That Sales Objection that may Actually be an Invitation to ConnectMay 02, 2017 | By Wayne O'Neill
Your clients are throwing up smokescreens when it comes to doing business with you — and they don’t even know they’re doing it.
Here’s the truth: Your clients often don’t really know what their problem is. They often don’t know what they want or need. So they certainly won’t understand that your solution will save the day.
When they tell you something like “This looks interesting, but it’s not the right time,” what’s going on in their heads is a often totally different story.
It could mean that they are delaying giving you an answer because they don’t want to admit they (as a team) haven’t agreed upon a go-forward strategy.
It could mean that you haven’t made it clear enough to them that they have an urgent issue that will impact their business — seriously — if they don’t solve it.
Usually, though, it means that you haven’t gotten the full context of your client’s situation.
I want to address three specific responses that most of us in business development or sales of any kind have been on the receiving end of. And I’m going to show you how to handle them more effectively.
“This Isn’t the Right Time”
This statement is an invitation to start shaping the conversation for the benefit of the client and your firm.
First, understand that it’s almost never a timing problem.
Second, start asking contextual questions. Questions that help you better see the world that your client lives in. Questions like:
- How are you deciding on [solutions like yours]?
- What are the top challenges you’re facing in your organization/business right now?
These questions help you read between the lines of what’s being said. Success here is more about EQ (emotional intelligence) than sales tactics.
Your clients aren’t lying to you. They just aren’t sharing what’s on their minds because they can barely wrap their arms around it themselves. And why would they offer up their thoughts to a perfect stranger, anyway? Take the time to ask questions, pull those problems out from the client’s mind, and put those issues on the table for your client to look at with you.
The unstated but equally important task here for you, too, of course, is to listen. Don’t take the client so literally that you miss the cues that there is something going on in their organization that they need help with. Ask contextual questions. Then listen. This gets you better, more accurate information while conveying that your goal is to genuinely help them.
“Looks Good – but Let Me Run This by My Boss First”
In this case, I want to show you how to avoid getting this response in the first place.
It is your responsibility to know where your client lives in the decision-making tree. Of course, it’s a safe assumption that they will have to socialize your solution to many other people, and maybe other teams and organizations. But if you’ve done your due diligence, you know exactly how this is going to play out.
- You know the people they’re going to socialize your solution to
- You know how that person is going to socialize your solution
- You know what information and assets to give that person so they can evangelize your solution to the best of their ability
- You know the length of time this will all take
What I warn you against is going around them. Don’t take this solution to their boss yourself.
Take the time to make sure you’re talking to the right person in the first place.
“We Have a Lot Going on, and This Just Isn’t a Priority Right Now”
This usually comes up after you’ve had a meeting, and now it’s getting close to decision time. The client will suddenly back down and say, “I’m not really sure this is what we need to do.”
This statement comes in many different flavors:
- We need to make more money first.
- We need to win other clients ourselves first.
- We want to hire you in the future to do these other things.
You must reframe the conversation to help the client realize that maybe the reason they haven’t moved forward in these areas is because the problem that your solution would solve for them is standing in their way. And, if they acted on your solution, all these things might fall into place more easily.
Like with the timing question above, this is the time to change the subject and get more context.
Prioritization is a hard thing for any organization to get their arms around. It’s constantly changing. It’s your responsibility to find out what is going on in the business that is influencing the priorities.
Do this not just with one person, but with multiple people in the organization. Get the full scope of what’s happening so you can connect your impact to the context within which they are working. This is why my team and I always coach our clients to have at least three to five paths of connection to the client organization.
When the Pushback Is NOT an Excuse
Sometimes when a client tells you one of the statements above, it really is their answer. You won’t know this for sure, however, unless you dig a little deeper.
Usually there’s something else going on. Not always. But usually.
Don’t take pushback at face value. Get the full context before you count it as a failed sale. Make sure it’s not just a failure to connect that’s holding back your partnership with this client.
Once you’ve got the full context, and you’re sure that “no” is their real answer, pull the plug. Leave while you still have an opportunity for a continued relationship in the future.
The Bottom Line
Most of the time, when prospective clients put us off, it’s because we haven’t done a good enough job of matching up our impact with their challenge. They don’t see how your solution solves the problems they’re facing right now. It’s your responsibility to dig deeper so you can connect your impact with that context.
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