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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.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Why Creating Value For Your Customer Beats Giving Price Discounts

Customers want value for money. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy (without losing your margins).

Ed Hatton

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Businesses that can prove and deliver the greatest value can ask their price.

Pricing strategy may be low on the priority list, but complaints about competitors’ low prices get a lot of attention. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy and rules.

For most of us, pricing is a cost-plus system, the calculated cost of an item is marked up by a percentage to get the selling price, which may then be discounted to match competitive prices. This method assumes that your cost is the lowest it could be, which is rarely true. It is likely you could drive down costs by smarter purchasing or more efficient manufacturing.

The second wrong assumption is that the mark-up percentage is correct; it is more likely to be a long-ago rounded off thumb suck of what you need to run the business, and out of date in this economy. Crucially, cost plus pricing ignores the value that a customer gains when buying the product.

Research shows that customers increasingly seek value for money and will even pay a premium for value. This is especially true of young people, but all classes of buyers, from giant corporates to very poor individuals, seek value over price. Many tenders are not awarded to the lowest bidder but to the supplier best able to deliver. Very poor people buy expensive branded food because they are trusted.

Companies hesitate to switch suppliers only for price, particularly where delivery and quality are vital. With all this evidence that value is important, it’s time to rethink your pricing.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Determining value

Ask your customers what factors are important when choosing suppliers. Price will always be one factor, but focus on the others. Your goal is to become the supplier that best matches all their needs. In many cases, you may even be able to increase your price. Bottled water sells for anything from R5 to R50 a bottle, simply based on the buyer’s perception of the health and other values of that brand. You can get a website and brand identity for less than R10 000 or more than R1 million — neither are the wrong price, it depends what the buyer needs. Get all the information you can and don’t rely on your own or your sales team’s perception of customer needs.

What happens if you cannot make money at the price the customers see value in the item? Start a harsh examination of your buying or manufacturing efficiencies. At the same time re-examine the margin calculation — lean businesses need less margin than lazy ones. If you still cannot make or buy it economically, consider changing your pricing strategy.

Pricing strategies

Convenience pricing is offering a bundle of goods and services for a single price or monthly fee. The customer can easily assess affordability and decide if this offers value. Cell phone suppliers and motor dealers adopt this pricing method. You buy a car for a single monthly fee including the car, warranty, maintenance plan, roadside assist, financing and other items. Both customer and seller are satisfied.

Value-based pricing sees the price determined by the value of the product or service to the individual buyer. The most skilled value-based pricing experts are the street hawkers who are quick to assess the value a student, a businesswoman or a tourist may put on an item. Public speakers have different prices for different audiences like large businesses, start-ups and NGOs — I use this method.

Related: Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things

Incentive-based pricing is widely used in the IT and construction industries. It works on the basis that the price is variable and depends on the performance of the supplier. An IT project may have a nominal price but bonuses are paid for early completion, being below budget or developing more than the requirements. Conversely, not meeting deadlines, delivering late, poor quality or incomplete systems will reduce the price eventually paid. Consider if your business can use one of these highly effective pricing strategies.

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Sales Strategy & Management

What Is Customer Intimacy And How Do You Use It?

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.

Clarissa Fleischer

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Knowing your customers well is a major part of being a successful marketing company. When companies do not connect with their customers, this is when they lose loyalty, revenue and positive customer sentiments. And in today’s world of hyper-connectivity and improved brand interactions, not being connected to your consumers can damage your brand in the long run.

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.Customer intimacy should be a top priority for any company who wants to maintain their success.

But, what exactly is customer intimacy?

Simply put, it is a business strategy that is based on paying close attention to the needs of your customers and ensuring that these needs are met and prioritised at all points of their journey with your company. It often involves close contact with customers using a variety of different channels and techniques. You need them to know that you care about their needs and understand what they are asking for.

You could think of it as segmenting your audience and creating specific offerings to precisely match their needs. If you want to excel at using customer intimacy, you will need to combine your in-depth knowledge of your customer with the ability to be flexible in your operations. This way, you can respond to any customer needs as quickly as possible, maintaining the high standards they have come to expect from your brand.

How do I use it?

Now that you understand what customer intimacy is, you are ready to delve deeper and figure out how to use it. There are some simple tips that you can use to implement customer intimacy in your current marketing strategy. Outlined below are just some of these effective methods.

Always prioritise your customers

This is the first step to any successful customer intimacy strategy. Prioritising your customers means that you need to set up operational processes which are “customer first” in their thinking. You will need to start by listening to customers and analysing their concerns. Only once you understand these concerns, will you be able to provide solutions.

It is important to look into processes that prioritise these concerns rather than react negatively to them. An example of this is avoiding looking at how many calls your client service team takes in a day but rather looking at the goals that they achieve when answering customer queries. Have they answered the customer’s question? Is there a resolution in sight for the problem? These are a more important metric to look at than how many calls are answered in a day.

