Month: June 2015

Overcoming Objections: Your Way to Sales Success

By Todd Natenberg, Author, “I just got a job in sales. Now what?” and President of TBN Sales Solutions

People buy on emotion. Whether they are introverts or extroverts is immaterial, if emotions are not expressed, no purchase will be made. Just because not all people are vocal about their feelings does not mean they do not have them. It is the job of the salesperson to uncover emotions.

In any sales opportunity, a top salesperson wants one of two outcomes: closing the deal, naturally, or the opportunity to overcome objections.

Yes, you heard me correctly. If prospects are not ready to become clients, the next best thing is for them to object. The key, though, is for it to be an objection.

If a concern by a prospect can’t be overcome by you — or another vendor — it’s not an objection. It’s a deal- breaker and it’s time to move on.

Think of your own buying habits. When you’ve made a purchase, if you have not done so from the get go, but were waffling, did you ask questions? Did you “object?”

When people are interested in something, whether it is good or bad, they react. They have their emotions generated. The world of sales is no different.

But how do we determine what are true objections? And once we do, what do we do to overcome them to skyrocket our sales?

Pause
Let prospects gather their thoughts. Who says they were objecting? Have you ever thought aloud? Have you ever been in a situation where your “out loud” comment was more for your sake, then who you were speaking with?

You’d be amazed. What you think was an objection may have just been an immaterial statement that prospects themselves will overcome because they were never issues from the get go.

Relax
Gather your own composure now. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Take another moment before responding. Remember, there is still silence, but in the world of sales, silence at this point in the process- is a terrific thing. We said above that objections are “emotions being expressed.” Silence is an emotion. The question is, what emotions are going on in your prospect’s mind?

When silence is abounding, the prospect is always thinking about why to buy your product, not why not to buy.

For instance, when I sold long distance service for LCI International, I often ran across scenarios like this:

Prospect: “I really wanted to bring my rate all the way down to .07 per minute.”

Me: Silence, 10 seconds pass.

Prospect: “But I guess .08 is pretty good, too. After all, my rate now is .15/minute and you do have much better billing. I also like the effort you have put on the account. Okay, sign me up.”

(Note: Yes, this was 10 years ago. Long distance rates have dropped dramatically).

Empathize
Notice how I say empathize, not sympathize. There is where the “feel, felt, found” technique is effective, but you have to be careful. If you are talking to seasoned salespeople, you might want to change the words around, because they might get annoyed if they recognize what you are doing. Then again, they might be impressed and even have a good laugh with you, not at you, as they will know what you are trying to accomplish. It goes like this:

“Mr. or Ms. Prospect, I do understand how you feel. Frankly, lots of my customers have felt the same way when they first heard about our program, but what they found out after further discussion was the benefits heavily outweighed the limitations.”

Probe
I disagree strongly with the premise “buyers are liars.” Buyers want to tell you their true concerns. They just don’t know sometimes what these concerns are. The job of the salesperson is to bring out this concern.

A better saying: “Buyers are not liars, when the right questions are asked.” When prospects object, ask what they really mean in an open-ended format. For instance, you may say, “How do you mean?” or “Please explain.” Then make sure you are quiet to let them answer.

Playback
If you make it to this point and the objection has still not diffused itself, it’s now your turn to address the matter. But first you have to repeat back what you view as the objection- verbatim and slowly. Then ask prospects if you understand it properly. There are two reasons to do this:

1) Ensure you understand prospects’ issues
2) Ensure prospects understand their own issues.

Often when people hear something repeated that they said, they say, “Oh, is that what you heard? That’s not what I meant.”

Solve
Only now, do you address the objection itself and try to offer a solution. It’s important that you utilize all the information you received in the first four steps. Referring to the prospects’ words and needs will get you the deal. When you get that nod of agreement then you ask for the business. Now, and only now, have you earned the right to not close the deal, rather pursue the partnership. Don’t miss it.

Sales Intuition: Does It Work for You

By Steve Martin, Author, “Heavy Hitter Selling”

All salespeople remember the highlights of their sales calls. They can easily recall who they met with and whether the meeting was fruitful or a bust. However, one of the major differences between average sales­­people and truly great sales­­people is their ability to recognize and remember a wider spectrum of inform­ation from sales­ calls. They use their accumulated experiences to determine what they should say and do when face-to-face with prospective customers.

This process is called “sales intuition” – comparing a series of past experiences against current circumstances. Most salespeople don’t think about their sales intuition since it works automatically. In reality, sales intuition is a highly developed model for making decisions and a powerful heuristic engine that is constantly learning from the past. In other words, salespeople are constantly learning from past customer experiences and continually incorporating these new reference points as part of their decision-making process.

Salespeople spend most of their time trying to predict the behavior, intentions, attitudes, and feelings of our customers. Sales intuition and memory work hand-in-hand in determining what they should say and do next. The best salespeople collect more data points and intuitively know how to store them.

