If you’re a loyal reader of the Costello blog, then you already know how much we value sharing varying thoughts, opinions, and methodologies. In the world of sales, there is, of course, no silver bullet—no one single way that sales professionals can or should create value for prospective customers.
Bill Caskey is a sales trainer, leadership development author, speaker, and sales coach—and he brings nearly 3 decades of experience to our blog. In this candid, controversial Q&A-style article, Bill explores one of our all-time favorite topics: objections. Regardless of how your sales team currently handles objections, his point of view is certainly worth a read. And if you’re curious to learn more from Bill’s immense sales wisdom, tune into “The 2x Podcast” designed for sales teams and leaders, a weekly podcast listened to by thousands.
Let’s dive into the Q&A and explore why your sales team may need to re-engineer its process due to the objections you’re receiving—and how you, as a sales leader, can get started.
What categories or types of objections do you see come up most often in the sales process?
When we asked Bill how he thinks about objections, he sees them as part of a broader category, which is that of resistance in the sales process. For instance, a prospect commenting on the price or pushing back on the timing means that they are simply resisting the sales process at the current moment. Whenever Bill works with sales organizations, his objective isn’t to help teams “overcome” objections or even “handle” them, but rather to re-engineer the sales process in a way that objections don’t come up in the first place. While his viewpoint may seem extreme, he helps us understand how this can actually be possible.
“I see sales teams spend a lot of time talking about overcoming objections as if objections are a barrier to burst through. I don’t see them in that way. Rather, I see them as a lesson that your sales process needs to be re-engineered. For example, if you’re getting a price objection when you send the proposal, then you need to revisit how you’re positioning the price during the first few interactions of the sales process. The goal is to minimize objections by taking a renewed look at the sales process,” explained Bill.
Objections will inevitably come up during the sales process, but it’s Bill’s opinion that sales professionals need to understand how to look at those “resistances” more carefully when they do.
Have objections changed over time? If so, how?
Of course, it’s no surprise to any of us that the sales process has radically changed over the past couple of decades—and even more rapidly over the last several years since the proliferation of the smartphone and tablet. The customer has information at their fingertips now, which puts sales organizations at a disadvantage. No longer do companies own the information or data.
“Today, customers can be as educated on your process as your sales team. With control also comes a sales professional’s required skill of getting to the truth. Say for example a prospective buyer is already 60% of the way through the sales process because she educated herself online. She then asks a sales rep to make a presentation to her team. She probably wouldn’t tell the rep that she’s been researching your company (and your competitors) for 3 months, which means ‘when’ and ‘how’ objections come up will change because the context in which the game is played has changed, even though at the root, the objections are the same.”
Through your consulting, what do you see sales teams currently doing as it relates to the “resistance” you described above that doesn’t work?
“Just because a prospective buyer gives an objection, doesn’t mean that’s the right problem to focus on,” said Bill.
Just yesterday, Bill had a sales client who was calling on an organization. He was going to be able to save the prospective buyer a million dollars each year with his company’s solution. Despite the massive cost saving opportunity, the buyer couldn’t get over the issue of internal implementation as he didn’t have the right resources. Even though the CEO of the company could have hired a full-time employee with a fraction of the savings, he wasn’t thinking about the challenge in that way. It was tempting for the sales rep to lower the price to help convince the CEO to make the change, but in fact, that would have been the wrong end of the problem. As you can see in this example, budget push back wasn’t the concern—internal resources were.
Bill went on to share that he also often sees sales professionals misinterpret an objection for an opportunity for collaboration. A prospective buyer might say, “We really want to buy this and I’m going to take it to my Board of Directors, but I know that they’re going to push back on price. What can you do to help me?” In this scenario, the buyer isn’t raising an objection—instead, she’s actually asking for collaboration. Rather than jump the gun and lower the price, it’s an invitation for the sales professional to help the prospective buyer articulate the true value of the solution.
