Never take an objection personally

It shows all over your face, and it’s not attractive.

Repeat the question

Confirms understanding, ensures everyone else hears it, and gives you an extra few seconds to construct a response.

Answer the question, only if you know the answer

If you don’t know, say so, and commit to follow up. Your ability to BS is less than you think….

Answer the question, don’t mock “why would you want to do that”.

If you think the question represents an unwise course, explore that after you have answered “we can do this with X, but often we find another approach is better – can you tell a little more about why you want to do X?” Never make a questioner look dumb in front of his/her peers.

Check for understanding

I blogged about the similarity between teaching and selling recently, and this is a great example of something that teachers usually do very well, but sales people often neglect. Confused prospects don’t buy.

Explore

Don’t be afraid to go down a path. There can be a danger with a mixed technical/business audience, that a technical question can disappear down a rat hole, and then you do have to haul it back out for the sake of the rest of the audience, but generally let your audience set the agenda. Objections can be your entry point to find out much more about the prospect and expand the deal.

Finally, treat objections not as an irritation, but as an opportunity to engage. No matter how extreme the request, always think of a positive way to respond. One of the questions I used to test trainees on was “can your software make the coffee?” The answer is yes – we use the API to talk to a program controlling the serial interface on the computer attached to a power controller connected to the coffee maker. When the action is complete, the coffee maker is turned on automatically, and 15 minutes later, you’ll have perfectly brewed coffee.

The point about this artificial example is that the answer is always “yes” – the real question is “how”, and you may well find out that your answer to this is better than the competition’s, no matter how convoluted or forced it may seem.

The fact that, honestly, you’re probably better just walking to Starbucks should be the follow up – not the leading response. You may find there are in fact good reasons why the prospect has such a seemingly outlandish requirement.

Photo credit: Flickr / misteraitch