your potential customer as you will have come off as insightful, informative, and respectful.

Empathy

You would never think to call a baby ugly in front of its parents. With sales it’s the same concept. Just like you, your potential customers take pride and have an emotional investment with their job and their company. With that being said, most people don’t take kindly to unsolicited advice or insight. This is the mine field you travel through as you progress in the sales process. Seek to understand your customer and their roles and responsibilities before breaching the topic of their business deficiencies.

Focus on the solution

“If you’re focusing on the problem you can’t see the solution. Never focus on the problem.” – Arthur Mendleson [Patch Adams 1998]

This quote couldn’t be truer when you’re communicating with your customer about deficiencies in their business operations. Constantly speak to the obtainable outcomes of providing a meaningful solution for your customer’s problems. Keep the focus positive and give objective examples of businesses or people who were in the same situation and the solutions you provided. Sharing similar customer success stories takes the customer of the island and shows them it’s okay they’re deficient in certain areas so long as they can correct it moving forward.

Prime your customer for advice and insight

The use of brain imaging for social neuroscience teaches us that how you say something is actually more important that what you’re saying. Surprisingly, negative information delivered in a positive manner is better perceived by our brains than positive information delivered in a negative manner. Millions of years of evolution has primed our brains to respond better and faster to physical cues and mannerisms than to the use of words. So remain positive, upbeat and confident as you begin to discuss possible solutions to your customer’s deficiencies.

Would you perceive this as good news or bad news?

Although communication is overwhelmingly physical, your words still carry a lot of weight. So I enlisted the help of a good friend and top notch sales professional Jeff Sobieraj to help provide some good “ice-breakers” or softening statements for discussing your customer’s deficiencies head on. We’ll leave you with these:

“Do you mind if I share something with you…”

“Can I ask you a question off the record…”

“I have to tell you something here, and please don’t hold it against me…”

“I have to level with you here: you have to change this process/strategy/technology. Whether you’re working with me or another vendor it’s important for the sake of your business that this get fixed…”

“I know this isn’t your first rodeo. What is it that you think needs to change here…”

“I had a chance to research this issue and I actually found some areas where you can improve your effectiveness. Do you mind if I share them with you…”

“With all do respect, this is a problem area for you. The good news is there are things can be done to fix this issue and even improve upon it. I’d like to discuss it in more depth…”

The Science of Selling: The Numbers Game

Numbers…

neuroscience sheds some light on how to best use numbers to motivate your business development team.

Numbers are an integral part of business. Numbers provide keen insight into every facet of business: service, sales, and operations. Reports, statistics, and analytics are routinely placed in the hands of leadership for evaluation. This process of evaluating numbers directly affects how leadership manages and motivates their workforce. It’s not too uncommon for leadership to incorrectly attempt to motivate their workforce as they perform conceptual tasks by using numbers.

In both of the best selling books A Whole New Mind, and Drive Dan Pink beautifully illustrates the dramatic shift in business from manual, industrial tasks to conceptual tasks and how it affects motivation. In short, numbers are ideal for motivating and managing the completion of manual tasks, however this is not the case for the completion of conceptual tasks.

numbers aren't ideal for motivating conceptual tasks.

There is no greater conceptual task than business development. There’s no magic button for making a sale or marketing your good or service effectively. The key challenge in business development is providing conceptual solutions while effectively managing social interactions.

Neuroscience and Numbers

The brain that currently sits inside your skull has been a work in progress for millions of years. Over that length of time our ancestors succeeded largely based on their intelligence and the ability to form social bonds. Our current brain is a masterpiece of higher level thought and the innate ability to connect with others to accomplish tasks.

Numbers have only been around a few thousand years. On the evolutionary timeline of human brain development numbers only occupy a tiny sliver space. Today’s economic environment is made up overwhelmingly of conceptual tasks. It makes sense to embrace our ability for complex thought and social interaction. Numbers, surprisingly can short-side our ability to successfully perform conceptual tasks.

The reason why numbers can undermine our conceptual abilities is that our brain, amazing as it is, is actually quite poor at multitasking (Brain Rules). We use different parts of our brain to perform social interactions than we do to evaluate numbers, and these two areas of the brain do not work well in concert. Studies have shown that just thinking about numbers, specifically from an economic standpoint, can actually make people more selfish. Since conceptual tasks rely heavily on positive social interaction, selfish thoughts can compromise ones ability to perform optimally in this area.

Management and Motivation Tips for Conceptual Tasks

  • Lead your team by promoting social behavior that will further along the sales process. Keeping the focus on making a positive impact for your customers is the key to long term motivation and success. Always keep moving forward.
  • Performance reports and analytics should be used in review of your employees, not as the main motivator. There’s no quicker way to strip your team of autonomy and motivation by saying you need to do x phone calls, x meetings, and x presentations to have success. Activity is important, but not the end all be all of business.
  • Do NOT use your CRM to police your business development team. CRMs are meant to manage customer relationships, not harass your team. Trust the employees you hired, they all want to be successful.
  • Allow your employees to set a trend in behavior, once that trend is in place evaluate it to see if their goal is being reached, if not adjust accordingly to help them reach success and keep the tone positive.
  • Avoid falling in love with your reports. Remember, success is a byproduct of our behavior and a result of doing things the right way. The only number that matters should be the final sale, the result.