Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

The Essence of Listening - and Success in Sales

Posted by Mark Gibson on Thu, Jul 30, 2015

This article "The Essence of Listening" was written and delivered as a recent Toastmasters speech - Project 2 in the Competent Communicators Handbook. It was a project to organize a speech, with clear transitions, opening, closing, for delivery in 5-7 minutes.

At the bottom of this post is a game to test your linguistic skills in handling sales objections.

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Topics: listening skills, consultative selling skills

The Four Sales Objections & What Buyers Really Mean - Exercise

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Jul 27, 2012

The Four Big Objections 

This post explores the nature of objections and examines their meaning and offers an interactive game at the end of the article to test skills in unpacking the buyers objections and fluffy language.

There are hundreds of ways for buyers to say no to a salesperson, but there are really only four basic objections and all other objections are variants of there four.

The objections in Table 1. are the type of objection we are likely to see early in a sales cycle and very typically when we on the phone trying to advance the sale and set the next appointment.

Objections typically occur when the sales person is trying to advance the sale beyond the buyer's readiness to move to the next step. "I'm not interested" is a variant of I don't have time and usually occurs when cold-calling and having asked the buyer to something they are not ready to do.

Table 1. The Four Basic Objections

B2C

B2B

1. I don't have the time

The timing isn't right

2. I can't afford it

We don't have the budget

3. It won't work for me

It won't work here

4. I don't believe you

I don't trust you = we don't see a fit

What Buyers Really Mean

If we get to the end of the sales-cycle in B2B selling and we get objections like the ones in Table 2. below, we are in big trouble.

Objections are far more likely to come up in the qualification phase or during evaluation, but when salespeople don't listen and miss the buyers comments, questions and feedback, then these questions or concerns typically resurface as objections. 

Objections typically occur as a result of unanswered questions that salespeople missed earlier in the sales cycle, which is why reversing the buyers question is so important. 

Table 2. What Buyers Really Mean 

1. It won’t work for us! 

 which  means 

 you have an adversary in the decision group who prefers the status quo. 

2. We’re not convinced of the ROI!

 which means

 either you did a poor job in diagnosing  needs, or you should not be in this  deal.

3. The timing isn’t right!

 which means

 we've been wasting your time

4. The project is delayed!

 which means

 we prefer the competition and are busy talking to them

5. We don’t believe you can deliver what we need!

 which means

 we are talking to someone else who can.

6. We've decided to proceed with a different project!

 which means

 a competitor has cleverly changed the ground rules and they are proceeding with them.

7. This needs board sign-off!

 which means

 we've been wasting your time

 

I'm grateful to  Stephen Allott who shared the above chart, based on his experience as president at Micromuse. Having sold B2B technology products and services around the World for more than 30 years, I have heard every one of these more than a few times.

With the above chart there are of course exceptions and when there is a trusted advisor relationship and rapport, the buyer may well be telling the truth. Only yesterday I was told by the EVP of a mid-sized technology company that they had corporate initiative under-way, (code for - we're doing an acquisition), that prevented them from focusing on our messaging and whiteboard story development until mid Q4 = a nice way to say "the timing isn't right".

Overcoming the Four Big Objections

The following excerpt is from Wiki "selling technique" "While many sales techniques offer specific advice on how to handle objections and stalls, Sandler suggests that only the objecting client is able to remove the objection"

I'm in complete agreement with David Sandler on this one and am not going to offer specific technique to overcome objections...there are hundreds of entries on Google and Youtube if you are interested.

I am offering an exercise in the use of precision language to get salespeople thinking about how to uncover the underlying reason for the objection, so that a conversation can occur around addressing the buyers concern.

Precision in Language Exercise

The following exercise is excerpted from the Selling Psychology section of our Selling in the Internet Age, Adaptive E-Learning program. It uses a number of linguistic techniques and should be both amusing as well as informative.



Take Aways

  1. Objections are not neccessarily a bad thing during the sales cycle. I would prefer to have objections, that way I know there is interest. 
  2. The opposite scenario is proceeding through the sales cycle and getting no objections, which often means that you are being invited along for the bake-off and they are actively engaged with another vendor...who is getting objections.
  3. Language and communication skills are traits of the most successful salespeople. They can be learned and will pay a dividend for those sales people prepared to learn and deliberately practice using them.
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Topics: consultative selling, listening skills, salescraft

Consultative Selling Secrets – and other myths

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jul 24, 2012

Consultative Selling Myths

Sales books, blog-posts and training courses that offer “consultative selling secrets” and magical closing-techniques, constantly amuse me.

Most of the ideas in these so-called secrets are common sense and have been in practice since the “Fuller-brush man” came a calling.

If there truly were secrets to success in consultative selling or any other form of selling, then nobody would know them. Another myth is "Consultative Selling is Dead", but I will deal with that one another time...clearly it is not.

The truth is that there is a growing body of knowledge around consultative selling best-practices that anyone with a Web browser and an ability to read can access.

Great sales people are great communicators with strong ego-drive and the self-discipline, to do on a daily basis the little things that average sales people do not, that lead to successful sales outcomes. 

Consultative Selling Discipline

What really matters in consultative selling and professional selling in general are the understanding, mastery and daily practice of the following disciplines, skills and techniques;
    1. A genuine desire to succeed (fire-in-the-belly) fuelled by realistic short and long term goals which extend beyond your immediate sales goals. (this is no secret)
    2. An ability to control your emotional state; - your physiology, language and focus to produce the results you are seeking
    3. An ability to communicate and to develop rapport with anyone (there are naturals, but these skills can be learned by anyone except those with certain types of autism)
    4. Learning to listen clearly to what people are saying. This means listening for comprehension first, not for clues to competitors or to disqualify. Then to drill through the intellectual smoke-screen and fluff to understand meaning and intent (the use of language and the ability to listen are skills that can be easily learned)
    5. A curiosity to learn and discover what makes people tick and to synthesize new ideas to expand your view and appreciation of the World you live-in.
    6. Diagnostic skills underpinned by the use of best-practices questions that can be learned, which will enable you to chunk the buyer up to get the big picture or chunk down for specificity.
    7. Strong qualification after each meeting, which commits the buyer to acknowledge they are in agreement with your assessment of their situation and to proceed with agreed next steps
    8. Formal sales process which commits the buyer at each step of the sales cycle to disqualify non-buyers early and enable accurate forecasting
    9. Disciplined use of CRM, Knowledge Management and Performance Support tools.
    10. A reciprocal commitment (give to get) from the buyer at every interaction from asking for a demonstration to negotiating an agreement. 
    11. An understanding of the buying process and tools and technique to help move the buyer through the Positioning phase (where most opportunities die) in the universal buying process I-M-P-A-C-T 
    12. Add to this list, a knowledge of the buyer's business and industry
      knowledge, that enables the sales person to come the table as an equal and bring insight and an opnion that challenges the status-quo and gets the buyer thinking differently about their issues and your capabilities.
Challenge CTA

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Topics: killer products, consultative selling, listening skills, challenger selling

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