It is usually around the time when the cars are being packed, or family is sitting down for a holiday meal that I start to get the strange looks and questions as I step away to make a call, or resend a contract. “Why are you still working?” usually seems to be the rhetorical question asked that immediately makes me feel guilty. Or my favorite, “can’t you just wait to respond until next week when you are off vacation?” When I explain how much hard work, stress and sometimes frustration went into getting a contract signed they usually respond back with “I could never do that… all you do is get told no all day.”
That is the reality of the situation. Depending upon the research you read, win rates in B2B sales are anywhere from 10% to 30% at the opportunity level. Take into consideration the conversion rates from MAL to MQL, MQL to SAL, SAL to SQL/Opp and it becomes clear that in order to make one sale, a Sales Rep might have to talk to 100+ people. What other career choices can you make that carry an equal or greater chance of failing every day?
- MLB Baseball player batting average – 1 in 3 shot you get a hit
- Restaurateur – 2 out of 3 of you will fail
- Navy Seal – 1 in 4 chance you get the Trident
- Non-Profit Start-Up CEO – 1 in 3 shot you won’t make it
- Nursing – 1 in 3 chance you quit after a year
Even retail workers on black Friday at Walmart have a higher chance of succeeding (and staying) in their job than most B2B sales professionals working in technology today. Why is that? Sales is hard. Being a Sales Rep is basically being ok with losing every day and somehow finding the will to win. A key to winning in this racket is knowing how to overcome the common objections you will inevitably face every day.
- Have to think about it. Need more time.
- Need to talk with my spouse or include others in the buying process.
- Using a competitive product.
- Don’t have the money.
- Don’t fully understand what it is being sold/offered
- Distracted, not able to pay attention.
- Pain hasn’t been quantified to the point where it warrants being paid attention to
Truth be told, overcoming sales objections is nothing more than understanding the psychology behind the objection and using that knowledge to overcome the objection and win. The most basic way to handle objections is through what many call a Pattern Interrupt.
Anyone who has bought anything has a predetermined idea, based upon previous experiences, on how a Sales Representative will handle an objection. Using a competitor’s product, what do you not like about them? Don’t have time, let’s schedule some more later. Don’t have the money, let me offer you a discount. Overcoming sales objections has become part of our subconscious defense against sales representatives. So what does a pattern interrupt look like?
Let’s take an example from a recent opportunity I was working on, the next step in my mind was to begin the contracting process. I had gone the whole sales cycle thinking I was the only vendor due to the person having a relationship with our board (that was a whole other mistake I made). I found out at the 11th hour I was one of five vendors being evaluated. Most sales reps would have immediately gone into defense mode, trying to defend their product/service as the correct product. Instead, I deployed the pattern interrupt – it was the last thing she would have expected I ask.
“That is great, what have you found to really like about the other vendors you are evaluating?”
Wait… this sales representative is asking me to talk about the things I like about their competition? Pattern interrupt time. This causes the prospect to immediately pause and metaphorically lean into the conversation. Attention has increased, and so has trust. Her pre-conceived notion of how I should respond was thrown out the window, I was no longer just another Sales Representative.
After a few comments about the exciting things the other vendors are doing, it became immediately apparent that I had missed some key things they were hoping to accomplish. Our solution solved all of those items and had the same features, I just failed to expose those pain points and present the appropriate solution. Still, I kept my mouth shut. Time for the next pattern interrupt.
“I feel like I failed you by not asking you about those things that are obviously key to your success next year. Before we continue any further, did I miss the mark anywhere in presenting our solution to you?”
Hold the phone… this Sales Representative is apologizing to me, admitting failure, and asking for feedback? The pattern has officially been broken, and the relationship is strengthened as vulnerability and humility are now experienced. Like I said earlier, overcoming objections and learning how to handle objections is really just an exercise in psychology. Let us continue.
The conversation then played out like this: The prospect immediately said I had no reason to apologize, that my demos have been great and that there were items I had presented that made so much more impact for her long term. The other features were “nice to haves”. It was the next move I made that sealed the deal.
“Would you be open to me showing you how we handle those few items you mentioned you like from the competitors?”
Asking for permission before jumping into a feature war is key. By getting the verbal yes, as a Sales Representative, you now have gained clearance to start positioning your product or service and equal to or better than the features your prospect really liked.
Handling objections can be equated to nothing more than having a basic understanding of the way humans think, the role sales have played in the formation of people’s expectations, and how to use emotions to your favor. As a sales representative, once you have a handle on these items any objection can be handled effortlessly. Some parting thoughts about handling objections in life… reply in the exact opposite way your prospect would “expect” you to. It will immediately throw a wrench into the conversation, causing pause and a resetting of their expectation of you. Happy selling!