There are two interesting characteristics of objections. First, there are only a limited number of objections that you will come across in your selling career. This has tremendous implications! Since there are only a limited number of objections, we can plan for the objections and also plan our responses. Second, objections really aren’t objections at all. They are simply a request by the prospect for additional information.
Since we can plan for the objections and respond to them by providing additional information, we should be able to turn around any objection with the same skill and ease that our prospects enjoy in sending them our way.
Here are three of the most common objections, along with a well-developed response or two to each. These should be used for guidance. Your actual response should be consistent with your industry and personality so that you will sound conversational.
Objection #1: Send me information about your company/products/services in the mail or by e-mail.
This is one of the most commonly used objections. Most salespeople respond in a positive manner. They send the information as requested and believe that they have moved one step further in the sales cycle.
My experience, however, has been that in most instances, you are no further along in the sales cycle than you were prior to the call. Once you hang up the phone, the prospect is going to return to whatever he was doing. He is not going to spend much time, if any, reflecting on the brief discussion you just had. When he receives the information several days later or reads his e-mails several hours later, he may remember your discussion, but in all likelihood he will not.
Response #1: “I’d be happy to send you information in the mail (or by e-mail), but we have a lot of different information to send. What I would like to do is ask you a few more questions before I send the information. That way, when I send the information, I will send you only what is relevant to you.”
In a normal discovery session, I would ask the customer six structured, high-level, open-ended questions. If you are in field sales, the goal of your prospecting call is to get an appointment, not to do a discovery session over the telephone. This is the job of the telesales professional. So, while I am telling the customer that I would like to ask him a few questions, I really want to ask him only one question: “What are you doing now in the area of [insert your product or service]?” While I do have five other planned questions to ask, my hope is that the prospect will tell me something that I can use as leverage for the appointment. So, after he responds, I could say something like, “Well, that’s a really interesting point, and it just so happens that we have been able to help other customers in areas just like these. What I would like to do is discuss this with you in more depth. Are you available next Tuesday at 3:00?”
Response #2: “Since I’ve already sent you information, it must have gotten lost in the mail. I’m to be in your area on March 16. Why don’t I stop by at 3:00 and drop it off? Will you be available? Great! I’m noting this in my calendar and will call you the day before to confirm.”
The prospect can respond to the second response in one of only two ways. He can either agree to meet with you or he can provide you with an additional (real) objection that we will address later. Notice I am asking the prospect if he will be available. I am not going to simply drop off the information. I could hire a messenger or send it through the mail if that is what I wanted to accomplish. I am going to have a meeting—and not a brief meeting, either. Very rarely, if ever, will these “drop off the information meetings” last less than one hour. In fact, these meetings are in every way the same as the ones that were planned by the prospect. Finally, I always call to confirm.
Objection #2: We handle the need for your product (service) internally.
This objection tends to be a very powerful one because it appears to be difficult to overcome. After all, why would prospects buy from you if they already make what you are selling themselves? However, overcoming this objection should be no more difficult than any other. As always, the key lies in preparation.
The way in which you handle this objection is a function of the person in the prospect organization you are working with: middle managers or upper managers, as each has a different set of interests or value system. Your response must be designed to reflect the interest of the party to whom you are talking.
Middle-management approach: Address one of their primary concerns: efficiency. Whatever they are doing is fine; you should just position yourself to help them do it better. Middle managers are typically proficient at addressing the core set of business needs. However, they typically do not have the capabilities, resources, or economies of scale to address, or cost-effectively address, niche needs. All organizations have niche needs or opportunities, and this should be the target of your comments. The approach of addressing niche opportunities is very unthreatening to a middle-management prospect because you are offering help by proposing to supplement her exiting offering. You are not trying to take away her job by eliminating the need for what she does.
Tell her, “Great! That was exactly my reason for the call. We have worked with a number of large organizations like yours and have found that we can be an effective supplement to the services you already provide through your organization. I’m going to be in your area on August 5 and would like to stop by to show you how. Are you available at 3:00?”
Upper-management approach. While middle managers are typically concerned with doing a better job, upper management is concerned with return on investment, earnings per share, and other broad-based financial performance ratios. Thus, your response to upper managers’ internal objection should show them that you can increase the profitability of their company.
It is important when working with upper management that you be prepared to speak their language, which is primarily financial. You are preparing to tell them that you can provide them with a lower total cost solution than the one they have in place. They will want you to justify your position. So the ability to quantify the impact of your recommendation is crucial to your success. Explain that you can provide the company with a lower total cost solution, thus improving the profitability of the organization. Is he interested? Of course he is! You then go for the appointment.
Objection #3: We do not have the budget for your product or service
Remember, selling is a process and not an event. Given this long-term view of the sales cycle, you cannot expect an immediate return from every client and prospect. However, since you are working within your target market, every call is a quality call and every prospect is a quality prospect. You cannot hurt yourself by developing an account within your target market, no matter how long the account cycle might be for the prospect. Given that a prospect did not properly budget for your product or service, now might be the best time to start building a relationship.
Response #1: “Ms. Chang, I understand that you may have current budget restraints. However, my goal is not necessarily to sell you something today, but rather, to build a lasting relationship. I’m going to be in your area on January 6 and would like to stop by to introduce myself. This way, when you do have a budget, I will be well-positioned to serve your needs. Are you available at 3:00?”
Response #2: A second approach is to reflect on how your product or service will benefit the prospect. Once you have identified the benefits you bring to the table, you might respond: “Ms. Chang, I can certainly understand how you feel. In fact, many of our best customers felt the same way as you did when we first called upon them. But, what they found when we started working with them is that we could really help them save money on the purchase of our products and services [or, we could really help them improve their overall productivity]. I’m going to be in your area on January 6 and would like to stop by. Are you available at 3:00?”
The key to using this technique again lies in the preparation. If the prospect asks just how you might be of value, be prepared to respond.
This article is adapted from Red-Hot Cold Call Selling, Prospecting Techniques that Really Pay Off, 2nd Ed. (AMACOM, 2006), by Paul S. Goldner,