Whenever I work with a new sales team, the most important thing I focus on is dealing with objections. My view of sales is that you always give the customer an honest and detailed response to every query that they have, up to the point that they have no reasons not to work with you and so they sign up.
In my mind, a perfect customer is somebody who you can really challenge to change the way they think about their sales processes, someone you can have a healthy discussion with and someone who realises that by the end of the call, they both need your product and just as importantly your input (for more info on challenging a customer read ‘the challenger sale’, it will completely change how you manage your sales reps).
To scale your business quickly and efficiently, you will want to have all the marketing processes ready to create a stream of leads ready for your sales team to call. However, without being able to pick up the phone and call these leads, the pace of which you can grow your company is very limited.
To clarify, you are making sales for the lifetime value of a customer, not a one time sale. Therefore, always think about how you can help your customers, how you can educate them and build a good relationship. You are not looking to sell to them, you are looking to educate them and in exchange, if they trust you, they will invest their time and money in trying your product.
I often hear valid arguments for why telesales is inefficient, why all of the other marketing channels are more scalable and popular. However, as an early stage startup, speaking to customers has to be your priority. In order to help Teagmate grow, I constantly want to know:
- Would someone use Teamgate CRM?
- If yes, are they willing to pay the prices we charge?
- If no, why not and what do we need to change?
As a sales person, I am very impatient. I want instant results and I am proud of the products that I am selling. If someone does not want to buy them, it really hurts me and I want to know everything I need to change personally, everything the development team need to do to improve the product, and then a time when I can speak to them next to sign them up.
Every potential lead is a sale. Some straight away, some in the near future, some years away. But at some stage they will be ready to try your product. When that moment comes, make sure your sales team are ready.
Start with sales objections
With all startups that I train, before I even let them pick up a phone, I need them to be an expert at every reason why someone would say “no”. This just makes sense! Make a list of all the possible reasons why someone might not be interested. These will probably be the main ones:
- Currently using a competitor
- Not Tech Savvy – want to stick to manual processes
- Branch (part of a bigger multi-site company) / Not a decision maker
- Didn’t see the value
- Unsuitable customer
Now think of a solution of how to fix every single one of them. If you have ever learned a language, you will have used flashcards to learn new words. Apply the same thing here. On one side add the potential loss reasons, on the other side an answer. I test my sales team every day and if they cannot answer these questions instantly and intelligently, they are not good enough and won’t make any sales. For solutions, you could use the following ideas:
Currently using a competitor
If they are already using a competitor then I know they could be interested in Teamgate. I just need to make them aware of why this competitor is good and why the product I am selling is even better. Sympathise with the customer here as if they were to stop and move over to your product, would there be lots to set up, a lot of staff disruption or time wasted?
(1) Deal with a competitor objection with a Flatter then Frustrate technique
This is a technique that I have developed and I use it in the following context:
Customer: Sounds great but we currently use (insert competitor) and we are happy with them.
(a poor salesperson would say ‘no problem, thanks for your time’ and hang up, but you’re going to be better than that!)
You: No problem (Flatter). I’m a big fan of (insert competitor) also. I was on their site today and their (insert something to flatter the company, e.g.their website is amazing). (Frustrate) However, (insert something you know that is not great about the company, e.g. ‘their wait times of customer support of around 45 mins really frustrates me’).
From this point, you have now done the following:
- Sympathised with the customer to acknowledge that their choice of competitor is not a bad idea and you can see why they choose them (Flatter). You are now on a level with them instead of trying to sell them something.
- Pointed out something about the competitor that you know the customers don’t like and would give them reason to leave (Frustrate).
At this stage the customer is ready to talk to you more and then you can try and push the conversation again. If you really want to go for it in your response you could say:
You: No problem. (Flatter) I’m a big fan of (insert competitor) also. I was on their site today and their (insert something to flatter the company, e.g. their website is amazing), (Frustrate) however, their wait times of around 45 mins really frustrate me (extra push).
The majority of customers who now use (insert your company name) instead of (insert competitor) like the fact that our wait times are less than a minute. If you want, just try our live chat or call us and you can get straight through.
This just highlights the point that other customers have left the competitor and shows why you are better than that competitor.
(2) Deal with a competitor objection with honesty then motivate
Most business owners that you speak to are motivated by money and time. They have very little time and want more money. Therefore, make your response straight to the point and improve one of these aspects of their working day:
Customer: Sounds great but we currently use (insert competitor) and we are happy with them.
You: No problem. I appreciate you are busy and so I will get straight to the point. If we can offer you a better rate/commission/etc. than (insert competitor) would you be interested in a trial with us?
From this response you have done the following:
- You have made it clear to the customer that you do not mess about and you get straight to the point.
- You have made it clear that they can make money if they work with you.
I would not advise this option once you have more than around 100 customers. This is because you need to have strict pricing structures to scale. However, as a smaller startup, getting that 1 extra sale could be the make or break number of getting your next round of investment. Therefore, be open to the possibilities of flexible pricing to entice customers away from competitors.
