As we wind down for the holidays, many of us are thankful to our customers for being kind as we bleed and blunder through the more challenging aspects of our job. As a Sales Person I look at the great mentors who have preceded me with enormous appreciation. As a Sales Coach, I focus on our universal archetypes whose behavioral types still exist in our universal consciousness. When dealing with the more difficult aspects of our job, such as handling objections and managing expectations--I call on the Greek Goddess Demeter, the Primordial Mother. I Imagine how she would respond to her customer, with respect, protection and their best interests at heart.
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If you anticipate a certain objection going into a meeting, come prepared to address this head-on. An example would be going to meet with a prospect that is close with your competitor. If you have a feeling that this customer would be predisposed against you, try coming prepared with a positive response to their pushback. You always want to start by reacting to any objection with empathy. Ask for clarification, or for them to explain their point without using the word why. The word why can put people immediately on the defense in almost all situations. A wonderful way to avoid this is to replace it with "I'm curious to know the reasons behind this." Once they have finished, reiterate what you have just heard.
I always respond with gratitude first and foremost. Your customer did not need to give you the insight they just shared, so always let them know how much you appreciate it. To further take the edge off their objection, you can react with an empathetic response, such as "That's fair" or "I understand where you are coming from." Or put what they are saying into a context that acknowledges their position: "When looking at it from that point of view, I can see how that would be an issue." Reiterate their objection in the form of an answer to a question, i.e. "When people ask me about that ..." This puts you in an informative space rather than in a defensive one. You want to get out of the defensive role at all costs. Move yourself into the informative position. Now, respond as a provider of information with data, third-party verifications, or dollar evidence. Articulate the data: "It saved them three million dollars over the course of six months."
It is very important to remain neutral during this conversation. Set your passion aside for the moment and try to facilitate the exchange of information in a non-judgmental way. You are doing so to save face for your company, and in case someone (on either end) has been misinformed, save face for them. This is also important to avoid entering into a debate or argument. Respect their point of view and thank them for sharing.
If they do not bring the objection up but there is an elephant in the room that needs addressing, you can do so in the following way: "When people ask me about that issue, I am always happy to let them know that ..." You can include this point during the beginning of a presentation, at the point where you are describing your features and benefits. It is a nice way to work it in informatively and objectively.
Manage Customer Expectations
Highly social salespeople, like me, naturally shy away from being the bearer of bad news. My tendency is almost always to delight the customer in the moment and offer the best-case scenario of all aspects of my product and services. Of course, most situations typically have both best cases and worst cases. The ability to communicate in a balanced and neutral way will help you to consistently over-deliver and protect your customer from losing control of her process. The moment you feel compelled to share only the good news, remember to take a moment and think things through.
When I read an email from a customer that makes me feel great, such as a request for the price of a new product I presented, I almost always want to shoot back with "I'll get you that information ASAP!" But what happens is, sometimes that information is not yet available. I have learned to pause my instinct and befriend time. In Negotiate to Close: How to Make More Successful Deals, Gary Karass talks about "befriending time" as one of the strongest powers in a negotiation. It helps you navigate the most important aspect of a sale: understanding the buyer's wants and needs. He describes price as only the tip of the iceberg, and although it is the most common benefit a buyer might refer to, it is possibly the smallest one. A buyer may prefer to avoid risk, to find relief from the abyss of work on her desk, or an escape from a particular endless project. There are many benefits that sit at the base of the iceberg. Therefore, if I make the careless mistake of promising to a two-week lead time when I am well aware that it may sometimes be three, I could potentially destroy the very trust that the buyer holds most prominent in his hierarchy of wants and needs.
The next time that you need to handle objections or manage expectations, remember Demeter--my friend and yours. Know that you too are a powerful Sales Goddess.
Read more in my book; The Authentic Sale, A Goddess's Guide to Business.
Rena Cohen-First is a VP of Sales who has sold in the Food Ingredient Industry for the past 17 years, selling to the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the world. She has taught online business and leadership classes as an adjunct instructor, studied Professional and Executive Coaching, completed her MBA and Served in the US Army. She resides in San Diego with her two children and husband. Her goal is to show every woman that she can become a Sales Goddess in all circumstances. See more about Rena at: www.thesalesgoddess.com