At Sherpa our ABM and Channel ABM work finds us more & more likely to be dealing with our Client sales teams, working alongside field sales teams to deliver new revenue opportunities. It's a challenging environment and day in day out we hear all sorts of objections.
“I don’t have the budget, the time, the resource, the inclination to hear what you’ve got to say…”. How many sales people hear this sort of response from prospects every day? It’s probably the most standard response from those on the receiving end of a sales call. In fact, I will admit to using it myself. However, how do you turn this objection in to an opportunity to extract more information and turn the prospect in to a lead?
Chris Orlab, Senior Director at Gong.io, recently wrote an excellent blog on just this. Using data from 3million recorded calls and 67,149 sales meetings, Gong identified some key trends and techniques that were used by their top performing sales people. So, we thought we would share them…
1. Pause…then speak calmly and with authority
Gong discovered that when faced with an objection, successful sales reps tended to pause for five times longer than they paused throughout the rest of the call. Gong sales reps were speaking at an average of 173 words per minute. However, when faced with an objection, this tended to increase in the poorer performing reps to 188 words per minute. They often interrupted and lost trust and rapport with the prospect by flapping and not remaining calm.
2. Clarify with questions
Many salespeople have a set script and don’t stray too far from it…encouraging conversation may lead to a scenario where you cannot provide answers. However, the data suggested that top performing sales people engaged the prospect with 23.3% more questions following an objection than the average sales rep. Not fully understanding the prospect’s viewpoint and neglecting to make the effort to understand will alienate them further. Sticking to script at this point is an easy way to address the wrong issue, be dismissive of their pain points and come across as insecure.
Chris Voss (Never split the difference) suggests a tactic called ‘mirroring’, in which you as the sales person repeat the prospect’s concern back to them in a question form. This acts as an invitation to further expand on what they actually mean. A short pause, will then prompt your prospect to fill that silence with further explanation. Non-confrontational and avoids the use of the word ‘why’, which makes even the warmest prospects bristle. In fact, “why” should be avoided at all costs and replaced with clarification questions, such as “would you help me understand the issues around making the investment”.
3. Validate the objection
Understanding your buyer’s viewpoint, dilemma, pain points and validating their objection will make you far more influential in the conversation. Addressing their concern and understanding the emotional motivation behind it will build trust. Gong use this as an example: “your concern is completely valid Lois, it seems that you are torn on what to do here…”.
4. Isolate the objection
As with some Sales people, the buyers on the other end of the phone often have a script too. They are so busy trying to get rid of the sales person with their standardised responses, that they don’t really engage fully and often provide answers which do not actually relate to their true objection. Gong realised that by validating the initial objection, posing a solution and then enquiring about further obstacles, successful sales people got to the route of the actual problem and were then able to tackle the true objection.
5. Get permission
This is a critical step at which many stumble. Offering solutions and suggestions will seem unwarranted and assumptive, triggering defensive reactions from the buyer. Instead a more passive approach in which the sales person almost asks for help changes the dynamic in the conversation. It will neutralise the buyer’s mind. The phrase that worked well for Gong sales people is “can I bounce some thoughts off you”.
6. Address with a reframe
The next step would not work without the 5-step process you have just been through. There must have been an element of rapport built before attempting to reframe the buyer’s objection.
Reframing means that you provide an insight that changes how the buyer thinks in relation to an objection. For example, if their objection is that the timing is not right, a successful salesperson should be able to reframe this objection by offering a suggestion that in fact waiting until the timing feels right may be too late. It would be worth them getting their ducks in a row before the right moment, so that when it does come, they are totally prepared. Turning a problem in to an opportunity is certainly a successful way to reframe an objective.
7. Confirm unbiased resolution
As with point four, often the buyer will say what the sales person wants to hear, just to get them off the phone or to be polite. However, this will lead to a false lead. A successful salesperson should therefore be conscious of influencing the buyer with questions such as ‘does that address your concern?’. The successful sales people at Gong closed with the following question: “what part of your concern do you feel is still left unaddressed?’. This is an un-leading question; it allows further discussion if there are more objections, but more often than not, as the previous six stages had been navigated, lead to a positive response and a successfully handled sales call.
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