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.

Advertisements

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.

Can You Take The Hits? A Lesson in Resiliency

The Origins of Resiliency

Like all cognitive behavior, our neural pathways for resiliency begin to take shape at a young age.  Resiliency  is a combination of a biological predisposition and the environment that you’re raised in.  Because resiliency helps us manage our emotions and the emotions of others it is linked to social intelligence – which directly impacts performance later in life.

Alarmingly, a growing number of children today are raised in a manner that hinders resiliency and social intelligence.  Many parents have subscribed to the false theory that the best way to raise a child is to ensure perpetual happiness and protect their children from any and all stressors.  That’s why today children play sports where nobody keeps score and traditional gym class games like dodgeball are considered barbaric. Come on now!

Life is full of both good and bad experiences. The best way to raise children is not to protect them from the bad experiences, but rather to help our children understand how to navigate the negative experiences to return back to a positive mental state. If you don’t learn how to navigate difficult experiences in youth, it will only become more difficult as an adult.

Do you remember your first day of school? I bet you had butterflies in your stomach, and nothing is wrong with that because that is a common symptom of social stress.

Research has shown that at the start of the school year all children have increased stress hormone levels.  As the school year goes on, children who are more socially adept show a decline in stress hormone levels to their normal state.  For those children who have not had experience dealing with common stressors in life their stress hormones levels remain at a high level throughout the school year, hindering their social performance [Social Intelligence, Goleman]

Let’s flash forward 17 years from our first day of school to our first day work…

Resiliency at Work

Resiliency in professional settings grows from discomfort generated by the necessary pressures of work. We cannot control the stress we feel, but we can control the actions we take to deal with it. It amazes me the number of times I have seen adult professionals throw tantrums as a result of something not going their way. Don’t be that guy (or girl)!

Much of life and business is failure. You can’t hide from it, so you might as well embrace it – this is especially true for those of you who work in sales and marketing. That is why the best sales professionals and business leaders are those who are resilient, who see the bright side, and can “take the hits.”

The technological age we live in only makes the stressors of life and work that much more apparent. Good news travels fast, and worse news seems to travel faster through email and social media. Today, stress can spread faster than a plague started by a monkey bite. A hate email sent by a high ranking executive can derail an entire divisions motivation in seconds.

A message to the Managers

Great managers have to have an understanding of stress and resiliency. The best managers often serve as a buffer between unnecessary stress and their team. In my experience managing an 800 person field sales force I can tell you with great confidence that “happy sales professionals produce more results.”

The very nature of sales and marketing is stressful. So why would you add to that with unnecessary stress that will only hinder performance.  As a manger I would absorb a lot of negative messages and mandates to keep my team positive and performing well. This also will have you gain the trust of your team, and that is a great feeling.

as business professionals we can learn a few things from this wartime social marketing. no matter how bad things seem at first they're gonna blow over or better yet, you'll find a way through it.

However, not all stress is bad. Much like a flu shot, stress in small doses can help make you stronger over time. I highly suggest taking the time to understand each of your team members and their resiliency. This will help you coach and manage them to reach their full potential. Sometimes your team needs to be protected and sometimes your team needs to be challenged.  Quality managers will know when the time is appropriate for both.

I’ll leave you with this. It’s one of my favorite scenes from the Rocky movies. Rocky’s speech cuts right to the heart of why resiliency matters in everything that you do. Thanks for reading.

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.