Last week I was flicking through the channels on TV and stumbled across the movie “The Titanic”. The Titanic had just managed to avoid hitting the iceberg and had veered to port. But of course, it was too late and we all know the rest of the story.
Objections are precisely like icebergs in that there are usually two parts. There’s the part that sits on the surface: the objection that is presented by the client; the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’. But there’s also the part that lies treacherously below the surface: the hidden objection that is not expressed; the real ‘underlying’ objection. It is the big looming reason why a client might resist your offer and not buy.
The Titanic avoided the tip of the iceberg much like a sales rep might handle a surface objection like “your price is too high.” But the iceberg jutted out below the surface and ripped a 299 foot gash in the hull of the ship forty feet below the surface.
In sales, there are often objections that are not expressed for one reason or another that can cause an equivocal gash in your sales effort. Some clients don’t give you the real objection because they haven’t articulated it yet in their own minds; some are simply resisting the urge to buy; others do it automatically. The point is there can be any number of reasons.
3 steps to Avoiding “Objectionsbergs”
The process to avoid the ‘objectionsberg’ and keeping your sales ship afloat is to determine what lies below the surface. There are 3 steps:
Step #1: Acknowledge
When the berg was sited the first thing the Titanic did was turn to port and stop engines. In other words, it tried to slow down. Same thing in sales. By acknowledging the objection you slow the objections process down; you buy time. The best way to acknowledge the objection is to agree/acknowledge to it.
Suppose the client says, “E-mail me a proposal (or price list or quote or fact sheet or brochure or whatever).” Pause for a moment and simply say, “I’ll be glad to.” By doing the client feels the request has been heard and is being honoured. This reduces their resistance and gives you a second or two to move onto step two.
Step #2: Clarify
The second step is to use questioning to clarify and determine if the objection posed is the authentic objection (and some are) or if there are other objections lurking deeper below the surface. You accomplish this by asking a question that gets the client to elaborate and provide you with additional information. For instance, you might say,
“So that I can put that proposal together, let me ask you a few more questions.”
“So that I am not e-mailing a pile of irrelevant documents, let me ask you a couple of more questions.”
“So that I can present you with the best possible quote, let me ask you…”
“Before I send you a price list, I’d like to get a better feel for some of the products you typically use and the quantities of each…”
Your questions should delve deeper into a potential need or problem. You want the client to engage with you. If he expands on the questions and provides good information, chances are the objection is real. But if he is elusive and vague, it might well be a false objection.
Step #3: Re-Verify
The final step is to re-verify. This is a nifty little step that does two things. First, it provides added reassurance that the prospect is legitimate about the objection, and second it can help give you perspective on how to keep the sales cycle moving.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a hypothetical situation that gets the client to articulate the ‘next steps’ in the sales process. Here are some examples,
“Jackson, if you like what you see on the proposal, explain to me what would happen next?”
“Cheri, let’s suppose the quote is in range, what would be the next steps in moving forward?”
“Kerrie, assuming the testimonials I send are satisfactory, how do you see us proceeding?”
By identifying false objections you avoid a Titanic-like iceberg on two levels. First, if you uncover the ‘real’ objection that lurks below the surface, you have an opportunity to address it. In other words, you have an opportunity to proceed further in the sale because you are dealing with real issues, not false.
Second, while you might not proceed further with the sale, you do save yourself time and effort. Taking time to write a proposal, send a quote, or forward information not to mention making countless follow up calls that are never returned takes away from the time you could be spending on legitimate clients.
Avoid objections icebergs by determining what lies beneath the surface.