If you’re making a presentation, or even just sitting in a one-on-one meeting, and someone throws out a question, or even an objection, it seems only natural to respond directly to it.
But that’s not always the best approach, for a variety of reasons. First, you may not really understand the point they are raising (for that matter, the other person may not themselves really understand the issue they are raising). If you respond, more or less blindly, then you may fail to address the issue; worse, you may open up other issues.
Second, it’s best if you understand just why they are asking. Sometimes the best response to a question is a really smart question.
To somewhat paraphrase — was it Yogi Berra? — if you don’t know where they’re coming from, you’ll never be able to get them on the right track to where they need to go. Are they asking this to clarify things? Or to draw you into a trap and set you up for an attack on your idea?
Third, what sounds like an objection (“I don’t think your approach will ever work here”) may actually be a question (“Why do you think that’s going to work here, given our situation?”) Conversely, what seems like an innocuous question may be the tip of an iceberg of deeper concerns, and if you don’t look deeper you’ll lose the chance.
Beyond that, what may seem like a simple yes-no question may offer the opportunity to deal with other related issues . . . if you know what’s really on the other person’s mind.
Of course, if it’s a simple question, or a simple, direct objection, then do respond directly. You don’t want to detour into unnecessary issues.
Otherwise, I suggest these five steps, though adapted to the situation and the individual.
1. Explore. Ask questions to get the person talking about what they really mean by the objection, and why it’s important to them. (“Why do you feel that way? ” will do if nothing better comes to mind.)
2. Listen well to their response. You may have heard this objection a dozen times already this week, but this person may put a different twist on it. Don’t be too quick in cutting off their response in order to interject your answer or rebuttal. The more you know about this individual’s needs and mindset, then the better you can target your response.
Sometimes, if you listen without cutting in, you will find that the person asking the question will actually respond to her own concern, and say something like, “Never mind, I think I’ve answered myself. That’s really not so important, after all.“
3. Restate, if appropriate. In many cases, it can be helpful to both yourself and the other person to paraphrase your understanding of the core of the the issues they are raising. For one thing, it forces you to listen closely, so you can restate it clearly. Second, it forces the other to listen to you in turn, to ensure that your restatement is accurate. Further, in some cases, by restating, you may be able to defuse, or take the edge off, the customer’s concern.
4. Respond to what they have actually said. There may be a deeper meaning behind the objection, so focus on that. Example: “You say that your firm has already tried using consultants, and isn’t interested. But I’m picking up a deeper message that your dissatisfaction was with the work of one particular consulting firm that didn’t work out for you. I’d like to explain how . . .”
5. Move on from there; don’t get bogged down in your response. Respond to the objection, then go on with your sales call.
If you say too much in response to an objection, you may blow it up into something larger and more significant than they originally had in mind. If you bog down on it, repeating and elaborating your reaction, the other person may begin thinking this really must be a major concern, and take that as a reason not to buy.
Conversely, if you treat the objection as a small issue that can be disposed of quickly and easily, then you send the subliminal message that it is just that— minor, not a significant concern, not an issue that could possibly prevent your proposal from being adopted.
This post was originally published in my older site CareerSuccessHow-to.com, which I am integrating into this MichaelMcGaulley.net. To see other posts not yet brought over, go to http://www.careersuccesshow-to.com/