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Sales Strategy & Management

Overcome Sales Objections By Discovering the Need the Buyer Hasn’t Realised

A few things are likely to happen during product pitches that are delivered without doing any need development research before talking to the buyers.

Frank Visgatis

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Sales organisations generally struggle to accept that potential buyers can have valid objections to some pieces of their offerings. It’s great to be proud of your offerings, but keep in mind they won’t be a 100 percent perfect fit for most people. Every day buyers purchase offerings with some features that are not adequate, relevant or ideal to their particular business needs.

They make the buying decision anyway because the pros outweigh the cons.However, there are times when some objections are “show stoppers,” meaning that buyers eliminate offerings from consideration. But there are ways to block that “punch” and still make the sale.

Related: 7 Psychological Strategies for Mastering Sales Negotiations

Years ago I saw a popular poster that said: Selling begins when buyers says no. It’s difficult to put into words how strongly I disagree with that premise. Once a buyer states an objection it is difficult for sellers to have them change their mind.

At the beginning of my sales career I was trained in objection handling. The primary tactic was to display empathy (I understand how you feel), let the person know they aren’t alone (others have felt the same way)and then dismiss the objection (but they found that…). Techniques like this reinforce buyers’ beliefs that sellers try to manipulate them.

A seller’s job would be easier if buyers had fewer objections. Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself: Why do sellers encounter objections? My theory is that sellers receive so much training about offerings that they often get into “tell mode” while making product presentations.

This approach virtually ensures poor buyer experiences because sellers do most of the talking, dominating what should be a two-way conversation.

  • Sellers feel it is necessary to educate buyers in how extensive their offerings are and do “spray and pray” product pitches. When buyers hear many features they don’t understand or don’t need they may conclude offerings are too complicated and therefore too expensive.
  • Once product is mentioned, buyers ask how much it costs. Sellers either try to defer the discussion or have to give an estimate. If the price seems too high, the meeting may continue but the buyer has already shut the door.
  • Buyers being forced to listen to product pitches want to slow down the speeding train and will often raise objections to gain some control over the direction the sales call takes.

In my experience, the higher up in an organisation sellers call, the less inclined buyers are to listen to generic product pitches. Remember there are valid objections you (as well as your competitors) will encounter. Unless objections are “show stoppers” buyers can and will buy because they recognise no offering is a perfect fit for their needs. Use your judgement in deciding whether to try to address objections, but accept the fact that some are valid and you may hurt yourself by trying to talk buyers out of them.

Minimising objections

Competent sellers first diagnose buyer needs so that they later only present the parts of a given offering that are relevant to their business. Uncovering outcomes buyers want to achieve (or problems they want to address) is an important early step. After that a thorough diagnosis to uncover relevant and irrelevant capabilities by asking questions should minimise objections. It is also helpful to buyers if sellers explain how features are used vs. merely referencing feature names buyers won’t fully understand.

If and when you get an objection, my suggestion is to be thoughtful and slow to respond. I’ve seen many salespeople make erroneous assumptions, jumping in with counter-points and inadvertently raising new objections. If you have any doubt, consider asking clarifying questions or restating objections to verify that you understand the buyer’s concern.

A few suggestions:

  • If a buyer asks for a feature you don’t have you should admit it isn’t in your offering but ask why that feature is important or how will it be used. If they can’t give a meaningful answer it may not provide much value.
  • If you have a differentiator, try to first ask diagnostic questions to determine whether it is relevant to your buyer, before jumping into a pitch about it. If your differentiator is relevant, be sure to arm them with exactly how it could be used. Also suggest that if any other company claims to have the same feature, the buyer ask to see it.

Related: What Kind of Sales Person are You?

Revisit price objection by creating an active need

Assume a buyer visits a showroom and has configured an Audi A6 on the dealer’s website and shows it to the seller. This is the car the buyer wants, exactly. Cloth interior is specified and when asked “why not leather?” the buyer says that $1,500 is too much to pay. At this point, the seller can either try to sell to the buyer’s ego (a dangerous tact), accept that leather is out of the question or be patient because the buyer either can’t afford or doesn’t see value in getting a leather interior.

During the test drive the patient seller and buyer could have the following dialogue:

Seller: What do you think about the A6?

Buyer: Nice handling and much faster than my car.

Seller: I’m wondering if you would often have any young children or pets riding in the car?

Buyer: I have a 1-year old daughter and a German Shepherd. Why do you ask?

Seller: When we got married our car had cloth seats. After we had our first child I realised when milk or formula spilled onto the seats it was difficult to get them out of the cloth. Has that happened to you?

Buyer: With children and dogs, spills and slobbers are inevitable.

Seller: Since that time, my wife and I have bought leather interiors. They clean up well, wear better than cloth and increase resale value. I know it’s an extra $1,500, but is it something you might want to consider?

BuyerLet’s see what the difference in our monthly cost would be with leather when we get back to the showroom.

If a buyer says no to a feature because of cost, sellers have a better chance of having them overcome that objection if they can help the buyer see the value by asking questions to take the buyer from a latent to active need.

In conclusion, objections are part of a seller’s life. Doing need development research, asking pertinent and specific questions and then only discussing features relevant to the buyer’s need should minimise the number of objections sellers get (and help you get the sale).

Related: How to Get People to Stop Ditching their Online Shopping Cart

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Frank Visgatis is president and chief operating officer of CustomerCentric Systems in Sutton, Mass. His company provides sales process consulting and training.

Sales Strategy & Management

Five Ways To Stay In Control Of Selling Your Business

Even when you are ready to sell your own business, you need to maximise your benefit by keeping control of the sale process.

Andrew Bahlmann

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Each and every one of the many hundreds of business owners that I have engaged with over the years has always identified immediately with one key business strategy – the need to have control. After all, they became entrepreneurs to have control over their own business and business ideas, to control their cash flow and the growth of their business.

Yet, curiously, they often apply a different set of standards when the moment comes to sell that business. They do not seem to realise how quickly and how dangerously they can lose control.

The all-too-common scenario is that one day, out of the blue, a business owner is contacted by a “would-be” acquirer who is interested in buying the business. It is probably only in hindsight that they would pinpoint this as the moment when entertaining the approach meant that they lost control of the sale process.

From that moment, the potential acquirer will define the hoops through which the seller must jump before a serious offer is put on the table. The acquirer insists, for example, on full due diligence before a detailed offer is submitted. This leaves the business owner feeling overly exposed for an extended period of time.

But worse is often to come. Eventually, at the eleventh hour, the potential acquirer puts a ridiculous offer forward, based on all the “risks” they believe they identified in the due diligence.

The acquirer conveniently concentrates on the negative. They forget about the embedded value and future growth potential that the seller’s business will offer.

Or sometimes, they complete their due diligence and walk away. That leaves a baffled business owner watching them drive away from the premises – and left with nothing to show for the process but raised blood pressure and the haunting question, “WHAT happened there?”

These are unpleasant truths indeed – but ones that you can avoid. Such scenarios underline why keeping control is critical when selling your business.

This control is not about taking ego and arrogance. It is about taking an approach that is calculated and structured. That way you will drive the process on your terms and according to your agenda. And that critically will mean that you will be able to protect your confidential information along the way so you are not left feeling exposed at the end of the process.

Related: Never Lose Control When Selling Your Business

Whether you are approached to sell your business or are proactively going to market to find an acquirer of strategic partner, always protect yourself with these five key tips:

1. Always have a plan

Your plan should encompass: the timeline, the terms and the rules of engagement between the acquirer and yourself moving forward. By putting your plan into place, you take and keep control of the process.

2. Interrogate the acquirer

Make sure that as early as possible in the process, you understand these factors driving the potential acquirer:

  • What is motivating their interest in buying your business?
  • Have they bought a business before?
  • How would they value your business?
  • How would they fund the acquisition?

If your potential acquirer has bought a business before, insist on speaking to the business owners who sold to them so you can find out about their experience of working with the company to complete the sale.

Ensure that a potential acquirer gives you a valuation formula upfront so that you can be sure you are both batting in the same ballpark. If you are able to speak with a previous seller, find out how the deal was valued and structured in that instance.

