Resolving Concerns Is More Than Overcoming Objections
The language “overcoming objections” doesn’t work for me. First, the idea of an objection is often too strong to describe what it is we encounter in sales. Second, the idea of “overcoming” brings with it the idea that by doing so you win and the person “objecting” loses (not the healthiest of beginnings for an important relationship).
I promise I am not going all touchy-feely here. What we most of the time confront in sales is the need to resolve concerns. Words mean things and they also inform our attitudes towards things and ideas. Resolving concerns expresses the idea in much better and potentially more effective way.
Concerns, Not Objections
The difference between the word “objection” and the word “concerns” is great. “Objection” connotes something that is adversarial, almost confrontational. It expresses the idea that your dream client is disagreeing with something that you propose in an adversarial way, and that their objection is without merit.
The word “concern” expresses a different idea altogether. It expresses the idea that there is something real underlying your dream client’s refusal to go along with your proposal or your suggestion. Your dream client’s refusal feels like an objection, like there isn’t real substance behind it, because of the language choices that they make.
When you request an appointment, your dream clients may say something like: “I don’t have time right now.” Surely they could make the time—if what you proposed sounded like something that would be a valuable use of their most limited commodity.
We have our scripts, and our dream clients have theirs.
Your dream client can’t imagine getting rid of you by saying something like: “Listen, it doesn’t sound to me like you have any idea of how to help me produce a greater business outcome, and you have said nothing to differentiate yourself from the dozens of other calls I have received this week. I am concerned that by meeting with you I will be wasting the little bit of discretionary time that I am obligated to spend with people who can really help me.”
So they say something that is more polite, but that prevents a real discussion of their concern, opting to eliminate all but the salespeople who are most likely to be able to help them obtain a better outcome. Sometimes our scripts work, and sometimes their scripts work.
Resolving, Not Overcoming
For every “objection” you hear, there is a real and unresolved concern lurking beneath it. In order to resolve that concern, you have to have some idea of that what the concern is and how it may be resolved. And, you have to understand that these concerns aren’t normally adversarial; they are normally legitimate concerns that must be resolved in order for our dream client to agree to move forward.
Resolving your dream client’s concerns, whether it be concerns about agreeing to meet with you, concerns about granting you access to the organization, concerns around giving you the information you need in order to propose a better outcome, or agreeing to whatever else it is that you need to advance the deal, begins with identifying the real concern.
It’s easy to guess what the client’s concern may be when you have picked up the phone and cold called them. It’s sometimes harder to discern the real concerns as a deal moves through the sales process. One of the easiest ways to understand their concerns is to ask them directly. Questions like: “I understand that you have a concern here. Do you mind sharing with me what your concern is and how we might be able to work through it together?”
Too many deals stall in the pipeline, particularly towards the end of the buying cycle, because concerns are left unresolved. A simple and direct question can help elicit those concerns and move stalled deals: “Do you have any concerns that we need to resolve before you can be 100% confident in choosing us and our recommended solution?”
It is wrong to believe that your dream client will automatically share their concerns with you. It is wrong to believe this even at the end of the sales cycle, after you have made your boardroom presentation—regardless of how well the presentation went or how well your solution would work for your dream client. It is a mistake to leave this to chance, hoping that the unspoken concern will not cost you your deal.
Expressed or unexpressed, uncovering and resolving concerns is a critical part of successfully moving deals through the pipeline and winning them. It isn’t about an adversarial approach that “overcomes” the resistance to you or your proposals. It is about uncovering and resolving the real concerns that keep your dream client from moving forward with you towards a deal.
The language choice of “overcoming objections” is ineffective, in part, because of its adversarial connotation. Effective salespeople elicit their client’s concerns, knowing that they are real, substantial, and must be dealt with in order to move a deal forward.
- Do the language choices suggest a difference between “overcoming objections” and “resolving concerns?”
- What are the underlying concerns that your dream clients have that prevent them from moving forward with you when you make a cold call? How can you best resolve that concern?
- What are the common concerns that your dream clients have that, expressed or unexpressed, prevent them from moving forward with you?
- If you were in your client’s position, what concerns would you reasonably be expected to have and what proof would you need to see to resolve that concern? How would you want that concern to be discussed and resolved?