A few days ago, I was tagging along with a sales person on a call. It started well, then the customer expressed an objection. That’s when things started to go wrong.
The problem was, like too many other sales people, the sales person had an immediate response to the objection. Watching the situation, when the customer expressed the objection, I could see the hair going up on the back of the neck of the sales person. He felt defensive about what the customer was saying. He thought the customer was wrong and wanted felt obligated to respond.
Well, it wasn’t the response the customer wanted, so he teed up another objection, the sales person responded again, and the call went into a death spiral.
None of this had to happen. The original objection was actually relatively benign. But the sales person didn’t take the time to understand the customer’s objection. Rather than pausing, then probing with questions to better understand the objection—before responding—the sales person responded, never answering the customer’s original objection and opening a Pandora’s box for more.
We all make that mistake. We’re trained to “handle,” or worse, “overcome” objections. We feel compelled to respond immediately. Sometimes we feel a little defensive, sometimes we feel a little angry, sometimes we’re just handling the objection.
The very worst thing we can do is immediately answer or respond to an objection, but that’s what we almost always do.
Instead of responding or answering, we have to understand the objection. What’s the customer really asking? Why are they asking it? Is there something underlying what they are saying—perhaps we haven’t discovered that yet?
When the customer objects, resist the urge to respond. First ask questions, probe to make sure you really understand. Play back your understanding of the customer’s concern.
Now that you understand what the customer is really asking, you can make sure you respond to it in the correct manner. You can be assured you are addressing the customer’s real concern, not what you thought it might have been.
Yes, it’s a little counter-intuitive. Our instincts tell us to respond, possibly even to defend ourselves. But that’s absolutely the wrong approach. Yes, you have to fight the urge. Better to question, listen, probe.
If the customer’s objection comes from anger (Your products suck, your service sucks, your company suck, and you suck!!!!!!!!), it’s even more important to defuse the emotions. Understand what the customer is saying, let her have her say, listen, probe, probe even further, let her vent, until you’ve gotten to the real issues.
So don’t answer that objection—until you understand what it really is and where it’s coming from.
This article was originally published by Partners in Excellence
Published: April 3, 2014