If your potential acquirer has to raise funding, insist on speaking direct to the funder to make sure they are fully committed – and that their valuation methodologies are aligned with what the acquirer is telling you. If there is a mismatch, it is the funder’s valuation that ultimately counts so you may need to engage with the funder.

3. Secure your offer before due diligence

Always make sure that your potential acquirer puts forward a non-binding offer before commencing with due diligence. Doing this will give you comfort that the acquirer is serious. It will also identify for you where the acquirer sees value in your business and what risks they perceive – and what risks there might be for you.

4. Ensure due-diligence terms are agreed

Always make sure that the terms of the due-diligence process are defined and reconcile back to the offer. Due diligence is another point in the process that confirms where your potential acquirer sees the value of your business and identifies risks. Commercial reality and practicality must drive the sale process so make sure you are not manoeuvred into being bogged down in the due-diligence list, which often consists of hundreds of requirements.

5. Always have a timeline

Your time is valuable so make sure that both you and your potential acquirer realise and respect that. Protect yourself with a timeline – you should define the milestones and deadlines of the sale process for your acquirer.

These five strategies will ensure that you retain control of the sale process, just as you have controlled your business development. That will mean that it is less gruelling for you and that you can be confident about selling on terms that you will look back to happily.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Low-Hanging Fruit: Why You Need To Be Selling To Those Dormant Customers

Remember those customers from the past? They may be willing to buy from you again (and again and again).

Sujan Patel

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When I was a kid, I liked getting new toys. What kid doesn’t, right? And every time I got a new one, it seemed like the only toy in the world. I forgot all about the other toys I already had – I only wanted to play with that one.

The sales world is not that different – because of its focus on acquisition. Everyone wants those new customers, and they put all of their efforts there. But by doing so, they forget all about the customers they already have.

The problem is, you can’t let “new toy syndrome” affect your sales strategy. New customers are great, but you shouldn’t forget that other place where real opportunity lies: with your dormant customers, the ones who have already bought from you in the past.

Acquisition vs. reactivation

Companies spend tons of time and money acquiring new customers. But eventually those new customers become dormant. When that happens, most companies just go out and find more new customers. Yet that’s not really the most profitable approach.

If you have a huge dormant customer base that is being neglected, you’re leaving money on the table. And dormant customers are actually more valuable than you might think. According to research by Invesp:

  • It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 percent to 70 percent, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is just 5 percent to 20 percent.
  • Compared to new customers, existing customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products and 31 percent more likely to spend more money
  • When they increase customer retention rates by 5 percent, companies can increase profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.
  • Despite the obvious benefits, Invesp finds that only 40 percent of companies it surveyed had an equal focus on acquisition and retention — and my guess is, even less focus on reactivation.

Related: How To Interview Prospective Customers

The value of dormant customers

There’s so much emphasis these days on leading a customer through the sales funnel and closing the deal; even the term “closing” implies an ending. But the sale shouldn’t be the end of your relationship with your customers.

If a customer has purchased from you in the past, you already know you’ve done something right. This customer already knows and likes your business – enough to have actually bought from you. So, wouldn’t it make sense that he or she would be likely to do so again?

The caveat here is that this willingness may depend on your specific product. If, for instance, you sell wedding products, customers will most likely buy from you for only a limited time. But for other businesses, this won’t be the case. Your products and services can be repurchased, or one purchase may be able to lead to the purchase of another, related product.

Whatever the case, you should find it easy to identify those customers with whom an opportunity lies to sell to them again (and maybe again and again).

A smooth sales process

Selling to dormant customers can actually be easier than selling to new customers. That’s because you’ve already done so much of the legwork already. There’s no need to do any kind of lead generation, for instance, because you already have the lead, along with much of the information you’ll need to sell to these people. That would include:

Contact information: You probably already have their email, phone number and any other information you need to reach out and restart the sales process.

Preferences: Because you’ve worked with them before, you most likely have notes on their preferences or any circumstances that could influence what they buy. Plus, you know what they’ve already bought, which should give you insight into what they might buy now.

Personality: It’s possible you’ve even already developed a relationship with a return customer. Customers like familiarity, and if they know you and have worked with you in the past, they’ll be more likely to take your calls and listen to what you have to say.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

Implementing a reactivation programme

When you’re building out your reactivation program, one of the main things you need to learn is why these customers went dormant. Why did they stop doing business with you? Send surveys or ask directly; this will allow you to shape your strategy going forward.