Try to resolve problems

In order to become more customer-intimate, you should strive to solve the problems that arise rather than discourage people from coming to you with issues. And your brand should make customers feel as though they can share their grievances, either by contacting you directly or by writing a review on your social media page.

Statistics show that customers share a bad experience twice as often than they do a positive one, which could be highly detrimental to your company. So, when your customers do take the time to contact your business with either a positive or negative review, you have to have steps in place to resolve these problems. Use these complaints to improve your processes and your customer service section, so that the next time someone contacts you, it will be with compliments and not complaints.

Set goals that your entire company must follow

One of the most effective ways to become a customer-centric company is to set common goals that all of your employees must follow. For example, one goal could be to answer customer questions within 24 hours with a solution that is realistic and achievable. Or you could aim to improve your project turn-around time by gathering information from clients at every stage of their journey.

Whatever goals you set for your business, you will need to ensure that every employee adheres to them. Leaders need to set an example for their staff so that the customers, ultimately, reap the benefits. But be sure that your goals are attainable. You cannot expect your employees to reach the unreachable, as this will negatively impact the level of customer service you can provide consumers. Look at the data that is coming in from customer calls and interactions and use this to come up with goals that you can reach. 

The customer is always right

We often use this saying in a joking or derivative way, but it is truer than you might think, especially for marketing companies. In today’s world, the consumer wants brands to focus on them. In fact, if a brand ignores even the smallest form of contact with a customer, there could be an issue. And this is why you need to become a customer-intimate brand.

You need to prioritise the needs of the customer at every touchpoint in their journey with your brand, solve any problems that might arise and ensure that everyone is on the same page in your company. Soon you will see that your customers are singing your praises to everyone they meet.

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Sales Strategy & Management

How To Use Sales Skills To Build Your Business

If you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

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Building your business from the ground up is no easy feat. You might feel overwhelmed by all the ways and methods that are available to you but there is one way that can help your efforts immensely, and that is by using sales skills. Sales skills might not seem like they are applicable to building a business, but what is a business without sale people?

You could look into a sales accelerator for business development course to improve your selling skills. Sales training courses can be useful, as they will teach you about sales techniques and sales strategy, which you can apply to other aspects of your business. So, if you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

Listen to existing customers

An effective way to improve your business offerings is to listen to your existing customers. Listening is actually more complex than it seems, and it means that you have to do a lot less talking. This will help you to truly hear your customers and take stock of what they are saying.

Listening to existing customers is one of the best sales and marketing strategies you can use to improve your business. This is especially true if you have built a relationship and rapport with your current customer base, as this will encourage them to give you insights into any issues they might be facing. Whether you are a small business or a large company, listening to customers is always helpful.

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

Try to solve a problem

Solving a problem is a marketing plan that is effective and sure to work in building your business. And a great salesperson knows that solving the problem of a potential customer is a sure-fire way to improving the conversion rate of their business.

You will need to do some research into the problems that your target market faces and then focus on how your products or services can be used to solve these problems. This ties into the first step of listening, not only to your existing clients but to potential ones too. Listen to what people are saying and learn to read what is being said. This way, you will be able to ascertain the problems your customers are facing and you can come up with solutions to fix them.

Use word of mouth

Existing customers can be a huge help to your business, in that they can provide you with positive referrals to use to boost your client base. If a customer is happy with the services or products you have provided them with, you can ask them for the name and contact details of other business owners who might benefit from your help.

You can also ask for positive testimonials from customers that you can place on your business site and social media platforms. You should always ask permission before using testimonials, and be sure that they are factual, true and relevant to your brand. Referrals and testimonials are common sales tactics that can be applied to boosting a small business or improving the reputation of an established company. And while nobody enjoys receiving negative reviews, it is important that you use these reviews to learn from your mistakes and improve your customer experiences.

Sell your vision

Building your business might involve reaching out to investors to help with monetary issues, and this is where your sales skills will really need to shine. This is because you are not only selling your business, but you are selling your vision of your business as well.

You will need to give specific details as to how your offerings will help customers to solve problems and answer questions. And you will need to sell a successful vision to your investors of how you want your business to success. Show them that your employees will be happy with how well they are taken care of and that customers will live a better life by using your services or product.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Exceed customer expectations

When a salesperson goes over and above what the customer expects, it is likely that the customer will become a return customer. And this is what you want for your business, right? So you should look into ways in which you can meet and exceed customer expectations.

One of the benefits of always exceeding expectations is that you will no longer have to rely on the “hard sell” to encourage people to use your business. Word-of-mouth will travel about your excellent customer service, which will sell your business for you. If your brand is passionate about providing customers with the best possible service, you will be selling your business and improving it all at once.

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