In essence, sales intuition is the ability to read and anticipate a customer’s action beforehand. The four components of sales intuition are recognizing all the information during a sales call, decoding the meaning, storing the experience, and finally, retrieving and comparing information.

Recognizing
all sensory
related
information
Decoding
the meaning
Storing
the
experience
Retrieval
and
comparison

The Four Components of Sales Intuition
The first component of sales intuition is recognizing all the verbal and nonverbal communication during a sales call. To accomplish this, our senses collect information from the words customers speak, their gestures, and other sensory perceptive signals. In addition to paying attention to what the customer is saying, it is sensing the progress and momentum of the meeting. While the information is sometimes obvious, most often it is subtle and requires close attention to be recognized.

After the information is distinguished, care must be taken to ensure that they have correctly decoded the meaning (the second component of intuition). Everyone has their own personal dictionaries or lexicons of words. In fact, the average person’s vocabulary is about fifty thousand words. However, the definitions or semantics of the words vary between people.The meaning of “cost-effective”, “performance”, and “soon” vary from customer to customer. Correctly ascertaining the meaning people are actually trying to communicate by the words they select, the order of the words, and the way they are said is necessary for proper decoding. “Does the customer’s dictionary definition of a particular word match mine?”

Decoding also requires determining the congruency of people’s communication. It’s not only making sure that the speaker’s and listener’s dictionaries are the same but also checking if the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal communications are in agreement. For example, when customers say they enjoyed the meeting, do they display the warmth and affection that reinforces their words?

Once decoded, the next component of sales intuition is storing the experience. Although it weighs only three pounds, our brain is infinitely more complex than any computer. The brain has an incredible capacity to sort, prioritize, process, and store information. The mind stores a sales call experience in the form of unstructured objects. The objects are pictures, sounds, feelings, or actions that represent the experience. The better the sales call memory, the more data points are available for sales intuition. Here are six principles to help improve your memory of the sales call:

    • Sensory Information:  During the sales call, consciously gather as much information as possible from your sight, sound, and touch senses. A vivid event is more likely to be memorized than a dull one, and the more sensory information that is incorporated into your memories, the higher your likelihood of recording it.

 

    • Association: Thoughts and experiences are more readily recalled when they are linked to a specific association. A very simple association would be the success or failure of the call. The association may be further defined by the customers’ technical and business requirements, their objections to purchasing your product, their prominent personality traits, and so on. Movement or action can also be used to add a third dimension to the memory and help ensure the event’s retention – for example, imprinting in your mind that you were writing on a white board when the customer presented a significant objection. How something is remembered will determine how much is remembered.

 

    • Specificity: The persistence of a memory is directly related to the precision of details that are input at the time of the experience. During a sales call, you may even want to tell yourself that some information is important and is not to be forgotten.

 

    • Unique Events: Many sales calls are free-flowing events that lack a strict organization of facts. Therefore, it is easier to remember any unusual and unique aspects of a sales call that stand out from the ordinary and mundane.

 

    • First and Last: Most salespeople are quick to remember how a sales call began (the big opening) and how it ended (the grand finale). This is a natural characteristic of memory, whereby we tend to remember the information that is presented first and last more than the details in between. This particularly applies to longer sales calls, more than an hour. One way to help remember all of the in-between information is to mentally break the sales call into smaller segments (or chunks) either by time, presenter, or topic of discussion.

 

    • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Be forewarned, your brain has been trained to block out unpleasant images. However, it is critical that all information during a sales call, both good and bad, be stored.

Retrieving and comparing the individual entries within memory is the final component of intuition. Let’s pretend a salesperson is on a new sales call and recognizes the person he is meeting with as a skeptical person. By recalling past sales calls with skeptics, he or she is able to access the other attributes from these sales calls and determine the best course of action.

How do the components of sales intuition actually work during a sales call? The decision about what a salesperson says during a sales call is largely the result of their sales intuition. When a salesperson is asked a question or makes a statement, he or she will provide either “an instantaneous answer” or a “calculated answer”.

The instantaneous answer is available immediately since it is either the recall of a logical fact or the recollection of a “flashbulb episode”. Logical facts include details committed to rote memory, such as product specifications, features, and performance details. Flashbulb episodes are emotional, physical, or cerebral experiences that were so overpowering that they are permanently imprinted in short-term memory. For example, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center is a flashbulb memory for many people.

Meanwhile, the calculated answer is akin to solving a mathematical equation within your mind by searching and selecting the right answer or creating an appropriate answer based upon a set of rules learned from prior experiences. The diagram below helps illustrate these concepts.


How Sales Intuition Works
Three types of calculated answers are constructed in long-term memory. The first type uses a prevalent attribute of the call to search previous experiences, for example, recalling previous meetings with skeptics to help answer a question asked by a skeptic.

