Customers looking for solutions will find objections
“Customers are not looking for suppliers, they’re looking for solutions”. This was a key message from the FESPA Global Summit 2014 in Munich earlier this year.
So, you have taken this message on board and you have developed a great solution that you now want to tell your customers about. But what happens next? Instead of them saying, “Wow, you have a great solution that’s just right for us”, they just tell you about the problems that they can see in your solution and why it won’t work for them.
You’ve encountered the Great Wall of Objections.
When selling solutions, you are more likely, not less, to encounter objections than when just selling print as a price-sensitive commodity. After all, if the only thing that differentiates you from the competition is your price, then the only objection can be, “You’re too expensive!”. The solution to that is simple – you just lower the price. And soon go bust.
So what’s the answer? Firstly, accept that customers will have objections. Indeed, welcome them. Actually, you should positively invite them, because handling objections effectively is key to successfully selling solutions.
Have a process for handling objections: ACT?
FESPA noted at this year’s Global Summit that, “the common denominator to the success stories was the focus on added value, that is, providing a comprehensive value proposition which goes far beyond print.”
Effectively selling any B2B product or service involves a structured process, but selling added value solutions that go beyond print involves some essential extra stages. For example, gaining a clear understanding of the customer’s business needs, objectives and strategy is a vital first step. As the sales conversation progresses, the customer will inevitably raise questions, concerns and doubts about your solution. They will want to know whether it really will add value, how you will achieve that and whether you can deliver it. By inviting them to voice their concerns it gives you the opportunity to explain and reassure them convincingly. Handling their objections is an integral and useful stage in the sales process.
And at that point you need to ACT?. Acknowledge, Clarify, Tell and ? – Ask.
The best place to start when you hear an objection to your solution is to be grateful and say “Thank you!”. Acknowledge that they have a valid point that you want to examine fully. Remember that by objecting they are engaging with you because they care about getting the right solution for their needs. Listen carefully to what they say and show that you take it seriously by writing it down. Avoid being defensive or seeking to justify that you are right.
But neither should you simply take their objection at face value. What they say may not be the real underlying reason why they are objecting. Regard each objection you hear as the start of a conversation which will enable you to discover more about their business situation or need and be able to adapt your solution to it.
The next step is to clarify exactly what their objections are. This is critical and requires active listening on your part. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a blunt “Yes” or “No”. The worst thing you can do in handling objections is to come back with a response that doesn’t actually address the concern that the customer raised. You may have the perfect solution for their requirement but the customer will not want to hear it if they think you are not listening to them.
When you think you have understood the issue, play it back to them: “If I’m understanding you correctly, this is your concern…”. If not, you can seek further clarification. But if they agree, then you can move forward with your response.
Now you have a chance to tell your story in a way that will resonate with your customer. As you do so, keep your understanding of their objections at the front of your mind. Having listened, probed and clarified their objections you should have heard enough to be able to describe what could happen without your solution. Empathise with their pain. If you believe that your solution will add value to their business then telling your story in the right way will encourage them to see how it does that.
You need to leave them feeling uncomfortable with the status quo or other alternatives but reassured that what you are offering will work and improve the situation. Refer to other customer situations, success stories and case studies to reinforce this.
Finally you need to make sure they understand the relevance of what you have explained. Ask if it makes sense and that they see the value of it. If you have done the first three steps effectively, the last should feel like a role reversal. By asking the customer what they think you should discover how well they have understood your solution, whether they acknowledge the value that it could have for their business, and whether they need any further clarification.
If they still have objections then either you’ve got more work to do to persuade them, or maybe your solution isn’t right for them after all. Even if they appear to have “bought-in” don’t assume so. Your last question should be, “Are there any other reasons that could make you hesitant about our solution?”
Learn and Practice
The ACT? strategy for handling objections is described in a PODi webinar by Kim Gross, Director of Sales and Marketing at Pacesetter Enterprises.
The full webinar can be viewed by PODi members on Zenarate, our new online, interactive, video-based sales training tool. Kim also shows video clips of how to answer specific examples of objections.