Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Price and Substance of Sales Objections

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Jul 08, 2014 @ 13:07 PM

Objections 070814 175pxWe all know the prospect who waits to the last minute and then tells you everything is fine except for the price. “What can you do about the price?” or “If you can match these guys’ price, the deal is yours.” or “The committee is prepared to approve the start date with you, but we need to get to our budgeted number. If you do that, we're good to go.”

When coaching clients, I like to ask them questions when they have prospects who seem to be changing the game at home plate. Here are some examples:

  • What was the return on investment (ROI) at your quoted price? 
  • What was their compelling reason to work with you? 
  • Before you gave them your proposal, when you asked them if they could spend this much money with you to solve all their problems and/or realize all these gains, what did they say?

Is price really the problem? Or does the problem lie in the execution of the sales process? We shouldn’t be in a position where nothing matters at the end but price. If we find ourselves there anyway, then we must not have uncovered a good enough reason to buy, or there is not enough urgency, or we haven’t differentiated ourselves, or we don't understand the decision process, criteria, and timeline, or all of the above. In other words, we weren’t following an effective sales process. Or they’re bluffing!

Recently, I was coaching a client who faced another problem. His prospect told him at the last minute, “Your product needs to have this one other feature,” adding, “That would really make it work for us, and we'd be prepared to say 'yes' now.”

I asked my client the following questions:

  • Were they already getting this feature from the incumbent? No
  • Are there other features you're providing that were important to them and that they couldn’t get anywhere else? Yes
  • And without this ‘important’ feature that they 'really need,' do they have a compelling reason to buy from you? 
  • Can they spend the money? 
  • Do they believe you understand their issues and have the capability to solve them? 
  • Do you understand the entire decision making structure?” 
  • Etc.

In short, doesn’t this look a lot like the price issue?

At the home stretch, your prospects have one last chance to exercise their leverage before committing to the deal. At this moment, they believe they can extract stuff from you – a better price or more features. Why not try, after all? But if you have followed the sales process correctly, then you know where your leverage really is, and you know whether or not they are bluffing.

The trouble is that they might really believe that they need these issues solved at the last minute. They need that price lower. They want the additional features. It would be just great! And even if they are bluffing, it might not be conscious. Such a devilish place to be, no?

Moving past these objections means acknowledging their concerns and requests, and then reverting back to what's really important. "I understand getting to your budgeted number is really important to you. Can I ask you a few questions about what we talked about in our first meeting?" If you do this well, they might even forget they brought it up.

Following the correct sales process for your business is critical to avoiding this endgame. Does your team have a process that they follow religiously? Do your sales managers know how to effectively coach to your process? Do they hold their people accountable to the sales process? Are your sales people getting one incremental step better every day? Maybe it’s time to find out.

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Image Credit: Copyright: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: sales process, sales leadership, Salesforce, kurlan, salesforce evaluation, objections, sales objections, handling objections

Sales Coaching - When is Critical Feedback Appropriate

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Sat, Oct 20, 2012 @ 09:10 AM

criticism sandwich, broken sandwich, feedback, foodback, coaching, bread, sandwich meat

What if you ordered a deli sandwich and after they thought about it for a moment, carefully made the perfect specimen, handed it to you with pride and suddenly took back the bread?  After the initial shock of such odd behavior, I’m guessing you might feel a little unsatisfied and hungry for more.  When coaching your staff, feedback is an important tool.  However, we often use the same idea as the sandwich. We give useful criticism but sandwich it between two pieces of positive encouragement.  Recent research has shown that this approach is surprisingly ineffective.  It turns out it’s a bit like handing out a thoughtful criticism sandwich and then taking back the two pieces of bread.  It’s more like “foodback” than feedback.  Let’s find out why.

This practice was studied by Clifford Nass and described in his book, The Man Who Lied to His Computer.  The brain goes into full alert when hearing negative criticism and enters a state called “retroactive interference” which results in nearly total memory loss of anything prior to the criticism.  It might take minutes, hours or a couple days for the memory to disappear, but your brain simply forgets those previous words of praise.  If asked later if there was any positive feedback in the discussion, one simply can’t remember.  Oops!  There goes one slice of bread from your sandwich.

But another interesting phenomenon occurs when giving criticism.  In that same heightened alert state, one also experiences a new sense of awareness that Nass calls “proactive enhancement.”  You’ve got their attention, so now they are ready to listen and absorb whatever you say next.  This is where the opportunity is often wasted.  Most managers provide what they regard as a soft landing by giving positive-sounding generalities.  That’s the bread slice on the other side of the sandwich.  Generalities, by their very nature, are hard to remember.  So, we soon miss that slice as well.  With the bread missing, what remains might leave us a little unsatisfied and hungry for more.

How can we improve on this model?  When coaching your sales force, the goal is improving sales effectiveness with honest, useful feedback.  Criticism is important if you want to improve a specific behavior.  And positive comments are also important to ensure you get more of the behaviors that are already working.  When both forms of feedback are delivered in the same conversation and you want both to be remembered, you need a better strategy.

Here are three crucial steps for effective criticism:

  1. Tone – How you say it is more important than what you say.  Your tone provides the signal for how you feel about someone. Is the person the problem or is it just their behaviors? If we stick to the behaviors, then we can still smile at them, be filled with gratitude for them and remain firm that the behavior needs to change. Keep the list of negatives short and specific. Too many criticisms will feel like a barrage which can be depressing rather than instructive. A few helpful points will provide focus.
  2. Order – Negative first, positive second.  Order matters. Tell them the positive comments after the negative ones and make the list of positives long and specific, rather than general. “You’re basically doing a great job.” can be replaced by, “You’ve been growing the front end of your pipeline by making more calls, which is really going to help you in the last quarter.”
  3. Actionable – We handle criticism better when given the recipe for improvement.  Always provide actionable feedback alongside the criticism so that they understand how to correct the problem.  Don’t leave them hanging and wondering what it all means.  General negativity makes us anxious and frustrated.  Specific criticism, with the steps to make it better, leaves us empowered and provides a sense that someone is looking out for us. 

Is coaching an important part of your culture?  Do your people regularly come to you for help?  Do you look for advice and feedback in your own organization?  When it’s time to serve feedback to your staff, what steps do you take to keep all food on their plate?

Topics: sales, coaching, sales management, Criticism, Sandwich, Clifford Nass, Feedback, Behavior, Management, Sales Coaching, Salesforce, Sales Force



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