How should today’s sales reps proactively combat resistance even before it surfaces?
While Bill firmly believes many cases of resistance during the sales process can actually be solved by making adjustments to the sales process itself, there will still be forms of resistance that simply can’t be prevented. For cases like these, Bill suggests that sales leaders (with the help of their teams), jot down the top 10 resistances they get during the various parts of the sales process. One of the areas Bill sees the most room for improvement is with the outbound sales function.
A common pushback SDRs hear is: “I don’t have time to talk right now”. When an SDR hears this, they often try to get into a wrestling match by asking for “just 2 minutes”. Rather than take this approach, Bill suggests that the SDR manager should re-engineer the first part of the call. Using the same example, Bill suggests that the SDR respond with, “Look, first off I fully understand that you didn’t expect this call. Is this a bad time for you?” This opening takes down defenses of the prospective buyer and welcomes them to respond with something like, “You know, this is a bad time. What’s this about?” While the answer isn’t a “yes”, it is an open invitation to talk.
This same process should be done for every form of resistance that comes up during the sales process—from the first outbound call to the last touchpoint before the contract is signed.
In Bill’s words, “Objections are not things to overcome or bat down. They are things to see through because inside the objection is a lesson that will help you re-engineer your sales process.”
What tactical things can sales professionals do to build confidence?
When we asked Bill this question, he barely hesitated before responding: “They stop selling. They stop the notion of calling someone and trying to put them through a process that the prospective buyer knows they’re being put through—it doesn’t work that way anymore.”
Bill broke down his statement by explaining that if a sales professional makes 100 calls a day and she gets rejected 96 times but walks away with 4 meetings, her sales manager may be delighted with the results—4 new appointments in a single day isn’t too bad! However, now the sales professional has a pressure to perform in order to satisfy her manager, which can affect every sales interaction she has moving forward.
In his consulting practice, Bill teaches the concept of being “detached” (not to be confused with “disengaged”), which simply means that sales professionals—or anyone, for that matter—shouldn’t go into situations thinking that they will be happy if X happens or sad if X doesn’t happen. Rather, personal well-being and job performance are not conjoined.
But what does this have to do with building confidence in sales? “When you are more detached, you have more confidence as your confidence isn’t riding on the outcomes of a specific call, meeting, or sales process. More confident sales professionals tend to attract more conversations as they aren’t eager or over-the-top to make a sale,” said Bill.
What advice do you have for sales teams that are developing their resistance handling strategy?
The biggest challenge most organizations have today is lead generation, which is why Bill suggests that VPs of Sales think through the ideal outcomes of the perfect sales process. In the B2B tech space, for example, this exercise might result in something like this:
- The prospective buyer interacts with one of our marketing pieces or they request a demo of our product or service
- We are invited in to give an onsite presentation
- They give us a detailed account of all of their problems
- They introduce us to the right decision makers and financial buyers
- They agree to the price of the solution and sign the contract
- They are lifelong, satisfied customers
Who wouldn’t want this narrative to unfold at their organization? While this may seem like a pipedream, it’s imperative that sales leaders start with the end goal in mind: the ideal sales process.
Bill explained that only then—once the ideal picture of the sales process has been painted—can teams work through each step in the process to re-engineer how to make the vision a reality. It’s also important to note that this isn’t something that can be owned entirely by sales. When we discussed this with Bill, he made it clear that Marketing, in particular, needs to play a very strong role in turning the ideal state into the actual state. In our example above, the prospective buyer interacts with one of our marketing pieces or they request a demo of our product or service—that’s a marketing function. Clearly, winning sales organizations collaborate not just internally in their own sales teams, but they work across all of the various departments to re-engineer the sales process: from developing a collaboration with marketing to re-thinking how contracts are sent to easing the pains associated with red-lining legal contracts.
The biggest takeaway from our chat with Bill? “Objections aren’t something to overcome—they present lessons to be learned that can help us create a better sales process for everyone involved.”
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