The Sales Dance
Think back to when you were a little kid, and you asked Mom if you could have ice cream for dinner. You had a whole plan in place. You had facts about the ingredients of ice cream and how they were just as good for you as anything else she would make for dinner. But, before you could even finish your well-rehearsed pitch, Mom shut it down. So, how did you handle it? Asked Dad, naturally. (Just kidding. That never worked.)
Unfortunately, rejections and objections don’t end in childhood. Business professionals, for example, will continue to face obstacles in their day-to-day interactions with prospects. The difference lies in how they react. If handled correctly, salespeople can turn what was a rejection at the start into a lucrative deal for all parties involved. Print+Promo spoke with Paul Kiewiet, MAS+, chief storytelling officer for Brandkiwi, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Matthew Parker, champion of print for Print and Procurement, Corsham, U.K., to learn more about appropriate ways to handle objections and how to avoid them all together.
1. Bring your A-game
Even the most seasoned salesperson is bound to face the occasional issue, so Kiewiet advised distributors to sharpen their problem-solving skills. That way, prospects will be much more open to doing business. Pay particular attention to their pain points. “No one is going to object to someone who comes to them with a solution to a problem that they are facing,” Kiewiet said. “A buyer who is trying to get you to leave them alone wants you gone because you are not bringing them anything that they perceive as valuable. Objections are the excuses that they will give you to get you to go away. They may include, ‘Your prices are too high,’ ‘I’m satisfied with my current suppliers’ or ‘I don’t have the authority to make a change.’”
According to Kiewiet, the best course of action is to educate prospects on how their jobs will be easier, their stress levels will be lower and their problems will be understood by entering a business relationship with you. “Most people don’t buy just because of price or just to see a fresh face,” he added. “They buy because someone is making them look better, perform better or are removing a pain from their [lives].”
2. Hone in on their objections
So, you did your best to convince your prospects that you can solve their problems, but they still have their qualms. That’s OK. Parker recommended focusing on individual objections. Doing so can help you steer the conversation toward a positive ending. If prospects say the price doesn’t work, try shifting the conversation toward other areas of business. If they say they’re happy with their current partners, explain to them why you’re different and why that matters. “Try to avoid negotiating too much on price,” Parker said. “Is there something else that would make the deal work for you both? Or is price a polite way of saying ‘no’? Generally, if I hit price objections, I have not sold well enough. Clients should understand the value of my service [or] product before we get to price. If they simply want a commodity price, then I am not the right supplier for them.”
Kiewiet added that fully understanding the value of what you sell can help when price is a problem for prospects. “Seek to understand what value they are buying,” he said. “If you can create that value and give them more, show them. If you are offering the same stuff from the same sources in the same way, you can’t expect to sell at a premium price. Either you earn your price premium by providing your products and services in a way that is more relevant to the prospect’s needs and [are] perceived differently than your competition, or move on.
“Winning the price game is losing the loyalty game,” Kiewiet continued. “If someone buys from you because of price, they will leave you because of price. Seek to be a value creator and value provider. Earn trust and be authentic. Prospects will pay you for those attributes.”
3. Know when to walk away
Even after you’ve explained how you can solve prospects’ needs and wants, and how your product is different and valuable, they still might not be interested. At this point, you have to weigh your opportunity cost. Is your time better spent on other prospects with more positive outlooks? If so, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
But how can you know it’s the right time to call it quits on certain prospects? Kiewiet likened it to a personal relationship. Do you like their ideals? What about their qualifications? The people?
Think about whether or not this prospective deal is good for your business and if it’s a company you’d be proud to do business with. “Look beyond selling and look at the relationship you are building,” Kiewiet said. “If you don’t like the company, the values, the person or people, look for better prospects. Qualifying is a two-way street. Make sure you pick partners that you want to dance with. Developing great client relationships and loyalty requires the same skills as applying and interviewing for a job. You can’t partner with organizations or policies that are contrary to who you are and what you value.”
After all, time is money. And while grit and determination to make a sale is an invaluable trait in any salesperson, so is being able to recognize a wild goose chase or a dead-end street. Adding onto Kiewiet’s job relationship analogy, distributors are wise to look at who they’re potentially doing business with before the meeting. Learn about them. What do they have to offer themselves? Because, like Kiewiet said, it’s a two-way street.
Parker agreed. “I always qualify the client before wasting too much time selling to someone who won’t give me business,” he said. “I check [that] they have budget, that they can make the decision and that they are the right type of customer for me. I also raise objections on their behalf, so if there is a problem, it is out in the open quickly. I spend a lot of time trying to persuade potential clients to say ‘no,’ so that I spend more time with the best prospects. Always be in the customers’ world.”