Buyers in the digital age are better informed and more aware of their options than they’ve ever been. Modern salespeople have to answer difficult questions and ease legitimate concerns from well-informed customers throughout the sales process.
Handling sales objections requires finesse, persistence, and a deep understanding of both the buyer’s needs and the product. Although every sale is unique, there are four basic tenets that are universal to every situation in which the inevitable sales objection arises.
Rule No. 1: Don’t Lie
Research shows that roughly 22 percent of salespeople in the U.K. admit to lying, or at least to misrepresenting the truth, at some point during the course of a sale. Salespeople are potentially more susceptible to committing this unacceptable error when they are near the end of the sale. The more intense the pressure, the easier it becomes to bend the truth. A single intentional misrepresentation of the truth, however, destroys all the trust and credibility that the salesperson worked so hard to build during the sales process. The reputation of both the salesperson and the company he or she represents can be obliterated by a single lie, for good.
Managing customer expectations of product delivery is arguably the only time a salesperson can ethically step outside the bounds of absolute truth. If a product is likely to be delivered in one week, the salesperson who promises four-day delivery will soon be on the phone with an unhappy customer who feels disappointed and deceived. But if a salesperson promises that same customer delivery within two weeks, the client will be happy and feel that the salesperson over-delivered on a promise when the product arrives early.
Rule No. 2: Don’t Argue
In 2011, Psychology Today printed a comprehensive report about the benefits and drawbacks of arguing during negotiations. The article was based on a paper that was published in that year’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study revealed that when people hear arguments, their minds naturally begin thinking of counter-arguments — even if the original argument is persuasive, compelling and legitimate. Additionally, creating an environment containing pressure or confrontation for the customer is very likely to slow down or even stop a sale.
The negotiators who fared the best in the study were the ones who made the first offer, and then resisted the urge to argue in favor of that offer. When Party 2 came back with a counter-offer in those cases, it was generally close to Party 1’s original offer. When Party 1 included arguments and talking points, however, Party 2 responded with offers that were much farther off the original mark.
The end result: The more you argue, the farther customers move away from the direction you were hoping to steer the buying process.
Rule No. 3: Don’t Repeat Yourself
One of the most fundamental principles of software engineering is D.R.Y., or Don’t Repeat Yourself. The concept is that “every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.”
The same concept can be applied to sales.
An expert on business content writing cautions that tautology — the practice of using different words to repeat the same concept — is a fault in presentation that not only insults the intelligence of the client, but makes the salesperson look desperate and underprepared.
If you tell a customer that roughly 25 percent of businesses in the industry have purchased your product, don’t later tell the customer that your product has helped roughly a quarter of all businesses in the industry.
Rule No. 4: Don’t Give In
Giving in can take the form of accepting no as an answer from a qualified lead, but it can also come in the form of conceding too much to customer demands just to make the sale.
When a potential customer resists, it is up to the salesperson to ask more questions, listen to the answers and then challenge the buyer’s thought process. When a customer demands too much or sets unrealistic explanations, the best salespeople are the ones who challenge them and present their product — and their partnership — as something that offers the most superior or direct value to the skeptical customer.
The pressure of handling sales objections can lead some salespeople to make irreparable errors. You can always add new information or offer a different perspective in a follow-up call, but no one can ever un-make a mistake. Guide customers, answer their questions, anticipate their concerns or simply say you’re not sure and that you’ll get back to them — but don’t argue, don’t repeat yourself, don’t give in and never lie.