You just know that roughly half of all proposals get knocked back with some kind of objections. Most are around money (unless you are way too cheap) and the rest are either part of a game of negotiation or the result of your failure to communicate your proposition.
My general feeling is that you lose a pitch for one of two reasons. Either you’ve got a rubbish proposition or you are rubbish at selling it. Or both. As simple as.
But there are other, sometimes legitimate reasons why you get objections. Some seem reasonable; others do not. So, let’s start at the end.
Dealing with bullies
Some people think negotiation is like war. The strongest person wins etc., etc. You know the sort. My point is simple: if you feel you are being bullied or you feel that your potential client is exhibiting behaviour you feel uncomfortable with, then tell them.
Call them out, “I am not entirely happy with how this conversation is going. It feels like you are putting a lot of pressure on me and while I am sure that is not your intention, would you like to just sense-check if that was your intention.” This will either generate an apology or an even more rigorous push back. This might be your opportunity to walk way.
All clients are not equal. Some are not worth winning. Not at any price.
This article is simply about being prepared. You know that objections are on the way so you should be prepared for them. You don’t need to be glib about them but recognise that one or some of these objections are the most likely ones you’ll get.
“No budget right now”
“Seen it cheaper elsewhere”
“More than I imagined”
“Need to put it in front of the board”
“Not in my pay grade”
“This is something for the other team”
“Need to run it past the team”
“Too many people to run it past”
“What exactly are you selling me?”
“Can’t see how it will help”
“Why would we want this when we’re happy with what we’ve got?”
“I am not sure this is really a priority right now”
“I am not sure these ads even work… who does click on them?”
“Now is the wrong time”
“Will we get the benefits in time?”
“Need to wait for the board to meet”
“Need to wait for budgets to be approved”
“I am not sure this is really a priority right now” (again)
You shouldn’t be surprised to get any of these push backs. Some are a function of talking to the wrong people at the wrong time, some are a function of how people will push back.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with objections. To me they are buying signals, an interest in the service: they just want to test us or get a better understanding of how we do things. That’s fine by me and very different from bullying or game-playing.
Of course, you can reduce the likelihood of getting push-back if you always check your conversations with the mnemonic, BANT.
Do they have budget?
Do they have authority?
Do they have the need?
Is their need time-sensitive?
You can, should, and I hope you do Lead Score each prospect at each stage they go through the sales process. This will reduce the possibility of wasting your time and will help you to prioritise where you put your efforts. Even so you will get push-back. It will never go away.
So, what can you do?
Go through, say, the last 10 pitches you made and list all the objections you got. You’ll start seeing a pattern.
Prepare and rehearse your replies to the top 10 objections. Not so you answer word-perfect but so you have prepared an answer and so you don’t get flustered.
It is useful to create a pattern of questioning to use.
Firstly, create some clarifying questions. See Silver Bullet Selling (Bartick and Bartick, 2009). These will buy you some time and help you to understand what the real issue is:
“What is the issue behind this issue?”
“Why is that an issue for you?”
“How would that manifest itself?”
“What would good look like?”
A three-stage process to respond to an objection looks as follows:
Restate and cushion.
Objections will happen, so be prepared. Objections will happen, so be professional and deal with them. All you are doing is trying to help the potential customer to buy from you. Once you see the relationship as consultative rather than a zero-sum game then everything gets easier.