One of the biggest challenges every sales professional faces is overcoming and handling concerns and objections from prospects and customers. There is no doubt that ones ability to handle customer concerns is a major differentiation between top performing sales people and those who fall into the category of average.
The challenges associated with handling customer concerns are present throughout every step of the sales process. From the initial dialogue you attempt with a prospect to positioning products and services to active customers, there is always a presence of concerns on the minds of your customers.
During your initial dialogue, your prospects are likely not interested in what you have to say. If they were, they probably would have called you and your business development efforts would be a heck of a lot easier. In most cases, sales people initiate dialogue and develop sales opportunities with prospects that didn’t reach out to them proactively. This of course is the essence of selling and a reality in most sales positions.
When I look back on my career in sales, there is nothing I found more frustrating than the selling situations I felt very confident would move forward and then all of a sudden, I was hit with a concern or objection that caused the opportunity to come to a screeching halt. From budget and pricing objections to competitive pressures, customers almost always have concerns or objections that will be raised. As I found myself losing sales very late in the sales process, I began to recognize a pattern. Instead of identifying customer concerns early, they would come out after I had spent countless hours working on that particular opportunity.
If you’re in sales, you know objections are part of the sales process, but it is extremely challenging to continually face the same dilemma over and over. Here are a few suggestions on ways to identify and handle customer concerns as early as possible in the sales process.
Customers Have the Same Concerns
When you break down the different types of concerns, they will fall into one of three categories. Either the customer doubts you, your product or company, they have heard information that may not be accurate or there truly are needs your product or service can’t meet that are important to the customer. The beauty of every sales position is that you will constantly hear the same concerns over and over. By the natural process of repetition, you will become skilled at handling them. But the first step is to identify and document the common concerns your customers raise and rehearse your responses and approaches to handling them.
I have witnessed countless salespeople who seem surprised or taken back when objections are brought up. If you know almost every customer has them, why should it be a big surprise when they are identified? You have to maintain your composure and confidence when handling customer concerns. Doing so will help your customers look past potential drawbacks and focus more on the benefits of your product or service.
There is nothing customers appreciate more than straight talk, no smoke and forward statements. It saves you time and most importantly, it shows your customer you value their time. I suggest being upfront with customers about concerns they have and inviting concerns to be discussed as early as possible in the dialogue. Questions such as, “What challenges do you anticipate will come up as we begin to move forward in the process?” or “What concerns do you have about moving forward?” will help identify concerns and objections early in the sales process and give you plenty of time to work through them.
Set the Stage
As early as possible in the sales process, it is important to lay out and openly discuss how you as a sales person typically work with customers. If you explain to your customers upfront that you encourage dialogue about concerns and want to make sure anything that resembles a concern or objection is openly discussed, your customers are much more likely to be open with sharing them. As many of us know, there are often hidden objections behind every stated objection and identifying them as early as possible will help you identify what the real concerns are.
The earlier you identify, discuss and handle customer concerns, the more likely you are to overcome them and move forward in the sales process. For some strange reason, it is common for objections and concerns to be masked or hidden. Do your customers and yourself a favor and encourage your customers to openly voice concerns and objections as early as possible in the sales process.
Christopher Thompson founded Catch 22 Solutions and hosts the Business Advantage Show on WKXL 1450AM. For more information visit http://www.catch22solutions.com