When is the last time you tried sell someone on an idea, product, service, or cause? What was your goal, and were you successful?
As you presented and persuaded, were you able to recognize what the objections were to your idea, and were you able to overcome them to be successful with your pitch?
When presenting someone with an idea, you should always be prepared to handle objections. But what exactly is an objection, and what’s the best approach to manage an objection?
Effective sales people understand the selling continuum. They work to add value and build positive relationships with customers and gain their customer’s commitment. Sometimes this happens quickly, and other times objections occur, which increases the time it takes to gain the commitment of the customer.
However, moving customers through the selling continuum so they can make a well-informed decision is what successful sales people do. Of course, it is not always easy. An important factor in gaining the customer’s commitment is your ability to understand and effectively respond to customer objections.
To help you better understand this process, here we define what an objection is, identify the five most common objections that can occur in the selling continuum, and offer some examples of how to manage them effectively.
What is an objection?
Simply put, an objection is a question or concern that arises as a normal part of the selling process. You may experience objections when you are prospecting for new business, during a sales call, or in a presentation. You may see objections when you try to close and gain commitment or even after you have closed a sale and the customer has experienced the product or service.
Customers will object for many various reasons, but the most common objections usually fall in pricing, product, need, source, and time (Weitz, Castleberry and Tanner, 2001).
Of course, how you handle these objections is critical. When you are in the selling continuum, it is important to respond in a professional manner. By being helpful and positive, you will build credibility and trust, which helps you to gain the customer commitment and builds successful relationships and partnerships.
Ways to Respond
In order to be a successful sales professional, you should always listen attentively and work to understand your customers’ point of view and address your customers’ questions and concerns. You need to prepare effective responses that will help your customers move forward in the selling continuum so they can make well-informed choices.
To help guide you in this process, here are examples of how I responded to each of the five most common types of objections in business to business (B2B) selling:
I once helped negotiate terms and conditions of a major sponsorship agreement for a sports venue. In the middle of the selling continuum, the customer presented price objections. We listened and did not interrupt the customer as they shared their concerns. Instead, we focused on unmet needs and evaluated concerns and discovered the customer was seeking advertising and customer traffic. We adjusted, innovated, and designed a value-added discount coupon on our packaging that drove traffic into the venue. This simple promotion was easy to execute and we further enhanced our relationship and trust, strengthening our partnership. Plus, we improved our overall net pricing.
My company was trying to gain new business from a large chain of fast food outlets that sold our competitors’ products. When we attempted to set up an initial appointment, we heard many objections. They felt our products were not needed and our products would not do any more for their business than their current supplier’s product. We did not try to force a situation or spend time trying to convince the customer to consider us. We listened to the customer, evaluated the situation, and remained professional and consistent.
Occasionally, we would stop by to present an idea or two to keep the customer in our selling cycle. After six months of listening and remaining patient and mindful (yet persistent), we were given the opportunity to present our innovative ideas and programs, and we were successful in matching our capabilities to the customer’s needs. A great partnership evolved and eventually we gained the business and the customer’s commitment. In turn, we gained incremental sales, which came directly from our competitor.
A good example here in B2B professional selling is trying to sell your products or service into a business or segment of the market that just does not perceive they have a need for the product or service. For example, it could be like telling a car dealership it should be selling furniture and groceries in the car showroom. This may be an exaggerated example, but it illustrates the point. A buyer has to see a need for a product, and the objection you get when trying to sell a product or service could very well be a “need” objection.
Many times, customers may not want to buy because they have had a bad experience with your company or perhaps they don’t like an unfavorable experience with your company and service they received. For example, I once called on new prospects who we previously had done business with several years ago, but because of the way past management handled a situation of theirs, they were not interested in working with us again. tended to be upset and would not budge off of their position and they were firm. In spite of all the value we could deliver and our positive capabilities, they went with the competitor after raising a “source” objection.
Many instances in my career, I had to exhibit patience when working to land a large chain of accounts. It took time to close a deal as I worked through a professional selling continuum. In trying to move things forward, I had to be adaptable and flexible with key decision makers and work around the times that best worked for them. For example, if I asked to meet and they replied with “now is not a good time,” I made sure I followed up with the understanding that the “time” objection was just that and that the reason they did not want to meet is because it simply wasn’t a good time.
Remember, professional selling is all part of marketing and sales professionals help guide customers through a selling continuum so they can make a well-informed choice. Objections are to be expected, and they are all part of the process as you move a customer through a selling continuum. Being able to handle objections professionally and properly is critical, and how you respond will make all the difference. By listening to your customer and by creating a more positive exchange of ideas, you will establish stronger relationships that ultimately could turn into a successful sale or pitch.
Written by Written by Bill Davis, MA, CM, CDM, program chair and assistant professor in the Forbes School of Business and Technology™
Weitz, B. A., Castleberry, S. B., & Tanner, J. F. (2001). Selling building partnerships (4th ed.). New York,, NY: Mcgraw-Hill Irwin.