Pattern recognition requires a more complex calculation involving multiple attributes. Let’s say, you were asked by a purchasing agent with a skeptical, detail-oriented personality, how your product is different from your major competitor’s. The creation of your answer would be based on previous encounters with this particular circumstance. Pattern recognition can be thought of as trying to find the what, when, where response – what you should do, when you are in this circumstance, where you need to respond to a question or execute a sales-related action.

Finally, in some instances salespeople are presented with situations they have never encountered before and they will have to use their imagination to create an answer. Making a best-guess answer requires a pattern recognition search to find closely resembling experiences plus additional hypothetical reasoning to create a new model. Obviously, this process takes the most time.

Since all types of calculated answers require processing in long-term memory, they take longer to produce. Recalling a logical fact that is resident in short-term memory is much easier than figuring out what to do next based on imagination. However, a customer expects you to respond to a question within a certain time frame. If you are face to face, this time is measured in seconds and there is a penalty for delay. The customer will perceive your answer as untruthful if the expected length of time is exceeded. This results in “selection pressure” on salespeople to produce an answer promptly. Quite often, when salespeople lie to a customer it is more likely because of the pressure to produce an instantaneous answer rather than a conscious decision to mislead.


Selection Pressure
Unfortunately, many companies today are making three common mistakes. First, the majority of sales training time is spent only on memorizing logical facts about the company, product, and competitors. Little or no training is given on the development of sales intuition, when in fact a person’s intuition is responsible for saying or doing the right thing at the right time.

The second mistake is that sales organizations don’t spend enough time studying and sharing the collective sales intuitions of their top performers. The fastest way to bring a junior salesperson up-to-speed is by imprinting the sales intuition of heavy hitters.

The third mistake is made during the hiring process. Most companies make previous experience in the same industry their main criterion for hiring. Since experienced people command the logical facts, they are assumed to be qualified candidates. A more important hiring criterion is how candidates respond to selection pressure. In other words, how quick-witted or fast on their feet are they, and are they able to solve complex problems in real time? Do they possess natural sales intuition?

Every selection process presents the salesperson with a “customer puzzle”. In order to solve the puzzle, salespeople must accumulate data. Learning how to find and interpret, store, and recall valuable information is a skill that Heavy Hitters have developed over time. Armed with this information, they are better able to determine their course of action based upon the data they have collected and past comparable experiences. By doing this, they can determine and select the best sales strategy and say the “right” words that offer the highest probability of winning.

How to Differentiate Yourself in a Flat Market

By Sharon Drew Morgen, Founder, Morgen Facilitations, Inc.

Ok. You have a good product… a very good product. It’s different from anything else out there. Better technology, better branding, better packaging, and great marketing.

But you’re having trouble selling it. Well, not trouble, exactly: you’re meeting your numbers. But given the competition, given how much better your product is than the competition, you should have blown through your projections long ago.

And why is it taking so long to close? It’s a no-brainer: your prospects obviously have a need, like your product, and like you. The pricing is competitive. But it’s either taking months longer than it should, or they are choosing an inferior product (not necessarily cheaper), or not even solving their problem at all.

What’s going on?

The Problem is Not the Product… Is it you? The Product? The Pricing?
No, no, and no. You are great, your product is fine, and your pricing is not the point, no matter how much you’re charging (People don’t buy on price unless everything looks the same and price is the only differentiator).

The problem is the buyer. Oh! They aren’t stupid. Far from it. They’re smart, especially in this day and age. But the buyer lives within a more complex environment than they ever have before: they have more colleagues, more interdependent relationships with other business areas, and with other business partners. They have global partners and unrecognizable global competition. As a result, it’s actually taking them 30% longer to decide than ever before.

What does that have to do with your product, you ask? If it’s obvious they have a problem that your product can resolve, and they like you and the product, what is the problem?

Sales Is One Half the Needed Interaction
The problem is that sales has been a product placement tool. Through time, sellers have gone from selling face-to-face, door-to-door, because travel and communication was tough, to developing complex information-gathering models that determine exactly what the buyer truly needs and creating a customized, well-presented solution.

But it hasn’t made a difference how targeted your pitch, how appropriate your solution, or what brand of selling you’re using; you still close 7% of your prospects from first prospecting call to close.

That’s right; no matter what you’re selling, how expensive or cheap, how common or unusual, how big or how small – you continue to sell the same percentage from first prospecting call to close sale.

Why? With all of your new understanding of buyers, of product placement, of strategic selling, of strategic product placement, of branding/marketing tactics; with all of your demographic study, and differentiation, you still sell to only those people who are yours to sell to. Those people who would have bought your product whatever you would have done otherwise. You only will get what’s yours to get.