While new customers are key to business growth, if you want your business to last, you also need loyal customers. One-time buyers aren’t going to be your best advocates. But those customers who keep coming back again and again are going to recommend your business to others and be exponentially valuable.

As a result, your reactivation programme – you have one, don’t you? – will be your first step toward nurturing those customers who may in turn become loyal advocates.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Strategy & Management

After Losing A R280 000 Deal, Here’s What I Changed In My Email Follow-Ups

Looking back, these are the things we could have done differently to win the deal.

Kwesi Sakyi-Gyinae

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A while back, I spoke with a potential customer who had an interest in working with us. We met a few times to review the proposal. We narrowed down the project scope and showed how our team could execute. There was definite interest. If we signed the deal, it would be worth $21 000 (R280 000).

But, there was one challenge: The time was not right. The prospect’s team was restructuring their business. That meant they would only move forward after that was complete. So, I put a note on my calendar to follow up with a call every month.

But, then a few months later when I called him, he said, “Kwesi, we just signed a contract with another vendor. You should have called me earlier.”

“What?” I said. “I had spoken with you a month before.”

“I know, but I didn’t remember,” he said. It was a punch to the gut.

What I learnt from the loss

That loss would become a significant learning for our team. When we reviewed why we lost that potential customer, we realised one thing; the key was in the prospect’s response. He didn’t remember us, even though I had ‘followed up’ a few weeks earlier.

We did not have enough compelling top-of-mind awareness. Yes, we followed up, but we were not sticky enough. We didn’t dominate the prospect’s mind share. If we were going to dominate, we needed to nurture, not just follow up.

Related: How soon should I follow up on a quotation?

Three things we do differently now

professional-email-tricks

1. Make it (feel) personal

If you plug your prospect’s email into a fancy email marketing template, it rarely feels personal. Emails with fancy images and fonts don’t connect on a personal note. Instead, write your emails in plain text. Would you write an email to a friend or colleague using fancy email templates with bright colours? An email that feels personal is trustworthy.

Another smart way to do this is to start your email by referring to an ‘undeniable, confirmable truth.’ Communications strategist Ray Edwards describes why this is important in his book How to Write Copy That Sells: “One of the hurdles we have to overcome is scepticism and the fact that our readers often don’t believe us… or aren’t sure if they believe us.”

When you’re nurturing a prospect, you want to build trust. The more trustworthy you are, the more likely you are to get the deal. For example, we now start our nurture emails with: “Hi Joe — it’s Kwesi here.”

2. Tell a story of value

This is one of the critical email follow-up techniques we developed after losing that deal. Most of our nurturing emails tell a story. We tell stories about new ideas the prospect can use. We tell stories about lessons we’ve learnt from failing. We tell stories about our fears and hopes. Great stories evoke emotions that build trust. Humans have been telling stories for more than 20 000 years.

Researcher Paul J. Zak found that stories with great characters cause the release of oxytocin, the brain’s shortcut to ‘it’s safe to approach others.’ The more oxytocin your prospect’s brain releases, the more willing they’ll be to help.

Discussing his findings in the Harvard Business Review, Zak noted that “character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later.” That’s why storytelling is sticky. It makes you more memorable.

Related: How can I manage my email inbox?

3. Be credible

The key to being credible is to show social proof. Nurture the prospect by sharing specific recent results of a similar client. I’m not talking about sending a lazy, generic email about a new client you signed. Craft a thoughtful story about a client’s challenges and how your team helped them.

Your social proof story can include these: What was the specific challenge? What were the emotional effects of the client’s challenge? How did your service or product help solve that challenge? What are the new emotions after the results you helped them get?

These three principles have become the foundation of our follow-up emails. We use them to build a nurturing sequence with prospects who are a fit, but not yet ready to buy.

The point is: Have a system to continue adding value to prospects who say it’s not a good time. You spend enough time to get prospects to meet with you. Put in a little more effort to engage with them with value until they are ready. Invest in your relationships for the long term. That way when they are ready to buy, you’ll be the first who comes to mind.

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