All too often, salespeople face a host of objections and delay tactics when they attempt to close a sale. It’s such a common occurrence that many sales training organizations teach courses on how to “handle” or “overcome” prospects’ stalls and objections.
The strategy for handling or overcoming them, however, usually comes down to a verbal wrestling match of sorts between the prospect and salesperson. The prospect states an objection; the salesperson responds with a clichéd statement; the prospect counters with another put-off; the salesperson offers another retort, and the contest continues until someone quits. The process is frustrating, time-consuming, rarely productive, and completely unnecessary.
David Sandler advised that if you’re going to “fight” with a prospect, fight up front (before you invest time developing a proposal or presentation), not at the time when you’re trying to obtain a buying decision. The rationale for this strategy is twofold. First, if there’s a roadblock that will prevent the sale from closing within a timeframe consistent with your goals, or closing at all, it’s better to find out as soon as possible so you can redirect your efforts toward more viable opportunities. Second, if you wait until the end of the selling cycle, you’re less likely to maintain an objective perspective and more likely to react emotionally to the prospect’s objections or demands as you envision the opportunity slipping from your grasp. And, reacting emotionally is rarely in your best interest.
By “fighting” up front, Sandler was referring to doing a rigorous job of qualifying the opportunity. That is, before you begin working on a presentation, make sure that you have thoroughly explored and addressed all of the elements that could give rise to an objection or a stall later in the process when you’re attempting to obtain a buying decision.
What should you “fight” about? Let history be your guide.
For instance, if you frequently have to chase prospects for their buying decisions after you’ve delivered your presentation, find out early in the development cycle by when they will make their decisions, and time your presentations to coincide with those timeframes. If a prospect refuses to be “nailed down” to a specific timeframe, then perhaps you shouldn’t be nailed down to submitting a proposal or making a presentation. After all, if the prospect had any intention of doing business with you, why would he withhold from you his timeframe for making his decision?
Here’s another example. If at the conclusion of your presentations, you are often pressured by prospects to make price concessions, you need to be more stringent discussing investment expectations before you begin working on those presentations. If a prospect won’t provide you with any financial guidelines for creating your proposal, then maybe you shouldn’t be creating one. After all, if you don’t have a number to shoot for, where do you aim?
Here’s a final example. If you frequently hear something like, “We’ve narrowed our choice to your company and one other,” followed by a request for one concession or another to sway the decision in your favor, make it a point to address the issue up front. Before you begin working on your presentation, ask your prospect how a final decision will be made if the choice comes down to two companies. If you’ve done a good job of helping the prospect define his problem to be solved or goal to be achieved, you’ve likely given him several reasons to choose your company. Nonetheless, you need to ask the question…and obtain an answer.
Review the objections and put-offs you’ve had to deal with in the past and make it a point to address the underlying causes of those hurdles with future prospects, up front.
If prospects are reluctant (or out-and-out refuse) to provide you with the information you need to develop relevant presentations and ward off stalls and objections, and you move forward anyway, you can count on having to “fight” later.