Not Tech Savvy
As a startup, your software is going to dramatically save your customers’ time, particularly if you are targeting a market that is still very old-fashioned and relies on outdated processes. I remember working with a startup that were helping huge corporations manage their container shipments. The value of each deal to this startup was around £2000 and the value of the products that their software was going to help manage was often more than £250,000. When trying to sign the customer up, one of the reasons why they were not interested was because they liked to use their own systems to keep things simple. When I asked what systems do they use they mentioned that they still have a typewriter…sometimes you just have to accept defeat!
However, trying to convince people who to use your product that are not tech savy can be very difficult. If you can try to overcome other objections, it would make most sense:
- non tech savvy take the most time to onboard
- they are unlikely to socially share and introduce other businesses
- they will have the most problems with using the software at a stage where your software is still at a basic level and your help desk, onboarding is weak or non-existent
However, this is sales, this is your company. You want to be successful, and so one non-tech savvy objection is not going to stop us!!!
Deal with non tech savvy objections with an honesty question, comparison then motivate technique
Customer: It sounds like a great idea but I like to use my current processes (e.g. excel spreadsheet, writing notes in notebooks, etc. ).
You: I completely understand. I hope you don’t mind me asking but can you remember a time before emails where you used to send letters all the time (honesty question)? It was a huge change but it allowed people to get a message to someone in 10 seconds instead of 3 days (comparison). Can you imagine if we could help you change your processes from how you’re doing them now to (insert key feature of your product).
What you have achieved here is made someone realise that change is not always a bad thing, that in context, they are already technical as they are using emails instead of letters. You also show how you can help them specifically with a certain feature (if you want to read more about how to sell with context read ‘thinking fast and slow’.
Branch/ Not decision Maker
Every startup dreams of making that big sale, where you just have to sign up one company that has 100s of branches that all want to implement your software. Dream big and sometimes these deals happen. However, try to live and think small whilst you are learning and setting everything up. Often trying to sign up a branch with multiple offices can be a waste of time at the stage you are at:
- Their due diligence is going to be far more intensive as a commitment to use your software takes a lot more time and resources to implement
- The sales cycle will be much longer
- There will be multiple decision makers that will both have to be sold the product and then approve it
- If they do set up with you, it will put too much strain and demands on your startup. Moreover, you will not be in the position to either deliver or cope with keeping them happy
- They are not the decision maker and so you waste time getting past onto lots of different people
However, there is always a way!!!……
Deal with a branch objection with a validating question, justify question and relationship build
Customer: Sounds interesting but I’m only responsible for this branch and we have to approve everything to head office.
You: No problem and fair enough.’I hope you don’t mind me asking but is there a lot of competition between your branches (validating question)? The reason I ask is that other companies we work with have had a trial with one branch, loved it, and then it was much easier to propose the idea to head office ( Justify question). I would love to explain in more detail how we work. I am sure we could help you become the top selling branch in the business (relationship build).
Didn’t see the value
People are often too polite and so they won’t directly say they don’t see the value. However, they will give a mix of responses to show that they don’t see the reason to try your product. Be aware of these people as they can be real time wasters. They are the type that may sound interested but it is actually because they are not comfortable with saying no.
As always, there is a solution to this:
Deal with a customer not seeing the value by justifying the “no”, re-educate and offer a solution
Customer: I appreciate you calling but it’s just not something I would be interested in trying out.
You: No problem. As a new company, it means a lot to get feedback from customers. What is the main reason for (insert company name) not being suitable for you (justifying the no)?
Customer: I rely heavily on (X software) and without that integration, we would not be interested.
You: I am sorry about that. We do actually integrate with (X software), I mustn’t have explained that properly. It only takes 2 mins to integrate then you could be up and running (re-educate). If you are free now I could quickly show you how that works (offer solution).
Although the context of a customer’s response can always be different, what you have learned here is that:
- sometimes a customer says no purely because they don’t understand what your product does
- by asking why, the customer will justify their reasons. If it’s a valid reason then respect that. However, if the reason is something your product solves, then offer a solution
- Once you have clarified that you can actually still help them, push to do another demo and get them interested again
When making sales calls you will encounter weird and wonderful people. It is part of what makes the job interesting – to speak to and get to know so many different characters. However, you will also find some people that although they would like to use your product, you just know they are not right.
This is a difficult decision to make to not sign people up. As a startup, you are hungry for sales, good customers, bad customers, anybody! However, you will realise that a bad customer can drain your resources and have a very negative impact on your financial and mental health.
Educate yourself on the Pareto Principle and apply the 80/20 rule that 80% of your customer service problems will be coming from 20% of your customers. If you know this before attracting customers, you will already be primed to only focus on the best quality customers. Tim Ferriss explains this perfectly here: (as as side note, his blogs on automation are great).
At Teamgate, my focus is always to help customers. This is often by showing them our software and challenging them in how they are currently using a sales CRM. Sometimes, however, I will recommend a competitor if I know they have features that we simply cannot offer. In return, I’m proud of the customers we have built at Teamgate and the future customers that will want to have a trial. Remember – don’t be scared to politely argue with a potential customer. Really challenge their beliefs and I promise you will see a huge difference in how people respond to you and how many sales you make.