Anyone who has worked in sales before will be exceedingly familiar with the word ‘no’. Closing a sale can be a long and winding road, and whether this road finishes in Yesville is determined by how you handle the objections of a potential customer along the way.
According to Marketing Donut, 80% of non-routine sales occur only after at least 5 follow ups. But despite this statistic, 44% of salespeople give up on a prospect after hearing ‘no’ just once. After 4 objections, 92% of salespeople have fallen by the wayside. By combining these numbers it can be reasoned that the 8% of salespeople who continue to follow up after hearing ‘no’ 4 times will be rewarded with 80% of non-routine sales, which only occur after 5 follow-ups.
But perseverance and bloody-mindedness will only take you so far. You also need the skills to handle these objections in a way that will lead to a sale. It’s not about wearing the customer down; it’s about offering a beneficial solution, and answering any doubts and reservations that the other party might hold. It’s these tricks of the sales trade that separate the very best professionals from the rest.
But what exactly are these tricks? To find out we spoke to 3 experts who have forged successful careers in the tech sales space – Gerard Yeterian, Head of Sales Expansion & Retention at hipages, Andrew Fazzone, Partner Consultant at Receipt Bank and Toby Giles, API Channel Manager at RedBalloon.
Why do people object?
Identifying the reason for objection is the first step to sales success. Just as AA’s 12 step program begins with recognising that there is a problem, so too must you recognise and understand your customer’s objection before you can move forward. As stated above, 44% of salespeople simply don’t bother, so by taking this step you already find yourself amongst the top half of professionals in your field.
Often an initial objection is nothing more than knee-jerk. A potential customer sees that you’re trying to sell them something and automatically puts the shutters up. Other times it could be the product of a lack of understanding about what you’re offering, in which case you’ll need to make an effort to be better understood. But if you get an answer of ‘no’ after making your point clearly to a customer who is listening, what then?
“Most salespeople believe that there are hundreds of reasons why people won’t buy something,” says Yeterian. “I’ll let you in on a little secret – there are actually only a handful.” In fact, Yeterian says that the bulk of all objections can be put into 2 categories: value and service. “People either don’t see the value of something, or feel their money isn’t worth giving to you based on an experience with service levels.”
As a partner consultant at Receipt Bank, Fazzone has dealt with a more specialised form of objection familiar to many start-up and high growth tech companies. “The most common objection would be timeline; that ‘now is not a suitable time to consider this project’” he notes.
Identifying the objection is usually simple – most customers will be more than happy to tell you outright. But what you do with these objections is what can make or break your career in sales.
The simple trick to overcoming objections
So what is the key to overcoming a potential customer’s objections? In an overwhelming percentage of situations it can be put down to three simple words – making value clear.
“We can never afford something we don’t see value in, but we can always find the money for something we feel we need” explains Yeterian. The secret, he says, is to get the customer to understand how your solution will help them in the long run. You need to demonstrate that what you’re selling – be it a product or a service – will offer real and tangible value.
Even timeline related objections can be drawn back to value propositions, according to Fazzone. “People fail to realise that investing time now in improving and automating their processes will ultimately benefit them in the future.” It’s your job to make those benefits clear.
Redballoon’s Giles sees emotional intelligence (EQ) as key to communicating your solution’s value to customers. “Selling is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and being able to understand what it is they need, and that’s why EQ is so fundamental. If you cannot first understand them and their problem, you cannot fix it.”
But what does ‘making value clear’ mean in real, actionable terms?
How to make the value of your solution clear
Offering a clear value proposition to your customers takes real effort, but the rewards are great.
You must first get to know where your product sits in the market; what makes it unique amongst its competitors. Compare it against similar products and services, and hold brainstorming sessions within your team to identify stand-out features and benefits. You can even ask pointed – if subtle – questions of your customers during casual conversation in order to identify current pain points that your solution may be able to remedy.
Once you’ve built a case for your solution, it’s time to communicate it to the customer. Role plays are a great way to practice the pitch; both Yeterian and Fazzone regularly role play to sharpen their pitching skills.
Fazzone then makes a mini plan for each pitch. “I start by planning what it is I want to achieve from the discussion, which I often write down. From there I think through the actual content and questions of the conversation, and how I can subtly drive it forward.”
From here, the research, role-playing and planning culminate in what hopefully will turn out to be a successful conversation. Success may seldom be a sale; it’ll more often simply be one minor objection overcome. But if you continue to make value clear and show some perseverance in doing so, your sales journey will end up in Yesville more often than not.