When we think about the sales process, one of the key steps is usually described as ‘overcoming objections’. It seems obvious what this means to most of us — it is a not-so-subtle reminder to be ready for the prospect to present reasons why they should not buy your product or service. And of course, ‘be ready’ in this context means ‘be armed with features, benefits, explanations and answers’ to every objection, so that you can, naturally, overcome them and close the sale.
Overcoming objections, understood in this way, sounds like climbing a mountain — where the sales process is the mountain and the prospect’s objections are the cliffs, fjords and unexpected avalanches that you need to be ready for. You can just picture your prospect at the top of ‘quota mountain’, tossing snowballs down at you as you climb the mountain toward closing the sale. And, to boot, every question or concern your prospect expresses now is viewed as an ‘objection’ — like something right out of a courtroom drama.
Between the metaphor of climbing a mountain and that of fighting a courtroom battle, it’s no wonder that most sales professionals find themselves gearing up for a fight when it comes to moving the sales process forward.
The irony about this approach is that it misses the real value inherent in this phase of the process. First, not all prospect questions are actually objections. And second, the best way to address prospect questions is to be the one asking them.
If the sales process is a journey, and your role is to guide the prospect through the journey, then you should be thinking of your prospect as someone climbing the mountain with you — and in this case, the peak you are both climbing is ‘decision mountain’.
You both need to make a decision to do business with one another. Granted, as a sales professional you tend to assume that your decision is already made. After all, why would you spend time with a prospect if you weren’t ready to do business with them? And yet, the best sales professionals recognize that the decision is mutual, not one-sided. For a sales professional, the decision process is called qualifying.
By qualifying the prospect, you do yourself a favor by determining with clarity if they are a good fit for your product or service — and you do them a favor by guiding them up decision mountain with confidence.
Rather than wait for a prospect to lob objections at you, be the first to bat. Instead of preparing for an answer to the objection of “The price is too high”, ask the prospect early on “Are you confident that the price we’re offering is appropriate, and that you have a budget for this kind of purchase?” Instead of being ready to explain why a new feature is critical to their needs, ask the prospect if they are ready to train their staff in order to use new product features and capabilities.
It feels dangerous, but in reality a confident sales professional knows that by asking questions of the prospect — including questions that might generate a ‘no’ to the sale — they are putting the prospective customer at ease and increasing the prospect’s comfort that the sales process is, indeed, a shared journey. The result is better-qualified prospects for you and higher confidence in the decision process by your prospect.
Remember that the number one response most sales professionals receive at the end of a sales cycle is not “No”, but rather “I don’t know”. Recognize that your prospect takes a serious risk in making this decision. What if your company doesn’t deliver? What if your price turns out to be twice as high as that of another competitor? What if the features your product offers get ignored by the customer’s team and are never used? What if the purchase was not properly budgeted and the customer has to come back and negotiate even after the deal is closed?
Confidence in the decision process is how you move prospects from “I’m not sure” into the clarity of either a yes or a no. And in so doing, you empower them to climb ‘decision mountain’ with you, which means you’ll overcome challenges together and come to a clearer outcome — resulting in better sales performance.