The word “objection” is technically correct as it relates to the words your dream clients use when they say no to your request for a meeting. It is “a reason for disagreeing.” Over time, however, I have come to realize the objections aren’t the reason the contact you are asking for a meeting declines the invitation. Instead, the objections all mask the real reason they say no to your request, and lurking behind the opposition is their genuine and unspoken concern. The one thing that you do that causes you to fail to overcome objections is not addressing the real concern.
Your Contact’s Single Concern
Your contact says no to a meeting because they believe it is a waste of their time. If they thought it was worth their time, they would gladly accept the meeting request. Salespeople, especially those new to the role, believe that because their prospective client rejects their meting request, they must also reject other salespeople. Twice in the last few months, several salespeople have stated that people don’t have face-to-face meetings in New York City, a generalization that is not only false but also one that flies in the face of reality.
If the contact you asked for a meeting believed you had something of value to offer, they would be more inclined to agree to meet. Because people tend to be polite (even if less so in New York City than, say, Nashville), they don’t usually share with you their real concern.
Little White Lies
When your dream clients ask you to send them information, they are not interested in learning more about your company and your offerings by reading a PDF (or seventeen PDFs). You have never had a prospect call you after not receiving information to ask you when you are going to send it. It’s equally unlikely that anyone receiving your information called you back the next day to say how compelling a read it was, and how urgently they needed you to come to their office for a meeting.
Nor is your dream client happy with their existing partner. They tell you they are because you accept that as a justification for their refusal to take a meeting. If you were to gain a meeting, it would start with them suggesting they are happy, and over the first fifteen minutes, later disclosing there are a few areas where they are struggling, and even later in that same meeting suggesting that they have had unmet needs for a long time. Their real concern is that they haven’t yet committed to change, and they are not sure it is worth the time and trouble to do so, making a meeting a waste of their time.
A polite and brilliant objection is the request for you to call your contact back after some specific and well-designed period has passed. They ask you to call them again next week, next month, next quarter, next year, or January. They’ll also supply you with the rationale. They will be looking at new suppliers in the new year, things will be slowing down, and they’ll be better prepared to look at doing something new. By asking you to call them back then, they give you a positive rejection, one that provides you with hope and them with high odds that you never call them back. Have you ever had a single prospective client call you to ask you why you hadn’t call them back? And, I promise, you never will.
Left Unaddressed, Concerns Remain
Any concern you leave unaddressed is a concern that remains. I have heard salespeople say things like, “What would you like me to send you?” believing that challenge will somehow address their concern or somehow cause them to change their mind. If you don’t know what the real concern is, it is that you aren’t going to give them enough value for the time they give you, any response that doesn’t address this is likely to fail.
Worse, I have heard salespeople say some version of “What do you like about your existing partner?” I am not sure what they hope to hear, but they often end up saying, “That’s great. I am happy to hear that.” How on earth could you possibly be glad to hear that your competitor is doing well when your sole intention is to gain a meeting and take their client from them? In another version, they use a cold call to say something like, “If there were one thing you wish they did better, what would it be?” The concern is still unaddressed and unnamed.
When given a time in the future to try again, some salespeople respond with the challenge, “What will change between now and then?” You should never fear your prospective clients, and you should always be a peer. That said, if you are going to be consultative, there are better language choices available to you. Language that doesn’t allow you to address and resolve the real concern isn’t going to be more effective than language that resolves the concern.
Tell Them You Understand
If you want to resolve their concerns, tell them directly how you intend to create value for them during the time they give you—even if they never do business with you. You also benefit from telling them directly that you won’t waste their time.
The contacts you call on have given their time to salespeople in the past, only to be severely disappointed by the lack of value and the time they lost and can never recover. We are all paying for the sins of the bad salespeople who called on our clients before us. The gap here is only increasing as the evolution of sales continues to move us away from transactional behaviors and towards more significant value creation. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.