Objection-handling techniques: the best part of the sales process

Often people can mistakenly think that better objection handling is the silver bullet to sales success. I have lost track of the number of people over the years who have said to me “Ian, if only I could handle objections better, I’d get so many more orders!” They are partly right but there is much more to it than that. It’s all the individual building blocks of the selling process making their impact.

Using Sir Dave Brailsford’s mantra ‘aggregate marginal of gains’ it is the sum of all the parts that leads to noticeable improvements or put another way, 100 things done 1% better that will make the difference to your sales results.

Things to consider include:

  • Have you established how many prospects you need?
  • Are you fishing in the right pond? Are you talking to the right person?
  • Are you asking the right probing questions?
  • Do you understand the client’s buying/sales process?

The first meeting with a prospective client must not be underestimated. You should prepare for it as if preparing for an interview with a company, knowing the background, the key stats and latest developments of the company and the background of the person you’re meeting. Once in front of the prospect, careful consultative questioning is needed to undercover all the desires and needs that lie beneath the iceberg.

It’s important to develop the Ask and park the Tell.

Questioning techniques are an essential tool in the sales toolbox to get under the skin of what clients really want. You need to find the ‘Hot Button’ that you can press that will trigger clients into action. Always ending a sentence with a question can also be very helpful to steer the conversation towards a better chance of sales success.

One other well-chosen approach is to be a consultant first and foremost, offering advice and info and a salesperson second. People buy people before they buy things.

Also key is building a desire for a solution in the prospect’s mind before you go on to persuade them that your solution is the right one.

Your proposal needs to be technically sound, informative, and persuasive, but furthermore, it needs to tell a story with credibility using the results of the questioning in the proposal. A ‘knock your socks off’ proposal is essential so that it can also convince decision-makers outside of the room who do not know you or those who may not be aware of current problems and concerns.

When it comes to closing, this is where potential issues such as price etc. will surface but if you have intelligently controlled the sales process, you will have dealt with these long before you get to this point but if they do occur you will have the opportunity to shrewdly steer the conversation and re-establish the value to the prospect.

When objection handling, I teach people a 3-stage technique:

  • Firstly, ask back. Questions unlock new information and mean you can tailor ever more precisely to the customer needs.
  • Secondly, agree. Empathy is an excellent way of developing a relationship with the prospect.
  • Thirdly, answer, providing an informative answer, listing back matching features and benefits.

By concentrating on some of these different elements of the sales process you can go a long way to making a tangible difference to your sales results, converting many more prospects into clients along the way.

Here’s a thought – Do you know your sales conversion rate? If not, you should. It’s a vital business KPI!

Yes, objection handling is a key area of opportunity to close sales but if the preceding steps of opportunity identification, questioning and smart proposal making haven’t been optimised you are missing a trick and reducing your overall sales opportunities from earlier in the process. Certainly, sales is an art and to be successful you need a combination of technical/product knowledge, sales skills, the ‘YOU’ factor and perseverance. There is no silver bullet!

I hope this has proved of interest and there are some techniques here that you can put to good use.

Author: Ian Preston, Managing Director at IJP Consultancy Ltd

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