The interesting and frustrating fact is that your product will not differentiate you. And buyers are not buying your product. Buyers buy only when they are ready to solve a business problem. While buying a specific piece of software might be their best solution, they won’t make the actual purchase until they understand and resolve their buying criteria and manage the internal change that the purchase itself will stimulate.

You’ve always assumed that your product is what you have to sell. This might be true but it’s not what buyers are buying. Your product will be considered as a solution only if or when it will fit (and sit) efficiently within a buyer’s culture and won’t rock the boat when it’s put into operation. Just because it’s a great product, or because they need it/love it/want it, doesn’t mean the idiosyncratic systems within the buyer’s buying culture can make room for any of the shifts that the purchase would entail.

In sales, you’ve never been taught how to bridge the buyer-seller gap. What’s the difference between how/what you’re selling and how the buyer is buying? The difference between your product information and the buyer’s buying criteria?

You’ve always assumed that if you have it, say it, share it, and it fits, that the buyer should know how to buy it. But buyers don’t make decisions based on information. They decide when their internal systems criteria are managed so when they add a new piece of software, they won’t self-destruct.

Let’s take the focus away from selling for a moment, and consider the ‘system’. All people, all groups operate within systems (rules, relationships, initiatives, partnerships, beliefs, values, calendars) that they have already set up. And systems don’t like to change. They just are the way they are. Are they healthy? Not necessarily. Are they effective? Not necessarily. Are they happy? Not necessarily. But they are stable: each element of the system exists as part of the fabric of the whole.

Your clients and all of the multifaceted pieces of the world would prefer to keep doing what they are already doing if they could operate optimally without any additional effort.

That’s why they haven’t solved their business problem before now. Why didn’t they call you yesterday, or tomorrow? Or buy a different product before now? But they didn’t. They’ve sat with the problem until this moment. And they still aren’t buying in a timely way. Have you ever asked yourself why? It’s because before they buy, they need every person, every current software package, every initiative past, present, and future, that touches their needed solution, every past, present, and future initiative that might use your product – all of these must align around your product.

The time it takes buyers to understand and recognize all of the variables that need to be managed when something new enters their established culture is the length of the sales cycle. The buying process has nothing to do with your product!

Differentiate Yourself Through Your Sales Technique
Let me stop here for a moment and have a brief discussion of what you’re doing now.

Because your product is so good, and you understand the market so well (You DO, you DO), your assumption has been that when you understand what the buyer needs and your product fits (and has been presented professionally and you’ve been attentive), that they should know how to buy. But since buyers only buy when all of their unique systems elements have been managed internally, you knowing their needs is moot: they not only need to understand what their solution must entail, but all of the activities they must initiate before they bring in something new so they won’t rock the boat.

Stasis
Historically, sales has focused itself on the presentation of information as a way to gain interest. Even the new forms of ‘trusted advisor’ sales formats still operate from the central belief that if the seller can figure out what a buyer needs, she/he’ll know what to pitch – that their role is to offer intelligent advice.

But how can an outside person truly understand what is going on within a buyer’s system? Oh, for sure the seller will accurately recognize what is missing that the seller’s product can fix. The seller is the ‘content expert’ of the product after all. But by the same token the buyer is the ‘content expert’ in his/her environment, and no matter what information the seller gleans, she/he’ll never truly understand that culture.

‘Sales’ continues to be based on product, product value, and product dominance. For some reason, making the shift to understanding that it’s a systems problem on the buyer’s end, at least as much as a transaction/information/presentation problem on the seller’s end, is a hard leap for sellers.

And sellers – including high-level partners in large firms – continue to use their role inefficiently. By leading a buyer through all of their decision variables, they can actually be doing great service to buyers rather than just being product pushers.

True Differentiation
Why is it so hard to understand that people do not buy ideas or products because of their packaging? Or because they are ‘physically beautiful and emotionally compelling’? Or even because they need them?

Once buyers have recognized how they will manage change, then and only then – does product differentiation become important.

The best way to differentiate yourself is to become a true service provider rather than a product seller: use your interactions with buyers to lead them through the recognition and implementation of their decision-making. Teach them how to line up their decision criteria – even for low cost purchases there are criteria such as price, quality, vendor, and brand – and how to manage their internal variables.

Offer buyers the help they need in order to:

    • Recognize and understand their systems and see if anything is missing (in the way of products, capabilities and communication).
    • See how they can fix the problem with what’s there already.
    • Understand how to manage the variables that will shift once a new solution is added to the system.

Whether the fix would involve a different vendor, or teams aligning themselves differently, or people being moved around, or partners being invited in to the mix, the buyer would have to figure it all out and come up with parameters for their unique solution before they bought your product.

Use your time with your buyer, no matter how brief it might be or how small the transaction, to help them recognize, understand, manage, and solve the disruption issues that will arise if they were to buy your product. Until they do, they won’t close the sale, will come up with objections, and will use price as a differentiator.