Objection! Sustained!

Buying signal

Are customer objections buying signals?

A lot of sales training courses teach us that objections from customers are an indication that they are interested and that we should treat them as buying signals. We are then taught a range of objection handing techniques that will overcome the objections and lead us to the sale. But are customer objections always buying signals? Maybe it’s better to avoid objections altogether, rather than learn how to handle them.

Sales success – who, what, where, when, why and how?

Most sales training is provided by former superstar salespeople who offer to pass on their expertise, usually for a fee. But a lot of these people may not be aware of why they were successful in the first place. Just like successful sportspeople, they may not understand what it is that they do and so may not understand what it is that they should be passing on in their training. This is the approach taken in a well known book by Neil Rackham called “SPIN selling”, which reports on his studies on what produces success in the sales process. He concludes that the cause of sales success is often not what you might think.

Why are they raising objections?

When customers raise objections during a discussion of a product or service you are offering, does it demonstrate interest and is it a buying signal, or are they just objecting to something you have said? The conclusion in “SPIN selling” is that objections are raised because the seller hasn’t built sufficient value before offering solutions. This is especially true in larger sales.

So rather than learning how to handle the objections that come up, maybe we should learn not to jump in with solutions before the buyer has had a chance to think about the issues they hope we can help them with. After all, that’s why they agreed to see us in the first place, isn’t it?

Two ears, one mouth

One thing that you are certain to hear on a sales training course is that “you have two ears and one mouth – and you should use them proportionally”. This is good advice, but the part where you use your mouth needs a little more thought. Often, we listen to what the customer is saying about the problem they would like us to solve, then we immediately tell them how our product or service can solve the problem.

Successful sales people build value

Instead of this, successful sales people are more likely to ask further implication questions. They acknowledge the customer’s problem and ask them more questions about how that problem affects them. Then they ask more questions about the implications of the previous implication. The customer has now explained to you (and more importantly to him or herself) what the problem is and what the implications of that problem are. You are now much more likely to reach agreement with the customer about how you are able to help them.

So listen, discuss and build value

The message here is to take more time to find out exactly what the customer needs and how you can fill that need. Often the customer doesn’t know exactly what problems they need to solve, and part of your role as a sales person is to help them with this. Also, you will now have a customer who is really grateful for your help, who will be more likely to ask for your advice in future and recommend you to others.

Handling objections doesn’t achieve this level of customer satisfaction. The customer feels sold to, may resent the money they have spent and resent you for talking them into it. So learn how to explore implications with your customers, and help them help you to build the value of your offering.

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