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Salespeople perpetually fight an uphill battle against rejection and adversity. Rejections loom especially large at the beginning of sales cycles. In 2007, it took an average of 3.7 cold call attempts to reach a prospect, according to research by TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group. Fast forward to today and it takes an average of 8 attempts! The rejection leaves a nasty, lasting sting. Deterred by rejection, the average sales rep makes a mere two attempts to reach a prospect before giving up, according to research by Sirius Decisions.
Rejection and adversity are not confined to the early parts of the sales funnel. Buyers hurl objections at salespeople with a vengeance. “I don’t have the budget for your product”, “I don’t have the authority to sign off on this”, “Competitor X says your solution has performance issues”. The list of common objections uttered by buyers spans the full gamut.
Objection handling—when a salesperson responds to a customer’s concern about a product or service in a way that eases the concern and effectively moves the sales cycle forward – is a key criterion for success in sales. Fortunately, there are some key tactics and strategies that can help salespeople tackle objections.
When salespeople are confronted by rejection, they often view it as a personal assault and, in an attempt of self-preservation, they become survival-driven. In his book Mindsight, Daniel Siegel explains that “feeling threatened takes over our perception”. It causes us to revert to a state of fight or flight and become survival-driven. Siegel explains, “When we become survival-driven, we lose any or all of the nine middle prefrontal functions.” Importantly, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is closely associated with emotional regulation, empathy, and insight. In today’s selling environment, a survival-driven mindset is disastrous. Today’s sellers need to be insight sellers and need to exude empathy.
Our tendency to become survival-driven is innate. Fortunately, there are certain activities that can cause us to override our natural tendencies. Research has revealed that mindfulness practices are especially impactful. MRI brain scans reveal that after an eight-week mindfulness practice course, the brain’s fight or flight center, the amygdala, shows signs of shrinkage. This region is closely involved in the initiation of the fight-or-flight response. As a salesperson looking to develop a defense against natural survival-driven tendencies, mindfulness practice can be an essential addition to a salesperson’s arsenal.
Engage in conversation, not debate
Once salespeople have developed strategies for developing resilience against the natural fight-or-flight tendency, they engage in conversation rather than debate. After analyzing more than 67,000 sales calls, Gong.io revealed that successful sales reps differ from their less successful counterparts in that the back-and-flow dialogue (measured by the number of “speaker switches” per minute) maintains a consistent pace during objection situations. According to Gong.io, “It’s as if the objection wasn’t a hiccup in the conversation at all. It’s just a query.” In contrast, the back-and-forth dialogue drops significantly during objection conversations that involve less successful sales reps. These reps are quick to don their debate hat and engage in lengthy monologues. Salespeople intent on handling objections with ease must focus on engaging in conversation rather than debate.
Conduct a premortem
Hindsight is 20/20. There’s enormous value in salespeople conducting premortems. The antithesis of a postmortem analysis, a premortem involves a salesperson imagining that an objection has resulted in deal loss before it has actually occurred and, in turn, pondering all the possible reasons for the deal loss and how to address them.
Research spearheaded by researchers at the Wharton School, Cornell, and the University of Colorado found that prospective hindsight increases one’s ability to correctly identify reasons for future outcomes by 30%. The benefits of the endeavor are twofold. First, it causes salespeople to gain a heightened awareness of potential objection risks that might result in deal loss. Second, it motivates salespeople to develop contingency plans.
We’re living in a data-driven world. The most effective sales reps are religious about using data to drive their actions. In this same light, premortems must be informed by data. Sales reps should leverage all the data at their disposal to predict the full scope of objections that each specific customer is likely to bring up. They should, for example, leverage lead prioritization tools and insights. Despite the abundance of data available to sales teams, only one-third use data-driven lead prioritization as their default methodology, according to Salesforce’s annual State of Sales report. Successful sales reps stand out from the pack in that they leverage data-driven lead prioritization. When conducting a premortem, salespeople must scrutinize lead prioritization score and understand the “why” behind particular scores. They should zero in on low scoring metrics and brainstorm potential related objections. For example, if a customer is from an industry that is not a primary target, salespeople will need to invest added efforts in crafting personalizing conversations and resources that speak to customers’ unique business environment.
Effective objection handling is a clear differentiator between successful salespeople and their less successful counterparts. Objections should not be seen as lose-lose situations. They should be conceptualized as opportunities. Practice mindfulness, engage in conversation, and leverage data to conduct a pre-mortem. As the world-renowned sales expert, Tom Hopkins, reminds us, “Champions have almost an affection for even the peskiest objection”.
December 27, 2018 at 04:12PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs