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Handling B2B Sales Objections Before They Are Born

By John McTigueOct 1, 2013

b2b sales like a vintage beauty contestWhy do potentially great sales people shy away from sales? Because they can't stand the constant rejection. Does anyone like being told "no" 95 percent of the time? Of course not. To make matters worse, it's usually in the form of a one- to two-sentence email from the so-called decision maker with a lame excuse that you never even discussed in sales calls. After all of that nurturing and hours of free consultation, you're reduced to a sentence or two dismissing you and your company for no obvious reason. Surely there's a better way.

Sales people should be prepared for this rough handling, because it's inevitable. Why? Because buyers really don't want to buy unless they absolutely have to—unless they can't accomplish the mission without your products and services. The only high probability sale is one that was decided before the first sales call—when buyers do their homework and figure out which solution is best and only need your input for pricing and support. Otherwise, the odds are stacked against you, and buyers (rejectors) come armed with standard objections designed to defeat you and make you scratch your head in bewilderment.

Some of the more common objections:

  • "You're just too expensive for us."
  • "We decided to go with a less expensive option."
  • "We're just not ready for such a big investment right now."
  • "We're just putting together our plan for next year."
  • "We're taking a look at our options and will get back to you."
  • "Our committee will be evaluating all of our options and will let you know."
  • "Our executive team just doesn't understand the value."
  • "We like your stuff a lot, but it's just not a fit for us."

What went wrong?

I could give you a checklist of things we failed to do, but the bottom line is almost always that we failed to fully qualify the buyer and rushed into the negotiation stage in the hope we might get lucky. The problem is either the buyer isn't ready or they never intended to buy and are just gathering information. These are the "root cause" objections. Your job is to ferret out this information as early as possible, which can avoid the other nebulous objections and two-sentence rejection emails. But how?

5 key questions to ask—and demand an answer (or bail out).

  1. Why are we having this call? - This is my favorite Rick Roberge tip. It's simple and innocent enough, but telling. What is the buyer trying to accomplish in the first call and going forward? If you get evasive, generalized answers, it's a pretty safe bet they're kicking tires.
  2. Why did you contact us? - Let them explain their own compelling reasons for submitting your form or downloading your content. Listen carefully for signs they are just researching. If so, politely end the call and suggest a follow-up when they have figured out what they want.
  3. What are your economic goals? - If they don't know, they aren't the decision maker and don't understand the real value of your stuff. Ask to speak to the decision maker. If they refuse, you aren't going anywhere. If they do know, now you can start discussing plans, previous efforts, challenges and positioning to accomplish their goals. This is where you need to be if you expect to win the sale.
  4. What's the process for evaluation? - Who's going to be involved and at which stages? These are your buyer personas. Is this going to be a beauty contest with the low-cost provider winning the day? Are there other criteria, and which ones are most important? When is a decision expected? Armed with this information, you can assess your own comfort level about moving forward, or not. Don't drag this out. Check your gut and move on if you don't like what you hear.
  5. What's our next step? - If your buyer has passed all of the above tests and it sounds like a fit for both parties, say so. Tell them where they stand and suggest a next step. If it makes sense to put together and review broad deal points now, do that. If either party isn't ready for that step, find out why. If it will take another phone call, schedule that for tomorrow. Don't wait until next week—they will be out of the office and they will not return your calls and emails. Don't send a proposal until the deal has been discussed and verbally approved. You're just inviting rejection based on price and/or scope.

Getting to "yes" or "no" and not wasting your time.

There shouldn't be any surprises if you are doing your job right. Don't jump the gun and skip the all important qualification step. Qualification isn't just about economic factors like company size, technical fit and budget. It's really about reaching the right buyer and understanding their needs and plans. Be prepared to offer a few surprises of your own. Research your buyer before you call, and you can position your company as innovators with something special to offer. Remember, it's a two-way conversation, and you have critical questions that need to be answered. If they can't or won't tell you the truth in the first call, you have no chance of winning the deal. The good news is, you won't be getting those disappointing emails.

Photo credit: pennyspitter


john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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